Intelligent Design

Is “macroevolution” a term used only by creationists?

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Recently, we noted an upcoming Royal Society meeting: Sexual selection in extinct animals. An alert reader writes to say,

On linking to the Royal Society website referenced in the Uncommon Descent post, we find this:

“Sexual Selection: patterns in the history of life. Theo Murphy International scientific meeting organised by Dr Rob Knell, Dr Dave Hone and Professor Doug Emlen. Sexual selection is potentially an important driver of macroevolutionary processes like speciation and extinction, but this has rarely been tested using the fossil record. This meeting will bring biologists and palaeontologists together to discuss sexual selection’s role in macroevolution, how to detect it in extinct animals and how to measure its influence on the history of life across geological time.”

This is the Royal Society (Knell, Hone, Emlen) using the term “macroevolution” twice — yet another useful rebuttal to cite the next time someone asserts that the terms “macroevolution” and “microevolution” are terms used only by ID advocates and “creationists.”

Our reader probably means this sort of thing:

There is one particular aspect of evolution that needs to be given specific attention: the somewhat artificial distinction between what is called “microevolution” and “macroevolution”, two terms often used by creationists in their attempts to critique evolution and evolutionary theory. (Austin Cline, Thoughtco, 2017)

Yes, but it’s different when they do it. When science goes post-modern, terminology becomes politicized. A term means one thing if the Royal Society uses it but another if the hapless reader uses it. What matters now is whether terminology authenticates the beliefs of those in a position to demand authentication of their beliefs.

See also: How naturalism morphed into a state religion

11 Replies to “Is “macroevolution” a term used only by creationists?

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    It’s a term used by both. Who started it doesn’t really matter does it?

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    J-Mac, it is not a matter of who started it. When materialists say something like “only creationists use the word ‘macroevolution’ they invariably intend to suggest that the distinction between macroevolution and microevolution is not recognized by ‘real scientists.'”

    Why do they do that? Because their case largely depends on an equivocation between the two. They point to a case in which the proportion of dark and light colored moths changed and say “See, whales descended from amoebas.”

  3. 3
    J-Mac says:

    It’s a pretty good point Barry…

  4. 4
    mullers_ratchet says:

    Evolutionary biologists certainly use the word macroevolution. It’s the term evolutionary patterns above the species level, and includes speciation, phylogenetic comparative biology and lots of palaeontology. But the term doesn’t imply anything other than ‘microevolution’ is required to produce macroevolution. It’s just the name used to group those fields that take a higher-level approach.

    The word has a clear and simple meaning among evolutionary biologists, so not sure what any of this has to do with postmodernism.

  5. 5
    Nonlin.org says:

    Some (including the ID crowd) accept microevolution defined as observable adaptations in populations, while rejecting macroevolution defined as the never observed and very much doubtful Darwinist “common descent”. The problem is that micro and macro are just generic qualifiers that come in pairs, while evolution – the word retained – is in fact the concept in question.

    Accepting microevolution creates confusion and is self defeating for those that reject Darwinist macroevolution. A better choice than microevolution is adaptation – an ancient concept (predates evolution), and an observed feature of all living organisms.

  6. 6
    Otangelo Grasso says:

    Search results on PNAS report 266 results on macroevolution.

    http://www.pnas.org/search?ful.....0&y=8

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    Macroevolution seems like the result of the gross extrapolation of the observed microevolutionary processes.

  8. 8
    jstanley01 says:

    What does “somewhat artificial” mean? Is that like a bowel with some plastic and some real fruit in it? A bouquet of flowers with both fake and real flowers in it? “Somewhat artificial” sounds somewhat like weasel words to me.

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    Otangelo Grasso @6:

    Excellent!
    The best (imo) comment in this thread, at least in terms of “bang for word” because you wrote a very short text with the strongest argument one could think of against the mentioned fallacy.
    Thanks.

    PS. https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evoscales_01

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroevolution

    https://www.icr.org/article/1156/285

  10. 10
  11. 11
    ET says:

    There aren’t any known micro-evolutionary events that can be extrapolated into macroevolution. Changes in eye color, skin color, fur color- ie micro-evolution, will never explain the existence of new body parts and new body plans- macroevolution. The two- micro and macro- rely on different genes:

    Loci that are obviously variable within natural populations do not seem to lie at the basis of many major adaptive changes, while those loci that seemingly do constitute the foundation of many if not most major adaptive changes are not variable.- John McDonald, “The Molecular Basis of Adaptation: A Critical Review of Relevant Ideas and Observation”, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics: 14, 1983, p77-102

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