72 Replies to “Evolutionist: We do not promote any “spiritual ideologies.”

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson writes in his widely-assigned book On Human Nature: “If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species.”

    Biologist William Provine writes, “Modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws…We must conclude that when we die, we die, and that is the end of us.” Evolution, Provine has also said, is the “greatest engine of atheism.”

    Douglas Futuyma asserts in his textbook Evolutionary Biology: “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”

    Good, so now we know that all these people are wrong. Evolution does promote spiritual ideologies, as noted above. If it is truly just a scientific theory, then there is no need to mention spirituality at all.

  2. 2
    Brent says:

    We need to start calling these people out on their hypocrisy. If you ask an atheist why they believe God doesn’t exist, they’ll be talking science straight off. If you then ask them to consider that ID is also science, they’ll just deny it, because, according to them, science cannot entail spiritual, supernatural, conclusions. But clearly, if science cannot possibly speak to spiritual or supernatural reality, neither can it be useful for determining its non-reality.

  3. 3
    Mark Frank says:

    Barb #1

    It is only Cornelius, with his bizarre idea that anyone who claims evolution is a fact is promoting a spiritual ideology, that is concluding the authors or  evolution in general is promoting a spiritual ideology.

    Cornelius argument is very odd. In this context “evolution” means common descent. So the “spiritual ideology” being professed is compatible with a vast range of religious beliefs and also intelligent design including the views held by the people you quote.
     

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    No, Mark. Cornelius classifies you as religious, because Evolution is not scientific on several scores, as has been pointed out many times on here, yet you push it in the teeth of the ever-mounting contrary evidence, with all the out-of-kilter zeal of secular fundamentalists.

    Though it is based on gratuitous conjectures, no evidence against it can falsify it in the eyes of its devotees. It’s an emotional thing.

    You must bear in mind that we are dealing with people who have no regard for empirical evidence or they would concede that QM has proved the supernatural origin of the universe, as well as features that quantum physicists are able to study right now.

    What formally religious people call ‘mysteries’, scientists would call ‘paradoxes’, and parasitic, atheist numpties insist on calling, ‘counter-intuitive’, as they confidently wait for the encashment of the ‘promissory note’.

  5. 5
    Mark Frank says:

    Axel

    Cornelius did not classify me as religious. I doubt he has never heard of me. He classified the authors of the paper. Now look at the evidence that Cornelius presents that the authors are promoting an ideological theory:

    Smith confuses theory with data and states that they “explicitly measured genetic mutations across 35 mammalian species.” Actually they did no such thing, explicitly or otherwise. What they did do was to compare the genomes of 35 different species.Since they believe those species somehow all evolved from a common ancestor, they inferred that the differences were due to mutations.

    i.e. anyone who believes in Common Descent is promoting a spiritual ideology. Yes I know it is absurd but that is what he has written. Do you believe in Common Descent? If so, you Cornelius thinks you are promoting a spiritual ideology. Certainly gpuccio, vj torley and Denyse do.

  6. 6
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    i.e. anyone who believes in Common Descent is promoting a spiritual ideology. Yes I know it is absurd but that is what he has written. Do you believe in Common Descent? If so, you Cornelius thinks you are promoting a spiritual ideology. Certainly gpuccio, vj torley and Denyse do.

    I think you are missing the point. There is a difference between saying that you believe evolution (Common Descent) to be true and asserting it as an incontestable fact. None of the people that you cite would dare take such a hard line as Smith, which indicates a faith-first or religious perspective as opposed to an evidence-based or scientific perspective.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Part 3: Dr. Cornelius Hunter on ENCODE and “Junk” DNA – podcast
    http://www.idthefuture.com/201.....r_on_.html

  8. 8

    The evidence is vast for Universal Common Descent.

    You don’t need faith to think that all known terrestrial organisms have a common ancestor.

    It’s not faith-based, because evidence could easily arise that shows that some group of organisms yet-to-be-discovered had a very different ancestry.

    Cornelius’s insistence that those of us who accept the overwhelming evidence for Universal Common Descent are doing so for “religious” reasons is indeed bizarre.

    I’d say the evidence was on a par with the the evidence for the age of the earth at around 4 billion years.

    Even if divine intervention was require to nudge lineages round some intended path.

  9. 9

    Sorry – that should have been: “…down some intended path”.

  10. 10
    Axel says:

    ‘Evolutionist: We do not promote any “spiritual ideologies.”’

    They certainly do not PROMOTE spiritual ideologies. What they do, is IMPOSE a religious ideology – as in ‘religere’, ‘to bind’.

    You’d better give your assent to their ideology or else! Never mind that it may be under duress. Wear that Evolutionist burqa or, professionally, you’re ‘dead meat’!

  11. 11
    Axel says:

    I’m not sure whether imposing the wearing of a burqa, or being enclosed in the medieval iron maiden, would be the more apt metaphor.

    The former severely reduces visibility; the latter, terminates the functioning of the brain, (not to speak of the heart, etc) with extreme prejudice, as with their fabled delicacy, the CIA used to designate such operations.

  12. 12
    Axel says:

    Sorry. I meant to address those posts to you, Mark. As it happens expatiating a little on what Stephen said in #6.

  13. 13
    Axel says:

    Still no explanation from any of you as to why you pretend to be unaware that the supernatural has been proved by QM in a number of ways; which, of course, undercuts materialism, lock, stock and barrel.

  14. 14
    Mung says:

    The evidence is vast for Universal Common Descent.

    Except when it isn’t.

  15. 15
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    “The evidence is vast for Universal Common Descent.”

    Not for the “blind watchmaker” as it’s source, there isn’t.

    If you think there, is there is a 1979 Chevy I’d like to sell you. I’ve driven it from L.A. to New York. And I *prerry darn sure* it will take you to London.

  16. 16
    Mark Frank says:

    StephenB #6

    There is a difference between saying that you believe evolution (Common Descent) to be true and asserting it as an incontestable fact. None of the people that you cite would dare take such a hard line as Smith, which indicates a faith-first or religious perspective as opposed to an evidence-based or scientific perspective.

    Your argument seems to hang on a subtle distinction between saying “X is true” and “X is a scientific fact” (Smith did not use the word “incontestable”). Surely strength of belief is a matter of degree? Smith, like virtually all scientists, is utterly convinced by the evidence for Common Descent (Note this does not necessarily mean a single ancestor for all life). What is ideological about that?

    Even if you thought it was an unjustified level of belief, why is that spiritually ideological? It is a belief that is compatible with a vast range of spiritual beliefs including Christianity and Intelligent Design.

  17. 17
    Mark Frank says:

    Axel #10

    Are you seriously claiming that the scientific community has imposed a belief in common descent on people? Who do they impose it on? Does it happen all round the world? How do they do this? Some kind of secret organisation?

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    Mark, the scientific community – still currently in employment, that is – are agents of the spread of common descent/Evolution/materialism, etc, all in the service of atheism, not the prime movers.

    The prime movers are the large corporations, who act as the politicians’ puppeteers and are the ‘beneficiaries’ of the atheistic hegemony of capitalism.

    Separating religious belief from science (effectively, as pie-in-the-sky, compared to the ‘promissory note’!) ensures they have a free hand, to wreak whatever catastrophic evil on the world they choose, absolutely unhampered by moral considerations. Mammon can now pull virtually all the strings. Only the Catholic Church now seems to able to stand between the lawlessness of Mammon and its acolytes and global catastrophe.

    Well, it’s time to pay the tab, now. But it may be, as some pundits have said, that it was all done deliberately, as was the implementation of the first Great Depression, in order to virtually enslave the populace – or such as are able to survive the death throes.

    Here is an interesting article at the automaticearth.com blog, concerning knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing, not unrelated to this topic.
    NB: For ‘evolution’, read, ‘life’.

    http://www.theautomaticearth.c.....aches.html

  19. 19
    Barb says:

    Are you seriously claiming that the scientific community has imposed a belief in common descent on people? Who do they impose it on? Does it happen all round the world? How do they do this? Some kind of secret organisation?

    Yes, the scientific community has imposed a belief on all people. They do it by firing the people who dare question the holy writ of Darwin (see the thread on Mark Armitage for starters). They brook no dissent when it comes to discussing this in classrooms, either (see the Dover trial).

    Surely you know this, Mark. The pro-Darwin lobby really isn’t subtle.

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    “The evidence is vast for Universal Common Descent,” except amongst prokaryotes, from whence all extant life presumably descended. No root no tree.

    But sure, repeat the lie.

  21. 21
    5for says:

    Axel, I don’t see what is atheistic about capitalism. I think you will find most of the American theists on this site would embrace it as a gift from God. Isn’t American Christianity heavily represented on the political right?

  22. 22
    Mark Frank says:

    Barb #19

    Yes, the scientific community has imposed a belief on all people. They do it by firing the people who dare question the holy writ of Darwin (see the thread on Mark Armitage for starters). They brook no dissent when it comes to discussing this in classrooms, either (see the Dover trial).

    This is quite a conspiracy(remember are talking about Common Descent). It works globally and has been succeeding for well over 100 years. It has imposed its belief on scientists and educated people of all races, creeds and religions. It has even managed to impose its beliefs on several of the ID proponents on this site.

  23. 23
    Mark Frank says:

    #20 Mung

    What is your belief about descent?

  24. 24
    Alan Fox says:

    Mung is an old-style creationist, Mark. Sal is too accommodationist for Mung’s liking.

  25. 25
    Alan Fox says:

    Religion drives science and it matters.

    Always makes me smile (I occasionally read the comments at Hunter’s blog as they can be hilarious).

    I actually asked Dr Hunter in a comment “which religion” and he responded with “Christianity.” which seemed a bit odd as I thought the point he was making was that pesky scientists are all atheists and atheism is their religion. Apparently not!

    I have given up trying to understand the logic of Cornelius Hunter and I don’t think I need to worry about the consequences of his memes spreading very far just yet..

  26. 26
    Alan Fox says:

    Isn’t American Christianity heavily represented on the political right?

    It’s that political alliance (that helped get Bush Junior elected) that concerns observers. Religion is fine and dandy till the zealots demand the rights to indoctrinate kids via public schools and to proselytize in workplaces etc.

    Let’s have genuine freedom of and freedom from religion with a free exchange of ideas.

  27. 27
    Axel says:

    Your #21, 5for

    At least in technologically advanced societies, 5for, there are two sets of sets of citizenry.. well, in a sense, three:

    There are the leaders, the very rich oligarchy and their political and media puppets (who always see the country as being coterminous with their good selves), and there are the people. The third category would be the monied people, the middle class, as it used to be defined, who, from maerial self-interest, are ‘de facto’ devotees of the billionaire oligarchy.

    I can’t speak for my fellow-Christians on here, though I’m not averse to reproaching them for the madness of their position on regarding economic justice. Doubtless, entertaining an excessive tenderness for rises in the prices of the stocks they hold, are, of course, complicit in this mega Great Depression that seems to have begun for many people. No doubt, they would be exemplars of Christianity to me in other regards.

    One of the axioms of Christianity is, ‘By their fruit, you shall know them.’ Well, it is not a close secret, even to Americans, now, that they as a country and a people, are a basket case. It has always been a country steeped in materialism and violence, the trail-blazers in degeneracy.

    Nevertheless, man for man, probably not actually as wicked as most European countries, in that more was given the latter and more achieved, in terms of the most elementary, Christian social justice; the bitterest irony being that possibly Keir Hardie the founder of the British Labour Party and a Methodist lay-preacher, was probably the last Christian involved in the betterment of the lot of public.

    The residual Christian ethos, however, supplemented and preserved those gains for only so long, before the Mammon-worshipping backwoodsman of the political right prevailed once again, thanks in considerable part to the media, and large part to their endlessly mendacious propaganda. Thatcher was installed, and proceeded to re-enact the Highland Clearances of the 19th century – only nationwide.

    The fact is, its chaos in the US, worse than Europe by far. You have innumerable Christian sects, some of dubious Christian identity. And the Catholic church there seems extraordinarily reactionary and Pelagian, as per the Tridentine tradition. The worldly values of many of them being indistinguishable from those of their atheist compatriots. There is even one sect, which, absolutely counter to Jesus’ most express and emphatic teachings, claims that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing!

    Put it this way. There is an extraordinary incoherence about the Christian message in the US, as a result of the proliferation of sects and cults of one kind or another, despite the strong adherence to Christ in one way or another, in the Southern States.

    Francis Bacon remarked that the blessing of the Old testament was prosperity; the blessing of the New Testament, adversity. But he was not quite right in his first claim, as throughout most of the O.T. the wicked man is referred to in apposition to the rich man (often associated with violence, oppression, sharp elbows, worldly ambition, etc; the poor man, to the true Israel – as in Mary’s Magnificat, the Beatitudes, Sermon on the Mount, etc.

    I expect I’m digressing, anyway, but I must rush off for a while. I’ll have another look later, to check the coherence or otherwise, of what I’ve written.

  28. 28
    Axel says:

    A brief word, again, 5for: Capitalism is simply systematized greed. In sort-term, practical terms, optimal efficiency leads to the immiseration and eventual destitution of the population at large, as we are now witnessing. Truly, God is not mocked.

    As was mentioned on the theautomaticearth.com, it now seems that we don’t yet know if capitalism is the least worst system!

  29. 29
    jerry says:

    we don’t yet know if capitalism is the least worst system!

    I have a background in business and have studied economics, especially capitalism. I can argue very persuasively that free market capitalism is the only moral way to distribute goods in an economy. Since free market capitalism became popular in Holland and England in the late 18th century, the wealth of the world has increased by about 20 fold.

    Most capitalism is not free market but the current wealth of the world is mainly due to this type of capitalism. The fact that this site exists is a good example. But this is not a topic for this site.

  30. 30
    Axel says:

    That’s a wonderful expressions, Jerry, ‘the wealth of the world’. It reminds me of our being told that, under Blair, (a Thatcherite Labourite!)the country had never been richer!

    Never mind that the industrial North had been decimated, and much of the South, leaving mutiple generations of unemployed folk in its wake. Monied people buying second homes for holidays, with young people in the villages, whose families had lived there for hundreds of years, become displaced persons, the building of council houses virtually stopped, leaving young couples in the mire. And a crime which cries to heaven for vengeance, young and old of both sexes sleeping rough in great numbers. Unknown in this country after the war. A ‘tramp’ was an oddity, rarely seen.

    And this great targeted increase in wealth, in favour of what? Why ever-lower paid service jobs and, the supreme benison: derivatives and casino banking, not to speak of high-streets bereft of most shops, and now lined with charity shops selling second-hand clothes, books and assorted bric-a-brac, farmers ‘stiffed’ by the supermarkets, genetically-modified starch in baked beans, a staple of us poorer folk, galloping national, indeed, global bankruptcy, a burgeoning police state, and further afield, a toxic radio-active time-bomb in Japan. Not a bad record I suppose. Not. Oh, and that wonderful fracking, of course.

    I’ll leave you with three telling insights of J K Galbraith, senior:

    ‘The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.’

    ‘We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties, namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much.’

    ‘In economics, the majority is always wrong.’

    As regards the last quote, Jerry, why wouldn’t it always be wrong, since the search referred to in the first quote never ceases. Money never sleeps, not do its minions.

    You need to read what’s actually going on the world, Jerry. Keep the text-books for your exams.

  31. 31
    jerry says:

    You need to read what’s actually going on the world

    That is a very arrogant statement. You have no idea what I read. I happen to read quite a bit. More in economics than in evolution and I have read quite a lot on evolution.

    We will have to continue to disagree.

    Meanwhile a typical kid of the underclass in some of the poorer countries of the world is walking around in his hand with what would be considered a super-computer 30-35 years ago. And 200 years ago a typical person in Scandinavia would supplement their diet with bark off trees.

  32. 32
    Axel says:

    I’m glad you said one of the poorer countries in the world, Jerry, because I was going to ask, and who you thought would be the happier? But I expect both would be happy, away from the maniacal, materialist ‘ethos’ of the modern west world.

    Jerry, I don’t have to be brain-surgeon to see where you’re coming from, in terms of your formation. You spell it out loud and clear: the right-wing establishment.

    And, if you have kept up with what’s going on in the world, PARTICULARLY economics, then your opinions are all the more reprehensibly uninformed, or worse, you choose to ignore the truths I enunciated.

    And by the way, I’ve read very little, indeed, on the subject of economics or evolution. Just digests by people who have gone ‘against the flow’, and predicted this economic horror show. Indeed, Keynes, himself, did, predicting that one day, it would come down to a battle between the people and the banks.

    Still, I regret that you feel hurt by my words, as you seem a sort of innocent in a bad world.

  33. 33
    jerry says:

    You need to read what’s actually going on the world

    First, you suggest that I read more and then you tell me that you do not read.

    And by the way, I’ve read very little, indeed, on the subject of economics or evolution.

    Thanks for the ad hominems. It never helps one’s argument and supports your opponent.

  34. 34
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    #20 Mung

    What is your belief about descent?

    What do you mean by “descent”?

    I decended from my parents, who descended from tehir parents.

    My cat, I have no idea who his parents were, but I assume he likewise descended from his parents, and they from theirs.

    I don’t believe if we could trace back my ancestry that we would find a cat as an ancestor and I don’t believe if we could trace back the ancestry of my cat that we would find a human as an ancestor.

    You want to propose some creature as the common ancestor of all cats and all humans be my guest. Just support your claim with evidence. My belief about “descent” is that in large part evidence is missing where most needed to support the theory.

    It’s a grand idea, really, but I am just now starting Darwin’s Doubt, and already it’s not looking good for poor Darwin.

  35. 35
    Mung says:

    Alan Fox:

    Mung is an old-style creationist, Mark. Sal is too accommodationist for Mung’s liking.

    Sal is a young earth creationist, though he has difficulty admitting it at times. I am not. And I don’t consider brown-nosing and name-dropping and deleting or changing the text of contrary opinions to be “accommodationist.” I consider it evidence of a significant character flaw.

  36. 36
    Mark Frank says:

    #34 Mung

    Do I gather that you don’t have a theory about descent?

    Do you even accept that when life originated it started with a very simple life form (maybe it happened more than once)or do you think complex life somehow sprang into existence without being descended from anything?

  37. 37
    Mung says:

    #36 Mark Frank:

    I don’t feel any NEED to have a theory about common descent.

    I’m willing to look at the evidence and form an opinion.

    Do you even accept that when life originated it started with a very simple life form (maybe it happened more than once)or do you think complex life somehow sprang into existence without being descended from anything?

    I have no idea what constitutes a “very simple life form.”

    All known life is complex.

    Any “life” less complex than what we have knowledge of is purely hypothetical.

    If you think that “simple” means “no god required” and that “complex” means “god required” then you must go with “god required.”

  38. 38
    Mark Frank says:

    #37 Mung

    I’m willing to look at the evidence and form an opinion.

    Then why not do it?

    I have no idea what constitutes a “very simple life form.”

    OK. Let’s settle for unicellular. Rephrased:

    Do you even accept that when life originated it started with unicellular life (maybe it happened more than once)or do you think multicellular life somehow sprang into existence without being descended from anything?

  39. 39

    Mung

    You want to propose some creature as the common ancestor of all cats and all humans be my guest. Just support your claim with evidence. My belief about “descent” is that in large part evidence is missing where most needed to support the theory.

    Try this.

    Where do you think the important evidence is missing?

  40. 40

    Also, a nice commentary article in the same edition here.

  41. 41
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    Do you even accept that when life originated it started with unicellular life (maybe it happened more than once)or do you think multicellular life somehow sprang into existence without being descended from anything?

    There isn’t any evidence that demonstrates unicellular organisms can evolve into something other than unicellular organisms.

    So that would be a huge problem for anyone who accepts universal common descent.

  42. 42
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    The evidence is vast for Universal Common Descent.

    The evidence is vast for Universal Common Design. Universal Common Descent can’t even be tested as no one knows what makes an organism what it is. And no one knows how many mutations it takes to get a fish-a-pod from a fish- it ain’t science.

    IOW Lizzie is spewing bald assertions again.

  43. 43
    Mark Frank says:

    #41 Joe

    There isn’t any evidence that demonstrates unicellular organisms can evolve into something other than unicellular organisms.

    So how did the first multicellular organism come into existence?
    So

  44. 44
    Joe says:


    There isn’t any evidence that demonstrates unicellular organisms can evolve into something other than unicellular organisms.

    Mark Frank:

    So how did the first multicellular organism come into existence?

    No one knows. But if I had to guess I would say by design.

  45. 45
    Mark Frank says:

    #44 Joe

    But if I had to guess I would say by design.

    Designed or not what could possibly have happened physically? Did all the chemicals involved in a multicellular organism pick themselves up and fly together to form the first one? But of course one multicellular organism by itself is unlikely to survive – it needs this to happen to several individuals simultaneously. But then what about large animals such as giraffes. Did they descend from much smaller multicellular animals or did they self-assemble (designed or not)?

    And don’t respond by reverting to how unlikely it is to happen by chance or evolution. This about how unlikely the alternative is. Or are we not allowed to discuss that subject?

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    Designed or not what could possibly have happened physically?

    I don’t know anything about designing a living organism but I would say that the resources were gathered and then put into the proper configuration.

    But anyway I know that it bothers you that universal common descent cannot be tested but YOU need to focus on that because attacking any alternative is NOT going to help you support your claims.

    This about how unlikely the alternative is.

    Alternative to what? Please be specific and provide the details.

  47. 47
    jerry says:

    And don’t respond by reverting to how unlikely it is to happen by chance or evolution. This about how unlikely the alternative is. Or are we not allowed to discuss that subject?

    One can certainly discuss the subject but one should be honest in the discussion. The only intelligent answer is that it is a mystery. Why, because science has spent untold amounts of money and cannot find an answer as of yet.

    We pretty much know for sure that Darwinian processes cannot do it and no one has any evidence for any other mechanism that could have done it. So the honest answer is, it is a mystery to be investigated. Origins are very tricky issues for science.

  48. 48
    Mark Frank says:

    #46 Joe #47 Jerry

    One alternative is that life began by gradual development from simple chemicals capable of reproduction with variation. These variations gradually developed into one or more unicellular prokaryotic life forms. At some stage some of these prokaryotic life forms merged (following Margulis) to provide the first eukaryotic life forms. These then gradually diversified into the millions of multicellular life forms we know today (plus all the ones that went extinct). One could of course go into vastly more detail but this is only a blog.

    Notes

    1) I am only talked about Common Descent. I am not saying these gradual changes were not designed or indeed closely managed by a creator. So any improbability calculations or discussion of Darwinian processes are irrelevant. That is a different debate.

    2) There are of course other hypotheses about the details of the origin and the pattern of development of life. They all have in common that life started off simply and developed into what it is now by descent with gradual modification. The details and the evidence for them are actively debated in the scientific literature. Some details are better supported than others. The overwhelming evidence for this general story is that every living organism we have ever observed was descended from another with slight modification. We have never seen an organism come into existence by any other method.

    What you don’t seem to accept is that the alternative is that quite complicated organisms came into being without being descended from another. You are fond of arguing to best explanation. Which is the better – that life began by descent with gradual modification from relatively simple origins or that the components were arranged or arranged themselves in a one-off process that has never been observed?

  49. 49
    Joe says:


    OK if you accept universal common descent how do you test it to the exclusion of all alternatives?

    How many mutations does it take to get a eukaryote starting with populations of prokaryotes- you can use each alleged symbiotic event as one genetic change/ mutation?

    How many mutations does it take to get a chordate starting with populations of invertabrates?

    How many mutations does it take to get a fish-a-pod starting with populations of fish? What genes are involved? Are any new genes required? If “yes” how many?

    Science says that genes control traits- traits being eye color, hair color, ear-lobe style, etc. What is your evidence that being human is just a collection of traits?

    And the killer question:

    What makes an organism what it is? Without knowing that no one can say one type can evolve into another.

    In his book (English title) “Why is a Fly not a Horse?”, the prominent Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, tells us the following:

    Chapter VI “Why is a Fly not a horse?” (same as the book’s title)

    ”The scientist enjoys a privilege denied the theologian. To any question, even one central to his theories, he may reply “I’m sorry but I do not know.” This is the only honest answer to the question posed by the title of this chapter. We are fully aware of what makes a flower red rather than white, what it is that prevents a dwarf from growing taller, or what goes wrong in a paraplegic or a thalassemic. But the mystery of species eludes us, and we have made no progress beyond what we already have long known, namely, that a kitty is born because its mother was a she-cat that mated with a tom, and that a fly emerges as a fly larva from a fly egg.”

    The bottom line is people accept universal common descent for personal, not scientific, reasons. And the comments will bear that out.

  50. 50
    Joe says:

    Mark:

    One alternative is that life began by gradual development from simple chemicals capable of reproduction with variation.

    How do you know that scenario is even viable? IOW how do you know it is an alternative?

    These variations gradually developed into one or more unicellular prokaryotic life forms. At some stage some of these prokaryotic life forms merged (following Margulis) to provide the first eukaryotic life forms. These then gradually diversified into the millions of multicellular life forms we know today (plus all the ones that went extinct). One could of course go into vastly more detail but this is only a blog.

    Nice story, however you don’t know if any of that is even viable.

    1) I am only talked about Common Descent. I am not saying these gradual changes were not designed or indeed closely managed by a creator. So any improbability calculations or discussion of Darwinian processes are irrelevant. That is a different debate.

    Right, see comment 49

    2) There are of course other hypotheses about the details of the origin and the pattern of development of life. They all have in common that life started off simply and developed into what it is now by descent with gradual modification. The details and the evidence for them are actively debated in the scientific literature. Some details are better supported than others. The overwhelming evidence for this general story is that every living organism we have ever observed was descended from another with slight modification. We have never seen an organism come into existence by any other method.

    Umm that “evidence” does NOT follow from that story. Even baraminology is OK with descent with modification from the originally created kinds.

    What you don’t seem to accept is that the alternative is that quite complicated organisms came into being without being descended from another.

    Look Mark, I am OK with saying the truth- WE DON’T KNOW.

    You are fond of arguing to best explanation. Which is the better – that life began by descent with gradual modification from relatively simple origins or that the components were arranged or arranged themselves in a one-off process that has never been observed?

    Mark, descent with modification has never been observed to do the things you need it to do. I have observed people walking on earth and I have observed people walking on the Moon. Therefor by Mark’s logic people walked to the moon.

  51. 51
    Mark Frank says:

    Joe

    let’s put this very simply.

    Two alternatives:

    1) All organisms came into existence by small descent from something very similar with slight variation

    2) Some organisms came into existence by another unknown method.

    Every single organism that we have ever observed has come into existence by method 1.

    Is this not good evidence for (1)?

    Your Moon analogy is poor. There are issues other than distance preventing us walking to the Moon. There is no reason why one creature should turn into another very different creature by gradual modification (remember we are not talking about improbability – for the purposes of this argument I am allowing for the possibility that the change is guided)

    A better analogy

    Question: how did this species of beetle travel 1,000 miles on earth.

    Proposition 1: by walking
    Proposition 2: by some other unknown method

    Evidence: we have never seen this species of beetle travel by any other method than walking albeit for much smaller distances.

  52. 52
    Mark Frank says:

    #51 that should read:

    There is no reason why one creature should not turn into another very different creature by gradual modification

  53. 53
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Frank: the materialistic argument essentially appears to be like this:

    Premise One: No materialistic cause of specified complex information is known.
    Conclusion: Therefore, it must arise from some unknown materialistic cause

    On the other hand, Stephen Meyer describes the intelligent design argument as follows:

    “Premise One: Despite a thorough search, no material causes have been discovered that demonstrate the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
    “Premise Two: Intelligent causes have demonstrated the power to produce large amounts of specified information.
    “Conclusion: Intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate, explanation for the information in the cell.”

    In fact, Dr. Meyer is using the same exact method of science that Darwin himself used

    Stephen Meyer – The Scientific Basis for the Intelligent Design Inference – video
    http://vimeo.com/32148403

    There remains one and only one type of cause that has shown itself able to create functional information like we find in cells, books and software programs — intelligent design. We know this from our uniform experience and from the design filter — a mathematically rigorous method of detecting design. Both yield the same answer. (William Dembski and Jonathan Witt, Intelligent Design Uncensored: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to the Controversy, p. 90 (InterVarsity Press, 2010).)

    “Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent.”
    (Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

  54. 54
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Frank claims:

    There is no reason why one creature should not turn into another very different creature by gradual modification

    Yet, despite Mr. Frank’s gullible ignorance, we have very good reason to believe that creatures will be constrained in the amount of adaptions/variations that they can accomplish. Besides the fact material processes consistently destroy functional information rather than create it,

    Poly-Functional Complexity equals Poly-Constrained Complexity
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xkW4C7uOE8s98tNx2mzMKmALeV8-348FZNnZmSWY5H8/edit

  55. 55
    jerry says:

    Two alternatives:

    1) All organisms came into existence by small descent from something very similar with slight variation

    2) Some organisms came into existence by another unknown method.

    Every single organism that we have ever observed has come into existence by method 1.

    Is this not good evidence for (1)?

    This is good evidence for small changes from parent to offspring. There has never been an observation of an offspring with substantially different capabilities from its parents or from any of its ancestors. Nothing has been documented. So yes the evidence for 1 is good but small changes is not what is being debated.

    Since the argument is that the major changes will not take place within one generation or even several generations, the argument goes that the small changes will add up to the major changes. Seems reasonable especially given deep time.

    However, two things:

    1. Such a change scenario has never been seen in any observation either in a laboratory with multiple generations or in the field with any type of organism or in the fossil record. So the situation under consideration has never been observed. To say that it could happen may sound plausible but it has never been directly observed. So we are into a situation which has never been observed. Sound similar to another argument that people have made. We have never witnessed an origin of this type. We can only speculate.

    But for design we have witnessed things of lesser interactive complexity being done. We have never witnessed anything that natural processes have done that come even close to this level of interactive complexity.

    Let’s go to something very complex but does provide evidence of origins though again by inference. Namely the origin of stars and solar systems. We can provide a very credible process as to how this happens using the basic Standard Model and using observations of the stars. I have been through it and it seems very reasonable to me and there is evidence of the process at the various steps. It would be nice to be able to go to these systems to take measurements but that is currently impossible. But very reasonable. But is something similar true for biology and life.

    2. Biology is different from star and solar system formation in that there are incredibly complex interactions and feedback loops. The biology of the process above argues against the type of change actually taking place that would produce complex new capabilities. If one could point to the origin of new proteins with evidence then one might consider that as some basic support but even that is not enough but it is a necessary step. That is the minimal that has to take place. But no such evidence exists and it should be observable especially if not now but in the near future. WE will be able to sample millions of genomes for the same species or similar species to understand the biological differences between them. If such a gradual process is operating evidence should appear in the comparisons of these genomes.

    To this end we may be only at the beginning as just a few genomes have been sampled but as the process gets automated and taking samples from organisms all over the world becomes an easy process and there is software to analyze them, a lot more will be known.

    When that happens we will have a lot more answers. But right now there is no evidence to support any unseen process. There is plenty of evidence to support the seen process but the seen process is not capable of producing anything relevant.

    So you can argue that no one who supports ID can produce a designer, we can argue that those who support a completely naturalistic process have never produced a process to support a naturalistic hypothesis. Alst that such a process is highly unlikely for biological reasons. That does not mean that such a process will not show up in the future and our current assessment is wrong. If you want that standoff, most of the ID community would take it.

    And then there is the issue of just where are the instructions for the manufacture of the organism? This is the process that lays out the sequence of cell type formation and placement and implements the necessary adjustments that have to made for there to be a successful organism. Any major changes would have to take place here and not in the genome. In the human there are a few hundred cell types with precise placement and that blueprint is where the changes have to take place for a new novelty to appear. Not just on cell type formation but on placement and organization of the new capability. I remember a lecture on the brain and the professor saying that hundreds of billion of nerve cells are generated and each one knows exactly where in the new organism to go. Where is that blueprint and how is it executed? How would that play out for the oxygen delivery system in a bird?

    The best explanation at present is that it is a mystery.

    This is it for today. Maybe tonight if there are any other questions. This is also a long answer and it is hard to check all the grammar and typos.

  56. 56
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank- why are you avoiding my questions? I say it is because they expose your cliams as BS:

    Try again-

    OK if you accept universal common descent how do you test it to the exclusion of all alternatives?

    How many mutations does it take to get a eukaryote starting with populations of prokaryotes- you can use each alleged symbiotic event as one genetic change/ mutation?

    How many mutations does it take to get a chordate starting with populations of invertabrates?

    How many mutations does it take to get a fish-a-pod starting with populations of fish? What genes are involved? Are any new genes required? If “yes” how many?

    Science says that genes control traits- traits being eye color, hair color, ear-lobe style, etc. What is your evidence that being human is just a collection of traits?

    And the killer question:

    What makes an organism what it is? Without knowing that no one can say one type can evolve into another.

    In his book (English title) “Why is a Fly not a Horse?”, the prominent Italian geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti, tells us the following:

    Chapter VI “Why is a Fly not a horse?” (same as the book’s title)

    ”The scientist enjoys a privilege denied the theologian. To any question, even one central to his theories, he may reply “I’m sorry but I do not know.” This is the only honest answer to the question posed by the title of this chapter. We are fully aware of what makes a flower red rather than white, what it is that prevents a dwarf from growing taller, or what goes wrong in a paraplegic or a thalassemic. But the mystery of species eludes us, and we have made no progress beyond what we already have long known, namely, that a kitty is born because its mother was a she-cat that mated with a tom, and that a fly emerges as a fly larva from a fly egg.”

    The bottom line is people accept universal common descent for personal, not scientific, reasons. And the comments will bear that out.

    Or just admit you accept universal common descent because of your ideaology.

  57. 57
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    There is no reason why one creature should not turn into another very different creature by gradual modification.

    LoL! You need POSITIVE evidence, Mark. Yet all you have is a sad promissory note.

    BTW I know of a reason why one creature should not turn into another very different creature by gradual modification- it is not genetically possible.

  58. 58
    Joe says:

    Joe

    let’s put this very simply.

    Two alternatives:

    1) All organisms came into existence by small descent from something very similar with slight variation

    2) Some organisms came into existence by another unknown method.

    Every single organism that we have ever observed has come into existence by method 1.

    And ALL observations say prokaryotes give rise to prokaryotes, humans give rise to humans, cats give rise to cats, etc.

    So you lose again.

  59. 59
    Mark Frank says:

    Joe – if I explained to you why I avoid your questions I would be banned from UD.

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    #55 Jerry

    Your arguments seem to about whether life was designed or not. I am discussing Common Descent and the case for gradual transitions whether guided or not. The alternative to gradual transition is large transitions – either from non-living sources or living sources. The problems associated with large transitions must be greater than those associated with small transitions because they include all the problems associated with small transitions plus some more. (If life is designed then it is still going to easier for the designer to implement it by small transitions then start from scratch). Add to that the fact large transitions have never been observed while small transitions have been observed zillions of times.

  61. 61
    jerry says:

    My comment above (#55) re-written to take out any reference for design.

    1) All organisms came into existence by small descent from something very similar with slight variation

    2) Some organisms came into existence by another unknown method.

    Every single organism that we have ever observed has come into existence by method 1.

    Is this not good evidence for (1)?

    This is good evidence for small changes from parent to offspring. There has never been an observation of an offspring with substantially different capabilities from its parents or from any of its ancestors. Nothing has been documented. So yes the evidence for 1 is good but small changes is not what is being debated.

    Since the argument is that the major changes will not take place within one generation or even several generations, the argument goes that the small changes will add up to the major changes over times too long for human observation. Seems reasonable especially given the millions of years since life first appeared.

    However, two things:

    1. Such a change scenario has never been seen in any observation either in a laboratory with multiple generations or in the field with any type of organism or in the fossil record. So the situation under consideration has never been observed. To say that it could happen may sound plausible but it has never been directly observed. So we are into a situation which has never been observed. We have never witnessed an origin of this type. We can only speculate.

    Let’s go to something very complex but does provide evidence of origins though again by inference. Namely the origin of stars and solar systems. We can provide a very credible process as to how this happens using the basic Standard Model and using observations of the stars. I have been through it and it seems very reasonable to me and there is evidence of the process at the various steps. It would be nice to be able to go to these far away solar systems to take measurements but that is currently impossible. But the process is very reasonable based on the incremental steps that the Standard model would predict. In other words we have good evidence but not conclusive evidence so it can remain a good working model for star and solar system formation. I am sure there are some physicists who are arguing over this but I applaud that because the controversy is out in the open for all to see if they want to. But is something similar true for biology and life.

    2. Biology is different from star and solar system formation in that there are incredibly complex interactions and feedback loops. The biology of process (1) above argues against the type of change actually taking place that would produce complex new capabilities because it only affects current alleles and the expression of current proteins. If one could point to the origin of new alleles and new proteins with evidence then one might consider that as some basic support but even that is not enough but it is a necessary first step. That is the minimal that has to take place. But no such evidence exists now and it should be observable especially if not now but in the near future. We should be able to sample millions of genomes for the same species or similar species to understand the biological differences between them. If such a gradual process is operating, evidence should appear in the comparisons of these genomes.

    To this end we may be only at the beginning as just a few genomes have been sampled but as the process gets automated and taking samples from organisms all over the world becomes an easy process and there is software to analyze them, a lot more will be known.

    When that happens we will have a lot more answers. But right now there is no evidence to support any unseen process. There is plenty of evidence to support the seen process but the seen process is not capable of producing anything relevant.

    So you can argue that those who are supportive of current evolutionary theory have never produced a process to support the appearance of new life forms with novel complex capabilities. Also any current speculations to deal with this lack of credible hypotheses are highly unlikely for biological reasons. That does not mean that such a process will not show up in the future and the current assessment of evolutionary biology is wrong. If you want that standoff, a lot of the commenters here would take it and call it a day especially if it became part of the assessment in biology texts around the world..

    And then there is the issue of just where are the instructions for the manufacture of the organism? This is the process that lays out the sequence of cell type formation, has the instructions to make these cell types happen at the right time along with the placement and implementations of the necessary adjustments that are necessary for there to be a successful organism. Any major changes would have to take place here and not in the genome. In the human there are a few hundred cell types with precise placement and that blueprint (site and instructions unknown as of now) is where the changes have to take place for a new novelty to appear. Not just for cell type formation but on placement and organization of the new capability. I remember a lecture on the brain and the professor saying that hundreds of billion of nerve cells are generated and each one knows exactly where in the new organism to go. Where is that blueprint and how is it executed?

    A good example of something whose origin is unknown is the oxygen delivery system in a bird which is unique? Very different from other organisms. The best explanation at present for the origin of this particular example and all the rest of novel complex capabilities is that it is a mystery.

  62. 62
    Mark Frank says:

    Jerry

    I appreciate you taking out the element of design but this doesn’t really change the fundamental point – one big change has all the problems of a lot of small changes plus some more horrendous ones. It is not just internal changes. Suppose for a moment that a mammal were to be descended from a reptile in one big change. Reptiles do not have any way of bearing live young so presumably it would come out of an egg. Mammals do not have an instinct for hatching. Once born mammals need suckling but reptiles do not have mammary glands. If this new mammal species is to propagate it will need mates and it will need a sufficiently large gene pool. So presumably a large number of these things are hatching simultaneously. It sounds like a poor science fiction film.

  63. 63
    jerry says:

    one big change has all the problems of a lot of small changes plus some more horrendous ones. It is not just internal changes.

    I am not sure what you are arguing for. It seems like you are saying that big changes have as much or more problems that the process of small changes would have. The creation of mammals involves massive changes to the egg of the mother compared to the egg of a reptile. How are these changes accomplished?

    So I agree that big changes are a problem. Both scenarios or anything in between have massive problems which is what leads many here to the ID position by default not because they are committed to some intervention for ideological reasons. There are many here who are committed to such a position but I am not and neither are many others.

    I originally had no problem with the Darwinian hypothesis. Sounded ok to me. Then I heard that some professors were being censored for disputing Darwin. I became curious and as I learned the biology and then saw the lack of transitions which should be in the tens of millions for a gradualist process, it became very apparent that slow gradual changes were not the answer. Darwin made is sound so easy but it is anything but.

    Then I learned it was all about the production of new alleles. That was before I learned about the ORFan issue. Something has to produce new alleles and while I am familiar with all the ways the genome can be modified by duplicated genes or transposon or retrotransposon, they are a long way from showing that these are/can be the source of most new proteins. And given that, if they can then show that some of these elements eventually get expressed, it is still very far away from the development of novelties.

    Then Meyer discusses that the source of novelties must be some place other than the genome and this source is what guides embryo development and it gets many degrees more complex to really produce something brand new. There is the whole coordination issue.

    I watched my children being born and am in awe of the process that guides the creation and placing of 70 trillion cells so that it was just right. Obviously not every child is born without mishap but can you imagine the instructions and mechanisms to execute all this that must be behind the careful placement and timing of those 70 trillion cells.

    So a lot of the commenters here will be referred to as IDiots on Panda’s Thumb but in reality what we observe and espouse makes more sense to us both biologically and logically than Darwinian processes even when modified by whatever is new.

  64. 64
    Mark Frank says:

    Jerry #63

    You seem to have moved on to discussing the argument for design. I am only talking about the need for gradual modification of the phenotype to account for the diversity of life.

    Let us for the sake of argument assume that there is a designer that has perfect control of the genome. He/she/it wants to produce the very first mammal. For the reasons I gave in #62 do you admit it would be extremely hard for them to jump straight from something that was not a mammal such as reptile to producing a mammal?

  65. 65
    jerry says:

    Another revised post to take out any reference to ID.

    You seem to have moved on to discussing the argument for design.

    I am not sure what you are arguing for. It seems like you are saying that big changes have as much or more problems than the process of small changes would have. The creation of mammals involves massive changes to the egg of the mother compared to the egg of a reptile in terms of how each organism develops from a zygote to a mature adult. How are these changes accomplished?

    So I agree that big changes are a massive problem. Both scenarios or anything in between have massive problems. I originally had no problem with the Darwinian hypothesis of small gradual changes but essentially knew nothing about evolution. Sounded ok to me. Then I heard that some professors were being censored for disputing Darwin. I became curious and as I learned the biology and then saw the lack of transitions which should be in the tens of millions for a gradualist process, it became very apparent that slow gradual changes were not the answer. Darwin made is sound so easy but it is anything but.

    For the first couple years after I started to read about evolution, I knew very little about the actual biology. Then I learned it was all about the production of new alleles. That was before I learned about the ORFan issue. Something has to produce new alleles and while I am familiar with all the ways the genome can be modified by duplicated genes or transposon or retrotransposon etc., they are a long way from showing that these are/can be the source of most new proteins. And given that, if they can then show that some of these elements eventually get expressed, it is still very far away from the development of novelties.

    Then Meyer in his new book discusses that the source of novelties must be some place other than the genome and this source is what guides embryo development and it gets many degrees more complex to really produce something brand new. This is why I have said a couple times here since reading the book that the evolution debate will go in a completely new direction. Where are the instructions to create the embryo and how are they implemented.

    There is the whole coordination issue. So changes in the genome may be only a side show. Where are the instructions to make an embryo. For example, what is the mechanism that guides the creation and placing of 70 trillion cells in an human embryo so that it is just right. Obviously not every child is born without mishap but can you imagine the instructions and mechanisms to execute all this that must be behind the careful placement and timing of those 70 trillion cells.

    So the most honest assessment of the causes of life’s changes is that it is a mystery. We are only at the beginning of finding out just what actually happens. Where that leads us I have no idea. But Darwin’s ideas appear dead as far as the cause of the major changes in life forms over the eons.

  66. 66
    jerry says:

    Now to your other question which is about ID.

    Let us for the sake of argument assume that there is a designer that has perfect control of the genome. He/she/it wants to produce the very first mammal. For the reasons I gave in #62 do you admit it would be extremely hard for them to jump straight from something that was not a mammal such as reptile to producing a mammal?

    Absolutely yes for any intelligence comparable to a human.

    Would it be done in small steps before the final prototype is implemented?

    Probably lot of experiments to get it right for any intelligence comparable to a human.

    I believe Sal has created a thread dedicated to you and this question. But my point still is that it is a mystery and maybe we will know a lot more in a hundred years but then again maybe the best assessment in 2113 is that it is still a mystery. That would be my bet.

  67. 67
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    Joe – if I explained to you why I avoid your questions I would be banned from UD.

    No explanation required- everyone knows why you are avoiding my questions- you are a loser and a coward.

  68. 68
    Alan Fox says:

    I am not sure what you are arguing for. It seems like you are saying that big changes have as much or more problems that the process of small changes would have. The creation of mammals involves massive changes to the egg of the mother compared to the egg of a reptile. How are these changes accomplished?

    I think you are being a little careless with the concept of evolution. No change from parent to offspring can be so great that any organism in the chain of descent is not viable; each must (in a sexually reproducing species) find another member of the gene pool to share genetic information. Large changes are cumulations of many smaller changes. Remember among modern mammals, there are monotremes that lay eggs, marsupials that give birth to very undeveloped foetuses that are kept in mother’s pouch and the placental mammals, where some new borns (eg horses) can walk well enought to keep up with the herd within hours of birth.

  69. 69
    Alan Fox says:

    No explanation required- everyone knows why you are avoiding my questions- you are a loser and a coward.

    Are there any pro-ID readers here who think comments like these fall below an acceptable standard of discourse? Does anyone not think this reflects badly on UD?

    Not my business, carry on.

  70. 70
    jerry says:

    Large changes are cumulations of many smaller changes.

    Two issues here:

    You have misread the comments. Maybe you did not read all of the comments which I understand but if you are going to comment on them then maybe you should read them or then just ask for a clarification. The term “large” was used differently than how you used it. We were discussing a one time change, small vs. large.

    Second, when you use the term “large” the term is ambiguous. Exactly what is meant by the term “large” in the context of an accumulation of smaller changes. That is one of the problems in a normal discussion of a debate on evolution here. But that is not what was being discussed in what you commented on. But in a normal discussion of evolution it might be better if you define “large” when you want to use it in this context. I have no idea what you mean.

    Remember among modern mammals etc.

    You obviously again have not read the comments. My statement is an obvious statement of fact and the rest of your comments are irrelevant. If they are not then we have some very interesting biological findings which would be worthy of a Nobel prize.

  71. 71
    jerry says:

    Just as a clarification to my previous comment. Many of us will use the terms “large,” “major,” “complex new capabilities” or others like these to signify macro-evolution. But some will use the term “macro-evolution” to mean what most of us here would say are small changes to an organism and its gene pool.

    We run into this all the time in the never ending discussion of just what is a new species. But no one here really cares about these small changes that might be used to defend speciation but it is always brought up to defend certain positions. So we will observe trivial changes in a gene pool and some will say we have macro-evolution while others will rightly point out that examples are irrelevant to the over all debate and trivializes the term “macro-evolution.”

  72. 72
    Joe says:

    Alan Fox:

    Are there any pro-ID readers here who think comments like these fall below an acceptable standard of discourse?

    People who refuse to answer questions because it will expose their position as nonsense are losers and cowards. And taht is exactly what you, Mark and Lizzie do on a daily basis.

    IOW your comments fall well below acceptable discourse. And your “knowledge” falls way below that of an imbecile.

    But do carry on as it demonstrates that you and your position are total BS.

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