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How Darwinians deal with the lack of evidence for gradualism

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Casey Luskin notices a pattern:

Years ago I began to recognize a repeating phenomenon in the rhetoric of evolutionary literature: Scientists, echoed by science journalists, would only admit a problem with their models or a challenge to their ideas once they thought they had found a solution. I’ve called these “retroactive admissions of ignorance.” We now have another example of this, from a paper just published in Nature Communications purporting to demonstrate Darwinian gradualism: “General statistical model shows that macroevolutionary patterns and processes are consistent with Darwinian gradualism.” Retroactive admissions of ignorance, weakness, or other problems typically come in the first sentences of the abstract or introduction of a paper. The rest of the paper is then supposed to show why the admission no longer applies, as the weakness has been cleared up. This paper is no exception to the pattern.

Casey Luskin, “Nature Communications Retroactively Concedes a Lack of Evidence for Darwinian Gradualism” at Evolution News and Science Today (March 8, 2022 )

The supposedly slam dunk paper deals with body size in mammals. Trouble is, it’s too easy a topic. Body size is — everyone agrees — easily malleable, compared to say, the development of vision:

The point is that while this recent Nature Communications paper purports to find evidence of gradual evolutionary change in mammalian body size, that’s not something that would surprise anyone in light of the diverse spectrum of body sizes that often exist even within a species at any given time. Change in body size, even gradual evolutionary change, does not represent the kind of novel body plans or novel phenotypic traits that the neo-Darwinian model struggles to explain.

Casey Luskin, “Nature Communications Retroactively Concedes a Lack of Evidence for Darwinian Gradualism” at Evolution News and Science Today (March 8, 2022 )

And then that very week, Luskin tells us, another paper came out: “The paper concludes that tuataras (lizard-like reptiles from New Zealand) have experienced stasis and virtually no change over at least the last ~190 million years” Now that’s gradual.

The paper is open access.

4 Replies to “How Darwinians deal with the lack of evidence for gradualism

  1. 1
    jerry says:

    This is easy to deal with but ID doesn’t or won’t.

    This was discussed years ago and then essentially ignored by ID. There are various categories/levels/tiers of evolution. ID is only interested in certain tiers and could care less about micro evolution. But it is micro evolution or genetics where all the evidence is.

    And we play the game of treating it as evolution instead of relegating it to the completely different science of genetics. So we discuss non Evolution as if it were the real thing but it’s not really.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    Retroactive admissions of ignorance, weakness, or other problems typically come in the first sentences of the abstract or introduction of a paper. The rest of the paper is then supposed to show why the admission no longer applies, as the weakness has been cleared up. This paper is no exception to the pattern.

    That argument could only fail to be specious if the paper(s) concerned concede a previously asserted certainty was now ill-founded. Otherwise Luskin’s is as much a rhetorical device as that of which he is accusing “Darwinism”.

    As for the hoary old argument concerning the alleged lack of gradualism, the authors of the paper appear to be unaware of what Darwin wrote on the issue:

    [N]atural selection will generally act very slowly, only at long intervals of time, and only on a few of the inhabitants of the same region. I further believe that these slow, intermittent results accord well with what geology tells us of the rate and manner at which the inhabitants of the world have changed (Darwin 1872, 140-141, chap. 4).

    […]

    But I must here remark that I do not suppose that the process ever goes on so regularly as is represented in the diagram, though in itself made somewhat irregular, nor that it goes on continuously; it is far more probable that each form remains for long periods unaltered, and then again undergoes modification (Darwin 1872, 152).

    […]

    It is a more important consideration . . . that the period during which each species underwent modification, though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change (Darwin 1872, 428, chap. 10).

    […]

    …it might require a long succession of ages to adapt an organism to some new and peculiar line of life, for instance, to fly through the air; and consequently that the transitional forms would often long remain confined to some one region; but that, when this adaptation had once been effected, and a few species had thus acquired a great advantage over other organisms, a comparatively short time would be necessary to produce many divergent forms, which would spread rapidly and widely throughout the world (Darwin 1872, 433).

    All of which Luskin unsurprisingly omits from his article.

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Sev @ 2

    The quotes you provided from Darwin are examples of how Darwin was trying to deal with this particular problem with his own theory. Nothing that he says there is supported by theoretical constructs – he’s just making some assertions to try to fit reality into his theory. Saying “it might require a long succession of ages to adapt an organism” is classic Darwin-speak because that also means “it might not take a long succession of ages”. In one case, Darwin says everything must develop by gradualism. In another, he says it might happen in sudden bursts.
    As for Dr. Luskin’s article cited here (I’m guessing you didn’t click it or read it), he quotes from the Nature Communications paper:

    Macroevolution posed difficulties for Darwin and later theorists because species’ phenotypes frequently change abruptly, or experience long periods of stasis, both counter to the theory of incremental change or gradualism.

    So, the very first line of the paper contradicts what you’ve said. The authors say that there were “difficulties for Darwin” because phenotypes frequently change. The authors didn’t accept Darwin’s contradictory assertions as a remedy for his theory. They think they’ve only just found the remedy now.
    Additionally, we see the quote from Science Daily:

    Likewise Science Daily reports:

    Abrupt shifts in the evolution of animals — short periods of time when an organism rapidly changes size or form — have long been a challenge for theorists including Darwin.

    It has “long been a challenge … including Darwin”.

    So, it’s not just Casey Luskin who ignored those statements by Darwin.
    That tells me that nobody took them seriously and instead, held Darwin to his claim that everything must proceed by gradualism and that selection is working continually to improve species.

    … I also enjoyed the theological content of the Talk Origins page you linked to:

    The fossil record still shows a great deal of change over time. The creationists who make note of the many gaps almost never admit the logical conclusion: If they are due to creation, then there have been hundreds, perhaps even millions, of separate creation events scattered through time.

  4. 4
    Pearlman says:

    Also in many cases even body size has shrunk over time.
    Compare ice age average body mass to modern body mass of like kinds.
    Ancient ginkgo trees, insects, many classes land animals, megalodon shark.. even Mankind (Neanderthal).
    So if either/or devolution not NDT type Darwinian Evolution.
    Genetic entropy and/or a degraded atmosphere for increased entropy are two of the variables at play.
    Either way, all things trace back to ID from near the get go.
    reference Pearlman YeC for the alignment of Torah testimony, science and ancient civ.

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