Professor James M. Tour, who is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world, has been publicly criticized for forthrightly declaring in an online essay that while microevolution (or small changes within a species) is well-understood by scientists, there is no scientist alive today who understands how macroevolution is supposed to work, at a chemical level:
“I do have scientific problems understanding macroevolution as it is usually presented. I simply can not accept it as unreservedly as many of my scientist colleagues do, although I sincerely respect them as scientists. Some of them seem to have little trouble embracing many of evolution’s proposals based upon (or in spite of) archeological, mathematical, biochemical and astrophysical suggestions and evidence, and yet few are experts in all of those areas, or even just two of them. Although most scientists leave few stones unturned in their quest to discern mechanisms before wholeheartedly accepting them, when it comes to the often gross extrapolations between observations and conclusions on macroevolution, scientists, it seems to me, permit unhealthy leeway. When hearing such extrapolations in the academy, when will we cry out, “The emperor has no clothes!”?
“From what I can see, microevolution is a fact; we see it all around us regarding small changes within a species, and biologists demonstrate this procedure in their labs on a daily basis. Hence, there is no argument regarding microevolution. The core of the debate for me, therefore, is the extrapolation of microevolution to macroevolution….
“I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? Furthermore, when I, a non-conformist, ask proponents for clarification, they get flustered in public and confessional in private wherein they sheepishly confess that they really don’t understand either. Well, that is all I am saying: I do not understand. But I am saying it publicly as opposed to privately. Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution?”
– A Layman’s Reflections on Evolution and Creation. An Insider’s View of the Academy.
In response, evolutionary biologist Nick Matzke has accused Professor Tour of being fundamentally ignorant about evolution. According to Matzke, the very idea that “explaining macroevolution is a matter of ‘chemistry’” is a “bizarre, naive, and confused idea.”
Before making his remarks, Matzke might have read benefited from reading a 1996 essay by biochemist and Intelligent Design proponent Professor Michael Behe, entitled, Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference. After a detailed discussion of the biochemistry of vertebrate vision (which is illustrated in the above diagram of the visual cycle), Behe concludes:
In order to say that some function is understood, every relevant step in the process must be elucidated. The relevant steps in biological processes occur ultimately at the molecular level, so a satisfactory explanation of a biological phenomenon such as sight, or digestion, or immunity, must include a molecular explanation. It is no longer sufficient, now that the black box of vision has been opened, for an ‘evolutionary explanation’ of that power to invoke only the anatomical structures of whole eyes, as Darwin did in the 19th century and as most popularizers of evolution continue to do today. Anatomy is, quite simply, irrelevant. So is the fossil record. It does not matter whether or not the fossil record is consistent with evolutionary theory, any more than it mattered in physics that Newton’s theory was consistent with everyday experience. The fossil record has nothing to tell us about, say, whether or how the interactions of 11-cis-retinal with rhodopsin, transducin, and phosphodiesterase could have developed step-by-step. Neither do the patterns of biogeography matter, or of population genetics, or the explanations that evolutionary theory has given for rudimentary organs or species abundance.
The point which Professor Behe makes for vision applies equally to macroevolution as a whole. The relevant steps in macroevolutionary processes occur ultimately at the molecular level, so a satisfactory explanation of macroevolution must include a molecular explanation. Note that Behe is not saying here that biological processes are reducible to molecular chemistry: rather, he is saying that they must include a discussion of molecular chemistry.
Likewise, when Professor Tour publicly declares that no scientist alive today understands the chemical details behind macroevolution, he is not espousing the naïve reductionist line that “explaining macroevolution is a matter of ‘chemistry’”; rather, he is simply pointing out that in order to properly assess the feasibility of Darwinian macroevolution as a theory, we have to ascertain whether it is chemically feasible. If, for some reason, certain macroevolutionary transitions appear to be highly improbable from a chemical standpoint, then that in itself is a good reason to be skeptical of the view that Darwin’s theory of evolution is an all-inclusive theory of biology.
I should like to add that Professor Tour is not an Intelligent Design proponent; he is simply a Darwin skeptic.
In this post, I’d like to discuss macroevolution and revisit the question: “Is skepticism about macroevolution reasonable?”
What is Macroevolution? Some definitions
Before we go any further, however, I’d like to clarify exactly what macroevolution is, by quoting a few definitions from acknowledged experts in the field, for the benefit of readers who (like myself) are not scientists.
Most standard scientific references define macroevolution as evolution “at or beyond the species level,” in the words of Dr. Douglas Theobald, author of 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution. As such, macroevolution consists of changes that occur over the long-term. Macroevolution is defined in contrast with microevolution, which occurs within a species and is defined as “the short-term changes in a population’s gene pool” (Purves W. K., Orians G. H., & Heller H. C., Life: The Science of Biology, 1992, 3rd Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc., W. H. Freeman and Company, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA, p. 418).
Macroevolution has also been defined by Professor Jerry Coyne as “large changes in body form or the evolution of one type of plant or animal from another type” (Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, Glossary, pp. 268-269).
Finally, the term “macroevolution” refers to “evolutionary processes that work across separated gene pools,” whereas the term “microevolution” refers to “evolutionary processes within gene pools, such as the origin and spread of individual gene variants” (Matzke, Nicholas J., and Gross, Paul R. 2006. “Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy.” Chapter 2 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott, E., and Branch, G., eds., Beacon Press, pp. 49-50, italics mine – VJT.)
The following definitions of macroevolution (many of which were retrieved by Mung, Optimus, and other assiduous Uncommon Descent readers) are fairly representative of the scientific literature:
“In evolutionary theory, macroevolution involves common ancestry, descent with modification, speciation, the genealogical relatedness of all life, transformation of species, and large scale functional and structural changes of populations through time, all at or above the species level (Freeman and Herron 2004; Futuyma 1998; Ridley 1993).”
– Theobald, Douglas L. 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution.
Evolutionary change occurs on different scales: ‘microevolution’ is generally equated with events at or below the species level whereas ‘macroevolution’ is change above the species level, including the formation of species. A long-standing issue in evolutionary biology is whether the processes observable in extant populations and species (microevolution) are sufficient to account for the larger-scale changes evident over longer periods of life’s history (macroevolution).
– Carroll, Sean B. 2001 (Feb 8). Nature 409:669.
(Cited by high-school science teacher, creationist and former atheist Richard Peachey here.)
“Macroevolution is evolution on a grand scale – what we see when we look at the over-arching history of life: stability, change, lineages arising, and extinction.”
– Definition of “Macroevolution” at Berkeley University’s “Understanding Evolution” Website.
“The short-term changes in a population’s gene pool… are often called microevolution. Microevolutionary studies are an important part of evolutionary biology because short-term changes can be observed directly and subjected to experimental manipulations. Studies of short-term changes reveal much about evolution, but by themselves they cannot provide a complete explanation of the long-term changes that are often called macroevolution. Macroevolutionary changes can be strongly influenced by events that occur so infrequently that they are unlikely to be observed during microevolutionary studies. Also, because the way evolutionary agents act changes over time, we cannot interpret the past simply by extending today’s results backward in time. Additional types of evidence must be gathered if we wish to understand the course of evolution over more than a billion years.”
– Purves W. K., Orians G. H., & Heller H. C., Life: The Science of Biology, 1992, 3rd Edition. Sinauer Associates, Inc., W. H. Freeman and Company, Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA, p. 418. Cited by Optimus here.
“Creationists usually concede that evolutionary theory provides a satisfactory explanation of micro-evolutionary processes, but they dig in their heels when it comes to macro-evolution. Here, creationists are using the distinction that biologists draw between evolutionary novelties that arise within a species and the appearance of traits that mark the origin of new species.”
– Sober, Elliott. Evidence and Evolution: The Logic Behind the Science. 2008. Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, p. 182. Cited by Mung, here.
“What really excites people – biologists and paleontologists among them – are transitional forms: those fossils that span the gap between two very different kinds of living organisms. Did birds really come from reptiles, and land animals from fish, and whales from land animals? If so, where is the fossil evidence? Even some creationists will admit that minor changes in size and shape might occur over time – a process called microevolution – but they reject the idea that one very different kind of animal or plant can come from another (macroevolution).”
– Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, p. 36. Cited by Mung here.
“MACROEVOLUTION: ‘Major’ evolutionary change, usually thought of as large changes in body form or the evolution of one type of plant or animal from another type. The change from our primate ancestor to modern humans, or from early reptiles to birds, would be considered macroevolution.
“MICROEVOLUTION: ‘Minor’ evolutionary change, such as the change in size or color of a species. One example is the evolution of different skin colors or hair types among human populations; another is the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.”
– Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, Glossary, pp. 268-269.
“To a biologist, the “it’s just microevolution” argument is painfully obtuse. In normal science, “microevolution” refers to evolutionary processes within gene pools, such as the origin and spread of individual gene variants. “Macroevolution” refers to evolutionary processes that work across separated gene pools. Speciation, a process that can be observed in nature, and that creationists accept, is the boundary between microevolution and macroevolution, because speciation occurs when one gene pool permanently splits into two separate gene pools. A speciation event is a case of macroevolution. So are other events that apply to whole gene pools, such as extinction…
“Evolutionary biologists on both sides of famously contentious debates seem to agree that the definition of macroevolution boils down to “evolution above the species level.””
– Matzke, Nicholas J., and Gross, Paul R. (2006). “Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy.” Chapter 2 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott, E., and Branch, G., eds., Beacon Press, pp. 49-50. Cited by Nick Matzke here.
Terminological ambiguities – different usages of the term “macroevolution”
In the interests of fairness and clarity, I’d like to quote the following passage by biologist Nick Matzke, on the various senses of the word “macroevolution”:
This highlights another thing creationists and other ill-informed antievolutionists just don’t get: just because different writers are talking about the word “macroevolution”, doesn’t mean that they are talking about the same thing. And the discussions aren’t even the same over the decades that those quotes are mined from.
E.g., within macroevolution, scientists study:
speciation (splitting of gene pools, reproductive isolation mechanisms)
lineage dynamics (rates of speciation and extinction; mass extinctions; patterns in phylogenetic trees)
rates of change across species in the fossil record – punctuated equilibrium, contrary to virtually all infuriating, blindly-repeated silliness from antievolutionists, was just about how speciation – the SMALLEST sort of macroevolutionary change – appears in the fossil record. It is about small jumps in morphology between closely-related sister species.
evolution of development, including both “novel” structures and “exaptation” (the latter being far more common than true novelty, whatever “true novelty” means)
the statistical estimation of the history of character change (or biogeographic change, etc.) on phylogenetic trees, and inference of the best statistical models that describe this process
origin of “higher taxa” – this is common in older literature, but Linnaean ranked taxonomy is being gradually abandoned in biology, since we can just use phylogenies without needing any artificial ranks, which were never well-defined anyway
Scientists can be talking about any of the above, or other topics, under the topic of “macroevolution”. And for any of the above, a debate can be had about to what extent an extrapolationist model works as an explanation.
– Matzke, Nicholas J., in a comment on my Uncommon Descent post, A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution.
Historical note: Where did the term “macroevolution” come from?
At this point, some readers may be wondering where the term “macroevolution” and “microevolution” came from in the first place. It turns out that they have a long and controversial history, as biologists have flip-flopped over the last ninety years, on the question of whether the former is explicable in terms of the latter:
“I. A. Filipchenko (1929) coined the terms microevolution and macroevolution and argued that one could not be inferred from the other. Macroevolution concerned the origins of higher taxa. Originally, H. F. Osborn (1925), G. G. Simpson, and other American paleontologists did not accept the view that the fossil record could be explained by the accumulation of minute selectable changes over millions of years. But… by 1951 Dobzhansky could confidently declare, ‘Evolution is a change in the genetic composition of populations. The study of mechanisms of evolution falls within the province of population genetics.’ Thus, evolution was seen as a subset of the formal mathematics of population genetics…, and there was nothing in evolutionary biology that fell outside of it. One of the major tenets of the Modern Synthesis has been that of extrapolation: the phenomena of macroevolution, the evolution of species and higher taxa, are fully explained by the microevolutionary processes that gives [sic] rise to varieties within species. Macroevolution can be reduced to microevolution. That is, the origins of higher taxa can be explained by population genetics…” (p. 358)
“The concept that macroevolution could not be derived from microevolution remained as an underground current in evolutionary theory. Every so often, it was brought to the surface by developmentally oriented evolutionary biologists such as Goldschmidt, Waddington, or de Beer… But these attempts to decouple microevolution from macroevolution were either ignored or marginalized (see Gilbert, 1994a). (p. 362)
“Macroevolution was brought back as autonomous entity only after Eldredge and Gould (1972), Stanley (1979), and others postulated an alternative view to the gradualism that characterized the Modern Synthesis. By 1980, Gould claimed that the idea of ‘gradual alleleic [sic] substitution as a mode for all evolutionary change’ was effectively dead. This view did not go unchallenged, and by 1982, Gould’s view had become more specific. It wasn’t that the Modern Synthesis was wrong; rather, it was incomplete. ‘Nothing about microevolutionary population genetics, or any other aspect of microevolutionary theory, is wrong or inadequate at its level…. But it is not everything’… While punctuated equilibrium remained a controversial theory, it did bring to light the question of the autonomy of macroevolution. Indeed, the failure of microevolutionary biology to distinguish between punctuated equilibrium and gradualism demonstrated its weakness when applied to macroevolution…. Molecular studies… were similarly pointing to ‘evolution at two levels,’ one molecular, the other morphological. Thus, by the early 1980s, numerous paleontologists and evolutionary biologists (Gould, Stanley, Eldredge, Verba [sic, should be Vrba], and mostly critically, Ayala) came to the conclusion that although macroevolutionary phenomena were underlain by microevolutionary phenomena, the two areas were autonomous and that macroevolutionary processes could not be explained solely by microevolutionary events.” (p. 362)
– Scott F. Gilbert, John M. Opitz, and Rudolf A. Raff. 1996. “Resynthesizing Evolutionary and Developmental Biology.” Developmental Biology 173:357-372.
Thus Professor Tour’s public skepticism regarding whether macroevolution is merely an extrapolation of microevolution (as orthodox Darwinists have traditionally maintained) or whether it represents something fundamentally different, has some prominent scientific defenders. Mr. Matzke will doubtless point out that these anti-reductionist scientists were avowed evolutionists, whereas Professor Tour is not, and that’s perfectly true. In reply, I would argue that Tour has every right as a scientist to not only critique, on chemical grounds, the conventional view that macroevolution is merely microevolution writ large, but also to argue that the alternative evolutionary views put forward by scientists (such as Gould) who disagree with the orthodox Darwinian view are no less deficient, from a chemical standpoint.
In the Appendix at the end of my post, I’ve quoted the opinions of various scientists as to whether macroevolution can be regarded as merely an extension of microevolution. As the quotes below confirm, the standard view (espoused by Dawkins, Prothero and Coyne) is that macroevolution is indeed nothing more than microevolution writ large. This was what the proponents of the modern evolutionary synthesis maintained. Even de Beer and Eldredge can be cited in support of this view. Although there are some prominent scientific dissenters from the “standard” view (Gould, Lewin, Erwin, Carroll and Macneill), they seem to constitute a minority.
Nick Matzke’s scientific quarrel with Professor Tour
I’d now like to address the central point of contention between Professor Tour and biologist Nick Matzke. Matzke recently contended that Professor James Tour was making a huge category mistake in his demand for a chemical explanation of how macroevolution works. Matzke argued that Tour was trying to explain evolution at the wrong level, and lambasted Tour for “the entire bizarre, naive, and confused idea that explaining macroevolution is a matter of ‘chemistry’, when it is much more closely connected to ecology, biogeography, environmental change, natural selection, etc.” and then added,
“Now, if what he meant wasn’t ‘macroevolution’, but specifically the evolution of developmental systems, i.e. evo-devo – which is what those articles are about – then the request for ‘chemical details’ would make a tiny bit more sense, but it’s still bizarre.”
“What any serious student of the question would look at would be the homologies, genetics, mutations, selection pressures, and functional shifts involved in the origin of a particular structure. Pretending that it’s just ‘chemistry’ that is important, and chemistry only, is just weird. It’s some old-fashioned tidbit of reductionism adopted by someone who apparently can’t be bothered to learn the basics about a field before proclaiming it fallacious.”
Matzke is putting words into Professor Tour’s mouth here: nowhere does he claim that “it’s just ‘chemistry’ that is important, and chemistry only.” Nor has Tour ever espoused reductionism. Rather, what he insists is that macroevolutionary processes have to be describable at a chemical level. This certainly seems to be a reasonable request, and if Matzke thinks it isn’t, he should tell us why.
Nevertheless, I have to confess that when I first read Nick Matzke’s comments, I was rather perplexed. Could an eminent scientist such as Professor Tour have really made such an elementary mistake as the one which Matzke attributes to him? It seemed very unlikely.
I get mail from Spain
A few days ago, a very perceptive reader from Spain emailed me with an insightful comment. He pointed out that in a recent post on 15 February 2013, entitled, Is the genetic code a real code?, I had critiqued the view defended by Alan Fox, that the genetic code was not a real code, and that everything in the process of protein synthesis could be described in terms of strict chemistry, without the need to invoke a code in order to explain it. On Fox’s view, “DNA transcription and translation is a chemical chain of reactions that depends on the spatial conformation and inherent chemical properties of atoms and molecules.” Fox added that whenever scientists refer to a code, they are merely using a convenient shorthand:
I see no communicative element in the chemical processes that occur when DNA sequences are transcribed into RNA and translated into polypeptide sequences. It’s all a result of the inherent physical and chemical properties of the interacting molecules… To lump chemical processes in with aspects of linguistics is such a stretch that any set that encompasses both is large enough and fuzzy enough to be meaningless… At the cellular and sub-cellular level and consequently and cumulatively at the level of the organism there is a huge amount of communication going on. It is chemical communication… “Encode” could be used as a defined shorthand for some step in the chemical processes that go on in the cell, of course. Maybe there is a scientific definition in the context of biochemistry.
Now that’s reductionism for you. And it’s a form of reductionism espoused by many of Darwin’s defenders, when discussing the origin of life.
My reader from Spain then pointed out that if Fox’s reductionist view were true, then all bio-functional processes (including those that occur in evolution) would be reducible to chemistry, and evolution itself would be nothing but a series of transitions between different chemical processes. In that case, macroevolution would have to be ultimately explicable in terms of chemistry, and Professor Tour’s request that some scientist should be able to explain how it works at the chemical level would be an entirely legitimate one.
So it is surprising that Nick Matzke declares himself to be shocked, shocked, when a chemistry asks him to explain how macroevolution works at a chemical level, but does not bat an eyelid when his fellow Darwinists roundly assert that the origin of the genetic code can be explained at the chemical level. Is there an inconsistency here? It certainly seems so!
The only way in which Matzke could legitimately avoid Professor Tour’s demand for an explanation of how macroevolution works at the chemical level is by maintaining that the capacity to evolve, at the macro level (i.e. at the species level and above), is an emergent property of organisms which supervenes upon, but is not reducible to, their underlying biochemistry. In that case, there should be higher-level laws of Nature that explain how macroevolution works. Matzke would then be espousing a form of holism.
Does holism offer a way out for Matzke?
Now, I have no problem if Matzke wants to publicly endorse holism, in order to explain macroevolution. But I would then ask him: where are the scientific laws that explain how macroevolution works? At this point, we should recall Galileo’s dictum that the universe is written in the language of mathematics. If there are “higher-level” laws of macroevolution, then they have to be written in that language. Where’s the math?
Reading through the various definitions of macroevolution that assiduous readers on Uncommon Descent had managed to dig up from the scientific literature, my attention was drawn to the following comment made on Uncommon Descent back in 2006, by Cornell evolutionary biologist Allen Macneill, a man for whom I have the highest respect:
“In other words, microevolution (i.e. natural selection, genetic drift, and other processes that happen anagenetically at the population level) and macroevolution (i.e. extinction/adaptive radiation, genetic innovation, and symbiosis that happen cladogenetically at the species level and above) are in many ways fundamentally different processes with fundamentally different mechanisms. Furthermore, for reasons beyond the scope of this thread, macroevolution is probably not mathematically modelable in the way that microevolution has historically been.”
– MacNeill, Allen, in a comment on “We is Junk” article by PaV at Uncommon Descent, November 10, 2006.
When I read that remark, I had an “Ah-ha!” moment. I realized then that the evidential case for macroevolution is like a house built on a foundation of sand.
Surprise! There’s no satisfactory mathematical model for macroevolution, at the present time
In 2006, Professor Allen Macneill acknowledged that macroevolution is not mathematically modelable in the way that microevolution is. He could have meant that macroevolution is not mathematically modelable at all; alternatively, he may have simply meant that macroevolutionary models are not as detailed as microevolutionary models. If he meant the latter, then I would ask: where’s the mathematics that explains macroevolution? Surprisingly, it turns out that there is currently no adequate mathematical model for Darwinian macroevolution. Professor James Tour’s remark that “The Emperor has no clothes” is spot-on.
Evolutionary biology has certainly been the subject of extensive mathematical theorizing. The overall name for this field is population genetics, or the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. Population genetics attempts to explain speciation within this framework. However, at the present time, there is no mathematical model – not even a “toy model” – showing that Darwin’s theory of macroevolution can even work, much less work within the time available. Darwinist mathematicians themselves have admitted as much.
In 2011, I had the good fortune to listen to a one-hour talk posted on Youtube, entitled, Life as Evolving Software. The talk was given by Professor Gregory Chaitin, a world-famous mathematician and computer scientist, at PPGC UFRGS (Portal do Programa de Pos-Graduacao em Computacao da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.Mestrado), in Brazil, on 2 May 2011. I was profoundly impressed by Professor Chaitin’s talk, because he was very honest and up-front about the mathematical shortcomings of the theory of evolution in its current form. As a mathematician who is committed to Darwinism, Chaitin is trying to create a new mathematical version of Darwin’s theory which proves that evolution can really work. He has recently written a book, Proving Darwin: Making Biology Mathematical (Random House, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-375-42314-7), which elaborates on his ideas.
Here are some excerpts from Chaitin’s talk, part of which I transcribed in my post, At last, a Darwinist mathematician tells the truth about evolution (November 6, 2011):
I’m trying to create a new field, and I’d like to invite you all to leap in, join [me] if you feel like it. I think we have a remarkable opportunity to create a kind of a theoretical mathematical biology…
So let me tell you a little bit about this viewpoint … of biology which I think may enable us to create a new … mathematical version of Darwin’s theory, maybe even prove that evolution works for the skeptics who don’t believe it…
I don’t want evolution to stagnate, because as a pure mathematician, if the system evolves and it stops evolving, that’s like it never evolved at all… I want to prove that evolution can go on forever…
OK, so software is everywhere there, and what I want to do is make a theory about randomly evolving, mutating and evolving software – a little toy model of evolution where I can prove theorems, because I love Darwin’s theory, I have nothing against it, but, you know, it’s just an empirical theory. As a pure mathematician, that’s not good enough…
… John Maynard Smith is saying that we define life as something that evolves according to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Now this may seem that it’s totally circular reasoning, but it’s not. It’s not that kind of reasoning, because the whole point, as a pure mathematician, is to prove that there is something in the world of pure math that satisfies this definition – you know, to invent a mathematical life-form in the Pythagorean world that I can prove actually does evolve according to Darwin’s theory, and to prove that there is something which satisfies this definition of being alive. And that will be at least a proof that in some toy model, Darwin’s theory of evolution works – which I regard as the first step in developing this as a theory, this viewpoint of life as evolving software….
…I want to know what is the simplest thing I need mathematically to show that evolution by natural selection works on it? You see, so this will be the simplest possible life form that I can come up with….
The first thing I … want to see is: how fast will this system evolve? How big will the fitness be? How big will the number be that these organisms name? How quickly will they name the really big numbers? So how can we measure the rate of evolutionary progress, or mathematical creativity of my little mathematicians, these programs? Well, the way to measure the rate of progress, or creativity, in this model, is to define a thing called the Busy Beaver function. One way to define it is the largest fitness of any program of N bits in size. It’s the biggest whole number without a sign that can be calculated if you could name it, with a program of N bits in size….
So what happens if we do that, which is sort of cumulative random evolution, the real thing? Well, here’s the result. You’re going to reach Busy Beaver function N in a time that is – you can estimate it to be between order of N squared and order of N cubed. Actually this is an upper bound. I don’t have a lower bound on this. This is a piece of research which I would like to see somebody do – or myself for that matter – but for now it’s just an upper bound. OK, so what does this mean? This means, I will put it this way. I was very pleased initially with this.
Exhaustive search reaches fitness BB(N) in time 2^N.
Intelligent Design reaches fitness BB(N) in time N. (That’s the fastest possible regime.)
Random evolution reaches fitness BB(N) in time between N^2 and N^3.
This means that picking the mutations at random is almost as good as picking them the best possible way…
But I told a friend of mine … about this result. He doesn’t like Darwinian evolution, and he told me, “Well, you can look at this the other way if you want. This is actually much too slow to justify Darwinian evolution on planet Earth. And if you think about it, he’s right… If you make an estimate, the human genome is something on the order of a gigabyte of bits. So it’s … let’s say a billion bits – actually 6 x 10^9 bits, I think it is, roughly – … so we’re looking at programs up to about that size [here he points to N^2 on the slide] in bits, and N is about of the order of a billion, 10^9, and the time, he said … that’s a very big number, and you would need this to be linear, for this to have happened on planet Earth, because if you take something of the order of 10^9 and you square it or you cube it, well … forget it. There isn’t enough time in the history of the Earth … Even though it’s fast theoretically, it’s too slow to work. He said, “You really need something more or less linear.” And he has a point…
Professor Chaitin’s point here is that if even a process of intelligently guided evolution takes, say, one billion years (1,000,000,000 years) to reach its goal, then an unguided process of cumulative random evolution (i.e. Darwin’s theory) will take one billion times one billion years to reach the same goal, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 years. That’s one quintillion years. The problem here should be obvious: the Earth is less than five billion years old, and even the universe is less than 14 billion years old.
Debunking a popular myth: ”There’s plenty of time for evolution”
At this point, I imagine Matzke will want to cite a 2010 paper in Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), titled “There’s plenty of time for evolution” by Herbert S. Wilf and Warren J. Ewens, a biologist and a mathematician at the University of Pennsylvania. Although it does not refer to them by name, there’s little doubt that Wilf and Ewens intended their work to respond to the arguments put forward by intelligent-design proponents, since it declares in its first paragraph:
…One of the main objections that have been raised holds that there has not been enough time for all of the species complexity that we see to have evolved by random mutations. Our purpose here is to analyze this process, and our conclusion is that when one takes account of the role of natural selection in a reasonable way, there has been ample time for the evolution that we observe to have taken place.
Evolutionary biologist Professor Jerry Coyne praised the paper, saying that it provides “one step towards dispelling the idea that Darwinian evolution works too slowly to account for the diversity of life on Earth today.” Famous last words.
A 2012 paper, Time and Information in Evolution, by Winston Ewert, Ann Gauger, William Dembski and Robert Marks II, contains a crushing refutation of Wilf and Ewens’ claim that there’s plenty of time for evolution to occur. The authors of the new paper offer a long list of reasons why Wilf and Ewens’ model of evolution isn’t biologically realistic:
Wilf and Ewens argue in a recent paper that there is plenty of time for evolution to occur. They base this claim on a mathematical model in which beneficial mutations accumulate simultaneously and independently, thus allowing changes that require a large number of mutations to evolve over comparatively short time periods. Because changes evolve independently and in parallel rather than sequentially, their model scales logarithmically rather than exponentially. This approach does not accurately reflect biological evolution, however, for two main reasons. First, within their model are implicit information sources, including the equivalent of a highly informed oracle that prophesies when a mutation is “correct,” thus accelerating the search by the evolutionary process. Natural selection, in contrast, does not have access to information about future benefits of a particular mutation, or where in the global fitness landscape a particular mutation is relative to a particular target. It can only assess mutations based on their current effect on fitness in the local fitness landscape. Thus the presence of this oracle makes their model radically different from a real biological search through fitness space. Wilf and Ewens also make unrealistic biological assumptions that, in effect, simplify the search. They assume no epistasis between beneficial mutations, no linkage between loci, and an unrealistic population size and base mutation rate, thus increasing the pool of beneficial mutations to be searched. They neglect the effects of genetic drift on the probability of fixation and the negative effects of simultaneously accumulating deleterious mutations. Finally, in their model they represent each genetic locus as a single letter. By doing so, they ignore the enormous sequence complexity of actual genetic loci (typically hundreds or thousands of nucleotides long), and vastly oversimplify the search for functional variants. In similar fashion, they assume that each evolutionary “advance” requires a change to just one locus, despite the clear evidence that most biological functions are the product of multiple gene products working together. Ignoring these biological realities infuses considerable active information into their model and eases the model’s evolutionary process.
After reading this devastating refutation of Wilf and Ewens’ 2012 paper, I think it would be fair to conclude that we don’t currently have an adequate mathematical model explaining how macroevolution can occur at all, let alone one showing that it can take place within the time available. Four billion years might sound like a long time, but if your model requires not billions, but quintillions of years for it to work, then obviously, your model of macroevolution isn’t mathematically up to scratch.
Debunking another popular myth: “The eye could have evolved in a relatively short period.”
Parts of the eye: 1. vitreous body 2. ora serrata 3. ciliary muscle 4. ciliary zonules 5. canal of Schlemm 6. pupil 7. anterior chamber 8. cornea 9. iris 10. lens cortex 11. lens nucleus 12. ciliary process 13. conjunctiva 14. inferior oblique muscle 15. inferior rectus muscle 16. medial rectus muscle 17. retinal arteries and veins 18. optic disc 19. dura mater 20. central retinal artery 21. central retinal vein 22. optic nerve 23. vorticose vein 24. bulbar sheath 25. macula 26. fovea 27. sclera 28. choroid 29. superior rectus muscle 30. retina. Image courtesy of Chabacano and Wikipedia.
In 1994, Dan-Erik Nilsson and Susanne Pelger of Lund University in Sweden wrote a paper entitled, A Pessimistic Estimate of the Time Required for an Eye to Evolve (Proceedings: Biological Sciences, Vol. 256, No. 1345, April 22 1994, pp. 53-58) in which they cautiously estimated the time required for a fully-developed lens eye to develop from a light-sensitive spot to be no more than 360,000 years or so.
In 2003, the mathematician David Berlinski wrote an incisive critique of this outlandish claim. (See here for Nilsson’s response.) Some of Berlinski’s contentions turned out to be based on a misunderstanding of Nilsson and Pelger’s data, but Berlinski scored significantly when he pointed out that Nilsson and Pelger’s paper was lacking in the mathematical details one might expect in support of their claim that the eye took only 360,000 years to evolve:
“Nilsson and Pelger’s paper contains no computer simulation, and no computer simulation has been forthcoming from them in all the years since its initial publication…
“There are two equations in Nilsson and Pelger’s paper, and neither requires a computer for its solution; and there are no others.”
Indeed, Nilsson had even admitted as much, in correspondence with Berlinski:
“You are right that my article with Pelger is not based on computer simulation of eye evolution. I do not know of anyone else who [has] successfully tried to make such a simulation either. But we are currently working on it.”
That was in 2001. As far as I am aware, no simulation has since been forthcoming from Nilsson and Pelger, although as we’ll see below, a genetic algorithm developed by an Israeli researcher in 2007 demonstrated that their model was based on wildly optimistic assumptions about evolutionary pathways.
In the meantime, Nilsson and Pelger’s 1994 paper has been gleefully cited by evolutionary biologists as proof that the origin of complex structures is mathematically modelable. Here is how Professor Jerry Coyne describes Nilsson and Pelger’s work in his book, Why Evolution Is True:
We can, starting with a simple precursor, actually model the evolution of the eye and see whether selection can turn that precursor into a more complex eye within a reasonable amount of time. Dan Nilsson and Susanne Pelger of Lund University in Sweden made such a mathematical model, starting with a patch of light-sensitive cells backed by a pigment layer (a retina). They then allowed the tissues around this structure to deform themselves randomly, limiting the amount of change to only 1% of size or thickness at each step. To mimic natural selection, the model accepted only mutations that improved the visual acuity, and rejected those that degraded it.
Within an amazingly short time, the model yielded a complex eye, going through stages similar to the real-animal series described above. The eyes folded inward to form a cup, the cup became capped with a transparent surface, and the interior of the cup gelled to form not only a lens, but a lens with dimensions that produced the best possible image.
Beginning with a flatworm-like eyespot, then, the model produced something like the complex eye of vertebrates, all through a series of tiny adaptive steps – 1,829 of them, to be exact. But Nilsson and Pelget could also calculate how long this process would take. To do this, they made some assumptions about how much genetic variation for eye shape existed in the population that began experiencing selection, and how strongly selection would favor each useful step in eye size. These assumptions were deliberately conservative, assuming that there were reasonable but not large amounts of genetic variation and that natural selection was very weak. Nevertheless, the eye evolved very quickly: the entire process from rudimentary light-patch to camera eye took fewer than 400,000 years.
– Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, p. 155.
I’d like to point out here that Coyne’s starry-eyed description of Nilsson and Pelger’s research overlooks a vital point raised by Professor Michael Behe in his article, Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference. Readers will recall that Behe declared:
“The relevant steps in biological processes occur ultimately at the molecular level, so a satisfactory explanation of a biological phenomenon such as sight, or digestion, or immunity, must include a molecular explanation. It is no longer sufficient, now that the black box of vision has been opened, for an ‘evolutionary explanation’ of that power to invoke only the anatomical structures of whole eyes, as Darwin did in the 19th century and as most popularizers of evolution continue to do today. Anatomy is, quite simply, irrelevant.”
Nilsson and Pelger’s mathematical calculations addressed the evolution of the eye’s anatomy, but they said nothing about the underlying biochemistry. Using Behe’s criteria, we can see at once that their macroevolutionary model of the evolution of the eye is a failure. Professor James Tour would dismiss it on similar grounds. He would doubtless ask, rhetorically: “Does anyone understand the chemical details behind the macroevolution of the eye?” I hope that Nick Matzke will now concede that this is a reasonable question.
A more skeptical assessment of Nilsson and Pelger’s 1994 paper can be found in an online applied physics thesis by Dov Rhodes, entitled, Approximating the Evolution Time of the Eye: A Genetic Algorithms Approach. The thesis makes for fascinating reading. I shall quote a few brief excerpts:
“A paper published in 1994 by the Swedish scientists Nilsson and Pelger  gained immediate worldwide fame for describing the evolution process for an eye, and approximating the time required for an eye to evolve from a simple patch that sense electromagnetic radiation. Nilsson and Pelger (NP) outlined an evolutionary path, where by minute improvements on each step a cameratype eye can evolve in approximately 360,000 years, which is extremely fast on an evolutionary time scale… (p. 1)
“The main problem with the NP model is that although the evolutionary path that it describes might be a legitimate one, it neglects consideration for divergent paths. It is easy to construct a situation in which the best temporary option for the improvement of an eye does not lead towards the development of the globally optimal solution. This idea motivates our alternative approach, the method of genetic algorithms. In this paper we use the genetic algorithm with a simplified (2-dimensional) version of NP’s setup and show the error in their approach. We argue that if their approach is mistaken in the simplified model, it is even farther from reality in the full evolutionary setting. (p. 2)
“Although the paraboloid landscape guarantees convergence, the GA is still a probabilistic algorithm and thus will not always converge quickly. As in evolution, the most efficient path is not necessarily the one taken. This fact suggests that our already conservative value of lambda = 5.41 would be even larger if compared with a real deterministic algorithm such as the NP (Nilsson-Pelger) model. Even though their computation accounts to some extent for the average probability of evolutionary development over time, it fails to consider the countless different evolutionary paths, and instead chooses just one.
“Rather than 360 thousand generations, a reasonable lower bound should be at least 5*360,000 = 1.8*10^6 generations, and if our previous speculations have merit, an order of magnitude higher would ramp up the estimate to around 18 million generations. Future experiments that would be useful for improving the accuracy of our results might involve varying the mutation parameter, and most importantly letting algorithms run for longer, allowing the lower bound for convergence to be pushed even higher.” (p. 15)
What Rhodes’ paper demonstrates is that the 1994 estimate by Nilsson and Pelger of how long it took the eye to evolve is more like a case of intelligently guided evolution than Darwinian evolution. As Rhodes puts it: “Even though their computation accounts to some extent for the average probability of evolutionary development over time, it fails to consider the countless different evolutionary paths, and instead chooses just one.”
Why the evidence for unguided Darwinian macroevolution is like a house built on a foundation of sand
We have seen that there’s curently no good theory that can serve as an adequate model for Darwinian macroevolution – even at a “holistic” level. As we saw, Professor Gregory Chaitin’s toy models don’t go down to the chemical level requested by Professor James Tour, but these models have failed to validate Darwin’s theory of evolution, or even show that it could work.
At this point, there is an alternative line that Matzke might want to take. He could claim that macroevolution is ultimately explicable in terms of bottom-level laws and physical processes, but that unfortunately, scientists haven’t discovered what they are yet. From a theoretical perspective, reductionism would then be true after all, and the chemical explanation of macroevolution demanded by Professor Tour could be given. From a practical standpoint, however, it would be impossible for scientists to provide such an explanation within the foreseeable future.
If Matzke wishes to take this road, then he is tacitly admitting that scientists don’t yet know either the scientific laws (which are written in the language of mathematics) or the physical processes that ultimately explain and drive macroevolution. But if they don’t know either of these, then I would ask him: why should we believe that it actually occurs? After all, mathematics, scientific laws and observed processes are supposed to form the basis of all scientific explanation. If none of these provides support for Darwinian macroevolution, then why on earth should we accept it? Indeed, why does macroevolution belong in the province of science at all, if its scientific basis cannot be demonstrated?
Are there any good scientific parallels to the lack of evidence for macroevolution?
At this point in the discussion, Darwinists will often cite two historical illustrations to support their claim that belief in macroevolution can still be reasonable, even if we currently lack a mathematical model for it. The two examples they love to mention are continental drift (the mechanism of which remained an unsolved mystery, long after good empirical evidence supporting it was discovered by scientists) and gravity (the theoretical basis of which is still not fully understood by scientists, although it is currently regarded as a curvature in the fabric of spacetime).
However, the analogy with continental drift is a poor one. After all, the process of continental drift can be observed and measured, and there is no micro/macro distinction. Extrapolate continental movements back 200 million years in time, and you end up with the super-continent of Pangaea.
Nor will gravity save the evolutionist: it can be described mathematically (e.g. by Newton’s law of universal gravitation, F = G.(m1.m2)/r^2), even if its physical basis remains mysterious.
Matzke: but macroevolution can be demonstrated! –
In a comment on my recent thread, A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution, Nick Matzke stoutly maintained that there’s plenty of observational evidence for macroevolution:
Dog breeds and many other domestic plants and animals have morphological differences much larger than the “macroevolutionary” differences typically seen between species in a genus or even family. Cue excuse for not accepting the evidence you JUST requested in 3, 2, 1…
OK, Nick. Here’s my excuse. There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here’s a photo of the skeleton of a Great Dane, next to a Chihuahua:
Apart from size, there’s not much of a difference in the skeletons, is there?
“What about a human being and a great ape?” you might ask. Here’s another picture, showing a human skeleton and a gorilla skeleton. Not so similar, are they?
Chimpanzees and gorillas are man’s closest living relatives. The anatomical differences between humans and chimpanzees, which are quite extensive, are conveniently summarized in a handout prepared by Anthropology Professor Claud A. Ramblett the University of Texas, entitled, Primate Anatomy. Anyone who thinks that a series of random stepwise mutations, culled by the non-random but unguided process of natural selection, can account for the anatomical differences between humans and chimpanzees, should read this article very carefully. What it reveals is that an entire ensuite of changes, relating to the skull, teeth, vertebrae, thorax, shoulder, arms, hands, pelvis, legs and feet, not to mention the rate of skeletal maturation and method of locomotion, would have been required, in order to transform the common ancestor of humans and chimps into creatures like ourselves. Given the sheer diversity of changes that would have been required, it is surely reasonable to ask whether an unguided process, such as Darwinian macroevolution, could have accomplished this feat over a period of a few million years.
It is often claimed that neoteny accounts for many of the anatomical differences between human beings and great apes, and that humans resemble juvenile apes. Readers will be able to see how nonsensical this view is, by examining the following photo (WARNING: this may upset some viewers) of a baby human skeleton alongside a baby chimpanzee skeleton. Even at a young age, the differences between the two species are marked. I would invite readers to look at the skull, the rib cage, the pelvis, the arm bones and leg bones, and the hands and feet, and judge for themselves.
Now, I happen to accept the common ancestry of humans and chimpanzees, although I’d also like to point out that it’s illogical to infer from the fact that a change is known to have occurred in the past that the change in question occurred as a result of physical processes that are known to us today. We don’t know that. Common descent is one thing; common descent as a result of Darwinian natural selection is quite another.
I’d also be inclined to agree with Nick Matzke’s claim that Homo erectus (broadly defined, to include Homo ergaster) is a direct ancestor of modern Homo sapiens, although I should point out in passing that evolutionary biologist Professor Coyne is far more circumspect when he writes of Homo erectus: “It may, though, have left two famous descendants: H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis, known respectively as “archaic H. sapiens” and the famous ‘Neanderthal man.’” But even if we compare Homo erectus (who had a smaller brain than that of modern humans, but who was virtually identical with us from the neck down) with modern Homo sapiens, the neurological differences are quite profound. There were changes in the prefrontal cortex that took place about 700,000 years ago, with the emergence of Homo heidelbergensis (Heidelberg man), which enabled long-term planning and inhibitory control, making self-sacrifice for the good of the group and life-long monogamy possible. Later on, there were also changes in the temporoparietal cortex, with the emergence of modern Homo sapiens, about 200,000 years ago, making possible the emergence of art, symbolism and religious rituals. Readers can learn more about these changes (which I’ll be writing about in a future post) in the following two articles:
Paleolithic public goods games: why human culture and cooperation did not evolve in one step by Benoit Dubreuil, in Biology and Philosophy (2010) 25:53–73, DOI 10.1007/s10539-009-9177-7.
The First Appearance of Symmetry in the Human Lineage: where Perception meets Art (careful: large file!) by Dr. Derek Hodgson. In Symmetry, 2011, 3, 37-53; doi:10.3390/3010037
Just as with vision, the changes required to enlarge the prefrontal cortex and the temporoparietal cortex in modern man had to be realized at the molecular level. There’s no escaping the nitty-gritty: if we’re going to explain how modern man got his brain, we’re going to have to supply the chemical details as well as genetic and anatomical details.
The necessary changes in the brains of our hominid ancestors which allowed human beings, in the true sense of the word, to emerge, were not trivial ones, and they were not merely a matter of “scaling up” a more primitive brain. We also forget that the human brain is the most complex machine known in the universe. We know that random changes plus non-random “selection” are not enough by themselves to create a pattern or a function – such as the function of being able to engage in long-term planning and inhibitory control, which characterized Heidelberg man, who emerged 700,000 years ago. As Professor William Dembski puts it in his essay, Conservation of Information Made Simple:
It’s easy to write computer simulations that feature selection, replication, and mutation (or SURVIVAL writ large, or differential survival and reproduction, or any such reduction of evolution to Darwinian principles) – and that go absolutely nowhere. Taken together, selection, replication, and mutation are not a magic bullet, and need not solve any interesting problems or produce any salient patterns.
If someone wants to argue that random copying errors plus non-random death are sufficient to make a brain with new cognitive abilities, I shall demand evidence before I believe such a claim. At the very least, I’d like a plausible sequence of genetic changes relating to the development of the human brain, that could have transformed an Australopithecus into Homo erectus and finally modern man, without the need for intelligent guidance..
In his online essay, 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, Dr. Douglas Theobald, makes some truly outlandish statements about evolutionary change:
A more recent paper evaluating the evolutionary rate in guppies in the wild found rates ranging from 4000 to 45,000 darwins (Reznick 1997). [A darwin is a unit of evolutionary change – VJT.] Note that a sustained rate of “only” 400 darwins is sufficient to transform a mouse into an elephant in a mere 10,000 years (Gingerich 1983).
One of the most extreme examples of rapid evolution was when the hominid cerebellum doubled in size within ~100,000 years during the Pleistocene (Rightmire 1985). This “unique and staggering” acceleration in evolutionary rate was only 7 darwins (Williams 1992, p. 132). This rate converts to a minuscule 0.02% increase per generation, at most. For comparison, the fastest rate observed in the fossil record in the Gingerich study was 37 darwins over one thousand years, and this corresponds to, at most, a 0.06% change per generation.
I hope that by now, readers can see how naive that kind of argument is. Professor Tour is right: anatomical explanations are not enough. We do need to look at the underlying chemistry.
APPENDIX: What scientists say about the relation between macroevolution and microevolution
(a) Scientific authorities who SUPPORT the view that macroevolution is just an extrapolation of microevolution, over long periods of time
“Along with the reductionist attitude that organisms are nothing more than vessels to carry their genes came the extrapolation that the tiny genetic and phenotypic changes observed in fruit flies and lab rats were sufficient to explain all of evolution. This defines all evolution as microevolution, the gradual and tiny changes that cause different wing veins in a fruit fly or a slightly longer tail in a rat. From this, Neo-Darwinism extrapolates all larger evolutionary changes (macroevolution) as just microevolution writ large. These central tenets – reductionism, panselectionism, extrapolationism, and gradualism – were central to the Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy of the 1940s and 1950s and are still followed by the majority of evolutionary biologists today.”
– Prothero, Donald R. Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. 2007. Cited by Mung here.
“Many who reject darwinism on religious grounds . . . argue that such small changes [as seen in selective breeding] cannot explain the evolution of new groups of plants and animals. This argument defies common sense. When, after a Christmas visit, we watch grandma leave on the train to Miami, we assume that the rest of her journey will be an extrapolation of that first quarter-mile. A creationist unwilling to extrapolate from micro- to macroevolution is as irrational as an observer who assumes that, after grandma’s train disappears around the bend, it is seized by divine forces and instantly transported to Florida.”
– Coyne, Jerry A. 2001 (Aug 19). Nature 412:587. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“…we shouldn’t expect to see more than small changes in one or a few features of a species – what is known as microevolutionary change. Given the gradual pace of evolution, it’s unreasonable to expect to see selection transforming one “type” of plant or animal to another – so-called macroevolution – within a human lifetime. Though macroevolution is occurring today, we simply won’t be around long enough to see it. Remember that the issue is not whether macroevolutionary change happens – we already know from the fossil record that it does – but whether it was caused by natural selection, and whether natural selection can build complex features and organisms.”
– Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, p. 144. Cited by Mung here.
“So where are we? We know that a process very like natural selection – animal and plant breeding – has taken the genetic variation present in wild species and from it created huge “evolutionary” transformations. We know that these transformations can be much larger, and faster, than real evolutionary change that took place in the past. We’ve seen that selection operates in the laboratory, in microorganisms that cause disease, and in the wild. We know of no adaptations that absolutely could not have been molded by natural selection, and in many cases we can plausibly infer how selection did mold them. And mathematical models show that natural selection can produce complex features easily and quickly. The obvious conclusion: we can provisionally assume that natural selection is the cause of all adaptive evolution – though not of every feature of evolution, since genetic drift can also play a role.
“True, breeders haven’t turned a cat into a dog, and laboratory studies haven’t turned a bacterium into an amoeba (although, as we’ve seen, new bacterial species have arisen in the lab). But it is foolish to think that these are serious objections to natural selection. Big transformations take time – huge spans of it. To really see the power of selection, we must extrapolate the small changes that selection creates in our lifetime over the millions of years that it has really had to work in nature.”
– Coyne, Jerry A. Why Evolution Is True. 2009. Oxford University Press, p. 155.
“The claim that microevolution can’t be extrapolated to macroevolution is ubiquitous among ID advocates and the creationists who preceded them…. it is nothing more than standard creation science terminology for the creationist claim that various groups of organisms were specially created by God, with specified limits on how far they could change over time.”
– Matzke, N. and Gross, P., 2006, here.
“For biologists, then, the microevolution/macroevolution distinction is a matter of scale of analysis, and not some ill-defined level of evolutionary “newness.” Studies that examine evolution at a coarse scale of analysis are also macroevolutionary studies, because they are typically looking at multiple species – separate branches on the evolutionary tree. Evolution within a single twig on the tree, by contrast, is microevolution.”
– Matzke, N., and Gross, P. (2006). “Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy.” Chapter 2 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Scott, E., and Branch, G., eds., Beacon Press, pp. 49-50. Cited by Nick Matzke here.
“I was not prepared to find creationists . . . actually accepting the [peppered] moths as examples of small-scale evolution by natural selection! . . . That, to my mind, is tantamount to conceding the entire issue, for . . . there is utter continuity in evolutionary processes from the smallest scales (microevolution) up through the largest scales (macroevolution).”
– Eldredge, N. 2000. The Triumph of Evolution. New York: W.H. Freeman and Co. p. 119. (cf. pp. 62, 66, 76, 88). Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“… there is no justification for dismissing the selective and genetic mechanism responsible for the change from grey to black in [peppered] moths as incapable of producing new organs… there are no grounds for doubting that the mechanism of selection and mutation that has adaptively turned grey moths black in 100 years has been adequate to achieve evolutionary changes that have taken place during hundreds and thousands of millions of years.”
– De Beer, G. 1964. Atlas of Evolution. London: Nelson. pp. 93f. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“Most sceptics about natural selection are prepared to accept that it can bring about minor changes like the dark coloration that has evolved in various species of moth since the industrial revolution. But, having accepted this, they then point out how small a change this is. … But… the moths only took a hundred years to make their change…. just think about the time involved.”
– Dawkins, R. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. p. 40. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
(b) Scientists who are UNDECIDED on whether macroevolution is explicable in terms of microevolution
“One of the oldest problems in evolutionary biology remains largely unsolved; Historically, the neo-Darwinian synthesizers stressed the predominance of micromutations in evolution, whereas others noted the similarities between some dramatic mutations and evolutionary transitions to argue for macromutationism.”
– Stern, David L. Perspective: Evolutionary Developmental Biology and the Problem of Variation, Evolution, 2000, 54, 1079-1091. A contribution from the University of Cambridge.
“A persistent debate in evolutionary biology is one over the continuity of microevolution and macroevolution – whether macroevolutionary trends are governed by the principles of microevolution.”
– Simons, Andrew M. The Continuity of Microevolution and Macroevolution Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2002, 15, 688-701. A contribution from Carleton University.
“A long-standing issue in evolutionary biology is whether the processes observable in extant populations and species (microevolution) are sufficient to account for the larger-scale changes evident over longer periods of life’s history (macroevolution). Outsiders to this rich literature may be surprised that there is no consensus on this issue, and that strong viewpoints are held at both ends of the spectrum, with many undecided.”
– Carroll, Sean B. 2001 (Feb 8). Nature 409:669. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“Most professional biologists today think of microevolution as evolution within species and of macroevolution as what happens over time to differentiate species or ‘higher’ groups of organisms (genera, families, etc.)….
“The reason I think creationists, and the public at large, are not well served by scientists in this case is because few evolutionary biologists talk to the public to begin with, and when they are confronted with the micro/macro question, they simply accuse creationists of making up such a distinction and move on. What they (we) should say is that there is indeed genuine disagreement among professional biologists about the meaningfulness of the concept, and even those who agree that there is something to it are still trying to figure out an explanation.”
– Massimo Pigliucci, “Is There Such a Thing as Macroevolution?” Skeptical Inquirer 31(2):18,19, March/April, 2007. Pigliucci is a prominent professor of evolutionary biology and philosophy.
(Cited by Richard Peachey here.)
(c) Scientific authorities who REJECT the view that macroevolution is merely an extrapolation of microevolution
Do the “engines of variation” provide sufficient variation to move beyond microevolution to macroevolution.”
“This is indeed the central question. One of the central tenets of the “modern synthesis of evolutionary biology” as celebrated in 1959 was the idea that macroevolution and microevolution were essentially the same process. That is, macroevolution was simply microevolution extrapolated over deep evolutionary time, using the same mechanisms and with essentially the same effects.
“A half century of research into macroevolution has shown that this is probably not the case. In particular, macroevolutionary events (such as the splitting of a single species into two or more, a process known as cladogenesis) do not necessarily take a long time at all. Indeed, in plants it can take as little as a single generation. We have observed the origin of new species of rose, primroses, trees, and all sorts of plants by genetic processes, such as allopolyploidy and autopolyploidy. Indeed, most of the cultivated roses so beloved of gardeners are new species of roses that originated spontaneously as the result of chromosomal rearrangements, which rose fanciers then exploited.
“The real problem, therefore, is explaining cladogenesis in animals. As Lynn Margulis has repeatedly pointed out, animals have a unique mechanism of sexual reproduction and development, one that apparently makes the kinds of chromosomal events that are common in plants very difficult in animals.
“However, she has proposed an alternative mechanism for cladogenesis in animals, based on the acquisition and fusion of genomes. Research into such mechanisms has only just begun, but has already been shown to explain the origin of eukaryotes via the fusion of disparate lines of prokaryotes, plus the origin of several species of animals and plants as the result of genome acquisition. As Lynn has been extraordinarily successful in the past in proposing testable mechanisms for macroevolutionary changes, I look forward to many more discoveries in this field.”
– MacNeill, Allen. comment on “We is Junk” article by PaV at Uncommon Descent, 2006.
“In other words, microevolution (i.e. natural selection, genetic drift, and other processes that happen anagenetically at the population level) and macroevolution (i.e. extinction/adaptive radiation, genetic innovation, and symbiosis that happen cladogenetically at the species level and above) are in many ways fundamentally different processes with fundamentally different mechanisms. Furthermore, for reasons beyond the scope of this thread, macroevolution is probably not mathematically modelable in the way that microevolution has historically been.”
– MacNeill, Allen. comment on “We is Junk” article by PaV at Uncommon Descent, 2006.
“Arguments over macroevolution versus microevolution have waxed and waned through most of the twentieth century. Initially, paleontologists and other evolutionary biologists advanced a variety of non-Darwinian evolutionary processes as explanations for patterns found in the fossil record, emphasizing macroevolution as a source of morphologic novelty. Later, paleontologists, from Simpson to Gould, Stanley, and others, accepted the primacy of natural selection but argued that rapid speciation produced a discontinuity between micro- and macroevolution. This second phase emphasizes the sorting of innovations between species. Other discontinuities appear in the persistence of trends (differential success of species within clades), including species sorting, in the differential success between clades and in the origination and establishment of evolutionary novelties. These discontinuities impose a hierarchical structure to evolution and discredit any smooth extrapolation from allelic substitution to large-scale evolutionary patterns. Recent developments in comparative developmental biology suggest a need to reconsider the possibility that some macroevolutionary discontinuites may be associated with the origination of evolutionary innovation. The attractiveness of macroevolution reflects the exhaustive documentation of large-scale patterns which reveal a richness to evolution unexplained by microevolution. If the goal of evolutionary biology is to understand the history of life, rather than simply document experimental analysis of evolution, studies from paleontology, phylogenetics, developmental biology, and other fields demand the deeper view provided by macroevolution.”
– Erwin, Douglas H. Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution. Evolution and Development, 2000, Mar-Apr;2(2):78-84.
“… large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be understood solely on the basis of extrapolation from processes observed at the level of modern populations and species… The most conspicuous event in metazoan evolution was the dramatic origin of major new structures and body plans documented by the Cambrian explosion… The extreme speed of anatomical change and adaptive radiation during this brief time period requires explanations that go beyond those proposed for the evolution of species within the modern biota… This explosive evolution of phyla with diverse body plans is certainly not explicable by extrapolation from the processes and rates of evolution observed in modern species…”
– Carroll, Robert. 2000 (Jan). Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15(1):27f. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“… biologists have documented a veritable glut of cases for rapid and eminently measurable evolution on timescales of years and decades… to be visible at all over so short a span, evolution must be far too rapid (and transient) to serve as the basis for major transformations in geological time. Hence, the ‘paradox of the visibly irrelevant’ – or, if you can see it at all, it’s too fast to matter in the long run… These shortest-term studies are elegant and important, but they cannot represent the general mode for building patterns in the history of life… Thus, if we can measure it at all (in a few years), it is too powerful to be the stuff of life’s history… [Widely publicized cases such as beak size changes in ‘Darwin’s finches’] represent transient and momentary blips and fillips that ‘flesh out’ the rich history of lineages in stasis, not the atoms of substantial and steadily accumulated evolutionary trends… One scale doesn’t translate into another.”
– Gould, Stephen J. 1998 (Jan). Natural History 106(11):12, 14, 64. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“If macroevolution is, as I believe, mainly a story of the differential success of certain kinds of species and, if most species change little in the phyletic mode during the course of their existence (Gould and Eldredge, 1977), then microevolutionary change within populations is not the stuff (by extrapolation) of major transformations.”
– Gould, Stephen J., in Ernst Mayr and William B. Provine, The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology (Harvard University Press paperback, 1998; originally published in 1980), p. 170. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“A wide spectrum of researchers – ranging from geologists and paleontologists, through ecologists and population geneticists, to embryologists and molecular biologists – gathered at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History under the simple conference title: Macroevolution. Their task was to consider the mechanisms that underlie the origin of species and the evolutionary relationship between species… The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.”
– Lewin, R. 1980 (Nov 21). Science 210:883. Cited by Richard Peachey here.
“What you are trying to argue, in a very confused way, is that you have some kind of problem with the statement that macroevolution is “just” microevolution over large amounts of time. Well, lots of people have a problem with this claim, including me – it’s rather like saying microeconomics can be simply scaled up to produce macroeconomics. Or that the ecology of a single field experiment can be scaled up to explain the macroecology of the Amazonian rainforest.”
– Matzke, Nicholas J., here.
Has anyone else noticed that Matzke falls into camps (a) and (c)?
129 Replies to “Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details”
Well researched and devastating Dr. Torley. If the devil hides in the details, you certainly seem to have taken away all his hiding spots.,, I particularly liked this section in your article:
Where in the world do you find the time to write all this?!
One other point bears mentioning:
Nick Matzke has stated on this blog that all the information for an organism ultimately resides in its DNA. Assuming this is true for purposes of discussion, then by definition every single evolutionary change — microevolutionary or macroevolutionary, must of force be embodied in the nucleotides of DNA, that is at the chemical level.
Therefore, on that view it doesn’t make any difference what other particular process you are calling upon: drift, environmental changes, bottlenecks, horizontal gene transfer, whatever . . . ultimately it all has to be picked up and embodied in a chemical instruction set in the DNA.
Thus, it is somewhat strange for Nick to be taking umbrage at someone’s request for an explanation of things at the chemical level. At the very least, to be intellectually consistent, he should say: “We do not yet understand the chemical level changes that underlie macroevolution, but we have other evidence (a, b, c) that we believe demonstrates that macroevolution regularly occurs by purely natural means.”
Well said. (Although I would say evolutionary theory generally, not just Darwin’s version of it).
Incidentally, I also find it amusing to see so many of the quotes referring to extinction as an example of macroevolution. This underscores the muddled thinking of many evolutionists in that they think what demonstrates evolution are changes, any changes. No, we are interested in changes that have a realistic possibility of creating new functional systems.
Of course Dr. Torley, even though Darwinists have no mathematical model to appeal to so as to claim their theory is scientific, much less a model to show that micro-evolutionary events can be extrapolated to macro-evolution writ large, they could try to appeal directly to empirical evidence to try to make their case, but the lack of empirical evidence is exactly why Darwinism is being severely questioned in the first place.
Moreover, even the paper that Mr. Matzke himself offered to show Darwinian processes could produce functional information was shown to be bogus!
And the differences between chimps and humans that have to be explained are certainly far greater than 5 ‘beneficial’ mutations that negatively impact each other (as was shown in Lenski’s LTEE):
Even Jerry Coyne, who is certainly no friend to ID (nor it seems is he particularly friendly to Christians in general), admits that a huge percentage of genes are not only dissimilar to chimp genes but are ‘novel’ genes:
All one has to do is take a look at all known micro-evolutionary events to see that microevolution cannot be extrapolated to macroevolution (as defined by Coyne).
Eric- Nick’s position requires that all the information for an organism reside in/ be the DNA. Unfortunately there isn;t any justification for that.
DNA influences and controls development, it doesn’t determine it. Genes control traits, but being human isn’t a trait. The color of the eyes is a trait but the type of eye, ie human vs chimp, isn’t a trait. No one knows what tells the developing organism what it will be- what determines it type.
Also the thing about extinctions is taht then there would be wide open niches and that would drive the evolution of new adaptations, which could then lead to macroevolution.
It is also kind of interesting to note that IF Darwinists did pay attention to what the math of population genetics was actually telling them, then they would agree that Darwinism is woefully inadequate:
Oxford University Admits Darwinism’s Shaky Math Foundation – May 2011
Excerpt: However, mathematical population geneticists mainly deny that natural selection leads to optimization of any useful kind. This fifty-year old schism is intellectually damaging in itself, and has prevented improvements in our concept of what fitness is. – On a 2011 Job Description for a Mathematician, at Oxford, to ‘fix’ the persistent mathematical problems with neo-Darwinism within two years.
More from Ann Gauger on why humans didn’t happen the way Darwin said – July 2012
Excerpt: Each of these new features probably required multiple mutations. Getting a feature that requires six neutral mutations is the limit of what bacteria can produce. For primates (e.g., monkeys, apes and humans) the limit is much more severe. Because of much smaller effective population sizes (an estimated ten thousand for humans instead of a billion for bacteria) and longer generation times (fifteen to twenty years per generation for humans vs. a thousand generations per year for bacteria), it would take a very long time for even a single beneficial mutation to appear and become fixed in a human population.
You don’t have to take my word for it. In 2007, Durrett and Schmidt estimated in the journal Genetics that for a single mutation to occur in a nucleotide-binding site and be fixed in a primate lineage would require a waiting time of six million years. The same authors later estimated it would take 216 million years for the binding site to acquire two mutations, if the first mutation was neutral in its effect.
But six million years is the entire time allotted for the transition from our last common ancestor with chimps to us according to the standard evolutionary timescale. Two hundred and sixteen million years takes us back to the Triassic, when the very first mammals appeared. One or two mutations simply aren’t sufficient to produce the necessary changes— sixteen anatomical features—in the time available. At most, a new binding site might affect the regulation of one or two genes.
Evolution And Probabilities: A Response to Jason Rosenhouse – August 2011
Excerpt: The equations of population genetics predict that – assuming an effective population size of 100,000 individuals per generation, and a generation turnover time of 5 years – according to Richard Sternberg’s calculations and based on equations of population genetics applied in the Durrett and Schmidt paper, that one may reasonably expect two specific co-ordinated mutations to achieve fixation in the timeframe of around 43.3 million years. When one considers the magnitude of the engineering fete, such a scenario is found to be devoid of credibility.
What I am impressed by is so much writing can have so little understanding.
* Torley quotes me noting that “macroevolution” encompasses a number of things, and sometimes, especially historically, scientists would use the general term to refer to one of the subcategories, and readers have to be careful to understand what specific phenomenon is being discussed — but then just lumps all the usages together anyway, claims that any complexity in linking microevolution and macroevolution in any one of the subtopics applies to all the others, and also assumes that it is reasonable to demand a “chemical” explanation of “macroevolution”, again all lumped together.
* Here’s a quiz: go through the quotes discussing microevolution/macroevolution. In each case, what subtype(s) of macroevolution are actually being discussed? If you can’t provide this, you are misusing the quotes, and you don’t know enough to have an informed opinion on macroevolution, let alone dispute it.
* Torley complete fails to engage with my points about levels of explanation and the fact that “chemistry” isn’t always the correct one.
What’s the “chemical” explanation of the Grand Canyon? Is it reasonable to doubt the mainstream geological explanation of the Grand Canyon unless and until there is a “chemical” explanation?
Torley seems to accept speciation. What’s the “chemical” explanation of speciation? Hint: it is possible to have speciation with no new mutations at all.
Torley definitely accepts the origins of very different dog breeds from a dog ancestor. Why doesn’t he demand a “chemical” explanation of that? What would he say if some chemistry professor came along and said that he wouldn’t accept that dog breeders produced Great Danes and Chihuahuas from a common ancestor, until someone produced a complete chemical explanation?
Also, Torley’s comparison of the Great Dane/Chihuahua skeletons with the human/gorilla skeletons is laughable. It’s not “obvious” at all that the morphological differences in the former are dramatically smaller than in the latter! Between-species differences, with hominin fossils and many other organisms, are routinely based on much, much smaller differences than observed between Great Danes and Chihuahuas! And the difference between Great Danes and Chihuahuas isn’t just a size difference, there are all kinds of differences in skull and jaw shape, for instance. What’s obvious is that Great Danes and Chihuahuas originated with only a few hundred or few thousand years of change, and are “the same” species, whereas humans and gorillas are different genera, and separated by 7 million years. Even if you wanted to say that human morphology and gorilla morphology are twice as different as Great Dane and Chihuahua morphology, or 10 times as different, or 100 times as different, it would still be the case that the rate of macroevolutionary change needed to get gorillas and humans from a common ancestor would be much, much, much slower than the rate of change observed in dogs.
Also, never mind that we have fossils showing the gradual transition of apelike animals into humanlike forms like Homo erectus, and then to modern Homo sapiens.
Finally, Torley destroys his entire position, and that of ID/creationists everywhere, with:
Well, how about that! Torley has just conceded:
1. Fossils with transitional morphology do indeed exist in the fossil record.
2. Furthermore, even direct ancestor species can sometimes be detected in the fossil record.
3. Torley also accepts macroevolution, in the sense of one species evolving into another species.
4. Furthermore, he accepts this even for humans, everyone’s favorite species.
Creationists/IDists, from the top figures right down to the internet boards, typically deny all of these points, and do so vociferously, and so even in arguing with me in last week’s discussion. I guess they were all wrong, and I was right. Furthermore, Torley accepted all of this, even without having a “chemical” explanation, whatever that would even mean in a world without time machines. Short version: Victory is mine.
Not really. Thoughtful people on the fence between your position and Dr. Torley’s will tend to do as I do: ignore your posts altogether. Why? Because you lack grace. The difference in maturity between you and him is rather stark if not altogether embarrassing.
If you have such obvious trouble with simple things like courtesy why should I or anyone else believe you can master the complexities of biology and reason?
Did you notice this in the link to Tour’s article:
Specifically, in the past, I wrote that my standing as a scientist was “based primarily upon my scholarly peer-reviewed publications.” I no longer believe that, however.
In the last few years I have seen a saddening progression at several institutions. I have witnessed unfair treatment upon scientists that do not accept macroevolutionary arguments and for their having signed the above-referenced statement regarding the examination of Darwinism. . . . I never thought that science would have evolved like this. . . .
Hence, by my observation, the unfair treatment upon the skeptics of macroevolution has not come from the administration level. But my recent advice to my graduate students has been direct and revealing: If you disagree with Darwinian Theory, keep it to yourselves if you value your careers, unless, of course, you’re one of those champions for proclamation; I know that that fire exists in some, so be ready for lead-ridden limbs. But if the scientific community has taken these shots at senior faculty, it will not be comfortable for the young non-conformist. When the power-holders permit no contrary discussion, can a vibrant academy be maintained? Is there a University (unity in diversity)? For the United States, I pray that the scientific community and the National Academy in particular will investigate the disenfranchisement that is manifest upon some of their own, and thereby address the inequity.
So the Darwinists act like McCarthyites and nothing is said. Science, at this time, is, in many respects, in rubble. Long live those who seek the truth.
Please remember your comment the next time you see someone calling evolution and evolutionists a fraud, claiming that “the emperor has no clothes” with respect to evolution, blaming Darwin and evolutionary theory for the Nazis, etc. Prof. Tour did the last two at least, Torley lauded his comments, and no one even bothered to raise an objection except me.
But, I express a little indignation when I see people who don’t know what they are talking about castigating my field, and *I’m* the one being rude, not worth listening to, etc.?
Then long-live the evolutionists, because we are the ones who respect the data — we look at the fossils rather than trying to explain them away, we follow what the statistics say about the truth of phylogenetic pattern in DNA sequences rather than trying to explain it away, etc.
The flack that fundamentalist/conservative evangelical antievolutionists get in the academy comes precisely from the fact that they run roughshod over the data and instead unwaveringly follow whatever their own particular interpretation of the Bible demands. They don’t even bother to learn the details of the science they criticize, and instead rely on quote-mining and misunderstanding quotes and terms they haven’t even bothered to learn the accurate usage of. And then, to top it all off, they call all of us who have put in the work to get educated in these matters frauds, emperors without clothes, and blame our field for the Nazis.
And you expect to get treated like serious scholars after all of this? Give me a break.
Like so many otheres, Dr. Matzke apparently cannot comprehend what ID argues. He thinks it’s about common descent.
When 95%+ of IDists deny common descent and many explicitly and vociferously write against it and “macroevolution”, including most of the leadership of ID, it’s hard to take seriously the idea that it’s not an issue.
Also: scroll up to the top of your browser. What does it say in the banner?
Mr Matzke asks:
But Mr. Matzke all examples of speciation, especially dog breeds are example of speciation within the bounds of genetic entropy, in that no new genetic information is created:
And though I certainly don’t agree that with Dr. Torley’s assessment of the fossil record for supposed common descent of humans, it is interesting Mr. Matzke that you would latch onto that, as if Dr. Torley conceded the main point under discussion as to mechanism, and ignore the fact that Dr. Torley had completely undermined any claim you have to scientific integrity for NEO-DARWINIAN evolution by showing you have no coherent mathematical basis. i.e. If you got no mathematical basis you ain’t science! It is simply shameful how dishonest you are towards the points Dr Torley made Mr. Matzke.
As to your reply to lpadron, well Mr. Matzke, the fact is that evolution IS a fraud, “the emperor has no clothes”, and evolutionary thinking, at least how it played out in the social Darwinism inherent therein, was responsible in a very large measure to what happened in Nazi Germany (Weikart). But why would you care anyway Mr. Matzke about what Nazis did, for according to your atheistic materialism morals are merely illusory! Why get huffed up over an illusion???
Under the resources tab at the top of this page, under “Frequently raised arguments …”, #10:
This has been pointed out to you over and over. You seem immune to the point that Common Descent is irrelevant to the essence of ID theory.
I think that you are great. Kudos to you for being able to stand against such harsh critisms. Not that I disagree with them or agree with you, I will say that your presence here and the ability to get over the stupid comments is wonderful
I do have one question of a series of questions I was hoping to ask you. I don’t know much about this stuff but I wanna get specific about macro-evolution. I remember seeing you write saying that any main species today has evidence that it has a common ancestor. Let’s take whales for instance since i have found this to be the argument most used to prove macro-evolution. My question is …how many transitional fossils have they found that go from mammal like animal to whale?
To which ‘stupid comments’ are you referring?
Well, #7 certianly wasn’t appropraite. It didn’t do anything to answer Nick’s objections. And I have seen this happen several other times on this site against him in particular!! Come on people we are not EVOLUTIONISTS!!!hehe 😉
With all due respect, I think your comments serve more to confuse the issue than to clarify it.
For purposes of this comment only, let us define macroevolution to be the emergence of novel functionality in living organisms. A few examples: the very first bacterial flagellum, the first cillium, the blood clotting cascade, sexual reproduction, insect metamorphosis, the avian lung (along with requisite functional changes to supporting subsystems such as muscular, circulatory, and neurological subsystems), and bat flight capability, including, again, all requisite changes to supporting subsystems.
Dr. Tours point, I believe, is that a complete understanding of an evolutionary explanation of the emergence of such novelty must include explanation at the chemical level in addition to explanations at the other levels you mention in your comments. And a subtext of his point is that it is very hard to imagine, knowing what he does about the complexity of producing organic nanotechnology, how such complexity could arise through unguided random events, even if culled by natural selection.
He is, however, humble enough to admit that since evolutionary biology is not his field, he is more than willing to be instructed if someone does have such an explanation. But as he reports, no one has yet accepted that invitation.
Personally, I cannot see how the claim can be made that Darwinian evolution has been established absent detailed explanations at the chemical level of how macroevolutionary (as defined above) changes could have come about. Otherwise it is mere speculation, as yet unsubstantiated.
lpadron @ 7
I appreciated your comment.
I think a lot of us who comment on UD have a hard time taking you seriously. It’s not because you disagree with the claims of intelligent design, indeed the presence of dissenters keeps the forum from becoming an intellectually dull monoculture. If you follow the site, you’ll notice that KN (who is by no means an ID proponent) gets a much friendlier response than you. The issue is the way you engage arguments. Instead of being charitable to those who disagree, you automatically assume that their view is a function of ignorance or is purely ideologically driven. You then proceed to insult and marginalize and huff and puff, burying the subject in an avalanche of terminology, but in the end no sensible, clear reply is presented.
In the interest of fostering communication, though, I’ll give you an opportunity to respond to a common “creationist” critique of common descent which you may happily dismantle before all (though hopefully with less jargon-slinging):
Assuming the truth of universal common ancestry, please explain how similarity (morphological or genetic) can firmly establish ancestor-descendant relationships when it is also suggested that convergent evolution is capable of producing comparable similarity.
Nick isn’t here to have an actual discussion with ID proponents. He, almost purely, plays to the lurkers he thinks are here.
Really, someone should assemble the Nick Matzke drinking game.
* Take a shot whenever Matzke abandons a thread in silence upon being cornered about one of his claims being wrong.
* Take a shot whenever someone asking Matzke a question is met with a response of ‘*gasp* You don’t know the answer?! This is so basic and fundamental! How can you even begin to critique evolution if you don’t know this???’, even if the question was only asked so Matzke’s own definition of the word was made clear in advance.
* Take a shot whenever Matzke says, as if he’s memorized it by rote, ‘ID will never be taken seriously until its proponents familiarize themselves with the literature.’ or words to that effect – even (hell, especially) if the literature he’s quoting has nothing to do with the topic at hand, upon inspection.
* Take two shots whenever you can get Matzke to both argue that people should accept the consensus view of professional academics because they clearly know the most, yet he’ll defend Jesus mythicist Richard Carrier. Four shots if his defense is ‘Well, I’m not a historian so I can’t judge whether Carrier’s arguments are as flawed as the mainstream academics say’.
And on and on.
The point is, he’s not trying to talk to you, or any other ID proponents. He’s putting on a show for lurkers.
NM, re no 9.
Kindly observe that you have repeatedly projected accusations of fraud, which is a case of erecting a strawman and of atmosphere poisoning. I can find no reasonable basis for your suggestion — to raise the “at least” like that is tantamount to such a suggestion — that prof Tour accuses evolutionary theory on the whole of fraud. What is quite plain is that he is asking serious questions on the matter of the empirically and analytically warranted capability of the mechanisms said to be involved to originate the sort of complex, functionally specific organic molecules involved. And that is indisputably a serious question and major challenge. (I will take up the how dare you raise the ghost of Hitler accusation below, as I did so in reply to you in recent days already, here, in reference to a comment by ECS2 that I headlined. Notice in part5icular the embedded image of the logo for the 2nd Int’l Eugenics Conference.)
On the accusation of fraud assertion, others and I here at UD — cf my clip and reply here — have repeatedly pointed out that the general issue has NOT been such accusations, but instead the woeful want of an empirically warranted observationally grounded framework for origin of body plans (logically, including the first, the root of the tree of life, but emphasising the major multicellular body plans that have been observed) by mechanisms tracing to blind chance and mechanical necessity, whether in a prebiotic soup or in reasonable populations across time in reasonable envcironments and reasonable demonstration of the capacity of blind watchmaker, Mt Improbable incrementalism and co-optation, through chance variation and differential reproductive success, without implicit a priori imposition of materialism. This, by so called methodological naturalism or otherwise. For this last amounts to imposition a priori of the conclusion that origin and body plan biodiversity MUST have occurred by mechanisms similar tot he already discussed, sot hat any and all slightest hints of linkages or changes will be latched on as a proof of something that needs a lot more warrant than such.
Now, despite repeated correction and abundant examples otherwise, you have insisted on using the false insinuation or accusation that invites the inference that his is the dominant objection to Darwinism and its relatives.
That is beyond the pale and should be stopped.
You know or should know that it is incumbent to provide actual warrant on empirical evidence, which seems to again be missing. Indeed the persistent resort to all sorts of secondary issues come across as inviting distractions from the pivotal matter. Beyond a certain point that becomes willful, i.e a red herring fallacy. (But that is an obse3rvation on the rhetoric used by an individual, not a blanket assertion of fraud as the foundation of a discipline. We need not revert to fraud where there is blatant evidence of institutional dominance by an ideology that leads to a whole frame of thought that after 150 years, is still short of an adequate, observationally grounded mechanism to convert amoeba into whale or the like in 600 MY or thereabouts.)
You know or should know, for instance, that it is now five months and counting since I have put up an offer to host a 6,000 word essay here at UD that provides a summary of the actual warrant for the evolutionary materialist picture that is often presented as if it were practically certain fact, in schools or to the public, covering origin of life and of body plans. Such an essay would be a summary, and may link onwards, but must meet the sort of requisites that are normal for a college term paper arguing a case.
Such an essay should be easy to find, all over the Internet, if the evidence were as decisive as is so often presented. Similarly, it should be easy to write, if the decisive evidence were there on observational data. And such an essay would be a knife through the heart of design theory, turning the very same explanatory filter against design theory: mechanisms of chance and/or necessity credibly account for the basic phenomena of life, including the complex, functionally specific organisation, information and codes etc.
IF it can be constructed on fair evidence and observational facts.
There is absolutely no need to engage in debates here at UD on ay other topic, if the case were really in hand.
Plainly, it is not, and the very fact of onward debates on everything but the absolutely central issue, would be decisive.
AGAINST the dominant school of thought.
So, I would suggest that you cease from side issues and simply provide a solid answer to the absolutely pivotal matter.
Failure to do so, will naturally lead the astute onlooker to conclude for good reason that the reason for absence of addressing the pivotal issue and speaking on everything else and on every polarising and dubious side-track, is a case of eloquent silence on the actual balance of evidence on the merits.
Where, it is manifest, that design is capable of creating FSCO/I, by even the simple demonstration of posts in this thread.
Not to mention a world of technology around us.
Next, when it comes to the roots of Nazism, it is quite plain that the rise of Darwinism in Germany was indubitably historically accompanied by social darwinism, and that the rise of darwinism globally was so tied, including from remarks by Darwin himself. This indubitably was connected to the rise of eugenics, and onwards to scientific racism.
It can be and has been abundantly shown that his milieu contributed, not only to the rise of Nazism, but the earlier case of the Kaiser’s imperialism . . . a point that for instance was connected to the stance taken by former Cabinet member and US presidential candidate, W J Bryan. In that context it is noteworthy that Hitler served in the area of the then ongoing rape of Belgium, the prototype of what would follow so horrifically a generation later. Indeed, Hitler is on record as praising at least one Imperial General for his calculated ferocity.
There is no reasonable doubt that the global darwinist climate captured int he 2nd Intl Eugenics conference logo mentioned here in response to you recently when you last raise the “fraud” accusation, led to many abuses. In addition, Nazism itself started its race hygiene policies from “scientific” legal precedents in other nations rooted in eugenics — and recall on this G K Chesterton’s strong protests in his writings regarding eugenics in the name of science. The Nazis just carried them forward to their “logical” conclusion, per Hitler’s remarks on cats having no pity for mice or foxes to geese etc, as can be directly read in Mein Kampf.
Let me clip my earlier comment (where I cannot include the logo here):
As I have repeatedly highlighted, there is a serious ethical challenge to face the abuse of science through scientific racism and linked behaviours and movements across the past 100 years in particular. And there is no reasonable doubt that Darwinism was tangled up in the whole mess. Indeed, it is not irrelevant to note that Darwin’s own family were strongly associated with the Eugenics movement, for decades.
What responsible scientists and ethicists need to do, is to face such facts, not try to divert attention from them and blame the messenger for daring to point out that there is a problem.
There IS a problem, and ducking, diverting attention from or projecting blame on others over it, are not responsible behaviours. Even, in cases where someone does go over the top and says things that are intemperate, there is need to acknowledge the problem, set it in context and show how it was addressed responsibly, then go on to correct. but, red lining the matter as a don’t you dare go there, simply highlights that there is an un-addressed major problem.
Similarly, there is a longstanding related worldviews level issue — it traces to at least Plato in The Laws Bk X, that evolutionary materialism as a worldview that likes to pose on its intellectual credentials (and yes, such evolutionary materialism is an ancient philosophy, and was old even in Plato’s day . . . ), decisively undercuts reason, knowledge and foundations of morality leading to a mentality of “the highest right is might,” and to the rise of ruthless and abusive factions. It is also arguably self-referentially absurd.
Now, let me clip what Prof Tour said, regarding the Movie Expelled:
AI am sorry, NM, but your portrayal of prof Tour is strawmannish and stereotyping tot he point of being in need of serious correction. FYI, as highlighted, Tour DISTANCED himself from what in his mind was an unnecessarily close connection to the Nazi era. He did point out that Frankl, an eyewitness, thought differently, and said if he is right, God help us.
And, BTW, 2350 years ago, that nihilism rooted in evolutionary materialism carried to its “logical conclusions” is exactly what Plato warned against:
Those longstanding issues raised by Plato and Frankl alike are serious issues and need to be squarely faced and addressed on the merits, not diverted from through red herrings and strawmen, whether inadvertent or calculated.
Thanks for your thoughts. Just a couple of follow-up comments:
I don’t disagree with you. I was simply pointing out that under Nick’s position, by definition every evolutionary change has to ultimately reside at the nucleotide level — it is all in the chemistry. So it is perfectly reasonable for someone to ask whether we actually understand how macroevolution is reflected in the chemistry and whether it is all chemically feasible. The intellectually responsible answer for the macroevolutionary advocate is: We haven’t the faintest idea.
Ah, yes, I’m familiar with the idea of extinction opening up new niches, but some of the quotes suggest that extinction itself is part of macroevolution, which it isn’t, unless we define macroevolution so broadly as to include everything that happens to a species, in which case it becomes meaningless.
But even the new niches idea isn’t particularly convincing. The idea that extinction opens up wonderful vistas of newly-available niches (probably partly driven by the old story of asteroid => dinosaur extinction => mammals evolve) is something that exists more in the mind than in reality.
First of all, evolution typically proceeds just fine, thank you very much, without extinction events. Indeed, all the concern about invasive species assumes that the new species is able to exploit the existing niche better than the old species. The new species drives the old species out because it is better adapted. Indeed, this is the whole basis of Darwin’s idea.
Only rarely is there actually evidence of an extinction of the old species, followed by some new species taking its place. And even if there were an extraordinary extinction event of the old species (dinosaur meet asteroid), why would the new species not evolve to be nearly identical to the old species that was doing just fine in the niche? There is absolutely no reason under evolutionary theory for some meaningfully different new species to take over the niche. Most importantly, the fact that the old species has gone extinct doesn’t give us any explanation whatsoever as to how a new species could evolve to fill the niche.
Finally, there are numerous (probably thousands) of niches that are available right now for species to fill. Think about it. What if there were a large man-eating flying organism (you know, a dragon)? Think of what an incredibly advantageous niche that would be — food a’plenty! Or a creature that flies and can also swim under water. Or a creature that looks just like a delicious apple but is in fact a flesh-devouring parasite. Or an organism that thrives in the gas tank of cars.
More down to Earth, we could easily think of a dozen ways that every creature we know of could be more advantageously adapted to its environment: what if my dogs could run 20% faster, or my potato plants were resistant to potato beetles, or my cat could jump twice as high, or mountain lions had twice as many offspring, and on and on. There is no shortage of niches. And the mere availability of niches tells us absolutely zero about the likelihood of the niche being filled — certainly at the level of larger organisms.
Certainly life has impressively filled many niches. But there are a lot more out there. Why don’t we see more of them being filled? Where is all the so-called “plasticity” of organisms Darwin thought we should see, with organisms filling every possible niche like colors merging imperceptibly on a color chart?
I have looked into the whale transition quite extensively and I can assure you there are no credible fossils depicting such a thing ever happened.
I don’t have time right now to go into it at any depth but have a look at the link below, it is very interesting. It’s about 10mins long.
Also, this article in UD is worth looking at.
As to whale evolution and population genetics there is this video to:
Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg PhD. in Evolutionary Biology – video
As to exactly why Darwinism cannot be formulated into any coherent mathematical model, I think the main reason why it is impossible to find a mathematical formula for, or falsification criteria against, neo-Darwinism (Lakatos) is because of the insistence of the ‘random’ variable postulate at the base of the Darwinian theory:
Eddington notes the problem materialists have with the random postulate for reality at large here:
This insistence on ‘unguided’ randomness as the creative engine for all of life on earth, and for all of reality in general, leads to epistemological failure. (Plantinga: Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism,, Boltzmann’s Brain). But besides the epistemological failure inherent within the materialistic/atheistic worldview caused by the random postulate, interestingly, if one traces out the sources for randomness (both in the universe and outside the universe) one finds out some very peculiar things. One peculiar thing that one learns is that the main source for randomness in the universe is black holes:
But black holes are the most destructive things in the universe, ripping stars apart, not to mention what would happen to a person who ventured too close:
,,, As well, there is also a very strong case to be made that the cosmological constant in General Relativity, i.e. the extremely finely tuned 1 in 10^120 expansion of space-time, drives, or is deeply connected to, entropy as is measured by diffusion:
Ironically in all this, neo-Darwinists like to claim that evolution is as well established as Gravity, but the plain fact of the matter is that the destructive power inherent within the 4-D space-time of General Relativity itself, which is by far our best description of Gravity, testifies very strongly against the entire concept of ‘random’ Darwinian evolution.
Furthermore, as to the initial entropy (randomness) of the entire universe,,,
And indeed, entropy, in and of itself, explains quite a lot,,
But entropy, despite having such explanatory power, and besides being very antagonistic towards Darwinism in general, is shown to be subject to conscious observation here:
Hmmm, some pretty heavy implications there for consciousness there! i.e. Exactly why should conscious observation override thermodynamic considerations for the ‘random’ entropic decay of a particle??? It seems readily apparent that this is only possible if consciousness precedes the entropic considerations of material particles!
Of related note:
The following quote is interesting considering that entropy is found to be greatest at blackholes:
Music and verse:
It is to anyone with half a brain.
No, we do not. You only think we do because you require it.
As I have been telling you we cannot tell the difference between phenotypic plasticity and actual transitions just by looking at fossils. We need biological data and we don’t have any.
Nonsense- there isn;t any data that supports your claims.
How can we test teh claim that accumulations of genetic accidents didit, Nick? Please be specific.
Well obvioulsy it is an issue because it cannot be scientifically tested.
All you have is “It looks like common ancestry to me” and “It looks like a transitional form to me”. And if that works then ID is science because it looks designed to us.
But no one knows if they are actual transitions
Only via speculation based on the assumption.
YECs do to and that is one reason why your definituion of “macroevolution” is useless. Use Jerry Coyne’s, it is much better.
Speciation is still an ambiguous concept, Nick. And it does not mean new body plans with new body parts.
Nope, we say that your position is not science and it is obvious that it doesn’t have any details. It is all just one generalization after another.
All one has to do is take a look at all known micro-evolutionary events to see that microevolution cannot be extrapolated to macroevolution (as defined by Coyne).
Come on, Nick- make a list of known microevolutionary events and let’s see if they can be extrapolated into macroevolution as defined by Coyne.
Joe posted this:
Podarcus sicula. Micro to macro.
Nick @ 12
I’m curious as to what has you so sold.
What would you say are the most sufficient & potent evidences to make a claim that common descent is a fact of the history of all life on earth?
How does it make a better explanation than common design?
I agree with Dr. Matzke that there is good evidence for common descent; whether or not anyone finds that evidence compelling is another thing entirely. There is also evidence of common descent when it comes to the evolution of cars, airplanes, and computers. However, such an interpretation of the evidence – although sound – would be incorrect.
Personally, it doesn’t matter to me if common descent is true or not because I don’t have an ideological axe to grind that either requires or must deny it. However, Dr. Matzke has a choice here; he can find those willing to argue about common descent and engage in those arguments as if making his case about common descent is also a case against ID; or, he can read the FAQ provided on this site, educate himself about what the actual ID argument is, and realize that a debate about common descent is not also a debate about ID, whether or not “95%” of ID advocates also argue against common descent.
In re: Optimus @ 20:
I don’t think this comparison is fair to me or to Matzke.
For one thing, Matzke and I come from very different disciplines. My background is in philosophy; his is in evolutionary biology. One thing you learn to appreciate, if you study the history of philosophy, is that there is no view so crazy and wild that wasn’t taken seriously by some philosopher at some point.
(Maybe everything is made up of tiny minds (Leibniz)! Maybe everything is like a dream in the mind of God (Berkeley)! Maybe knowledge is impossible (Pyrrho)! Maybe space and time are nothing more than the structure of our perceptual capacities (Kant)! And so on.)
This training gives one a healthy respect for the sheer diversity of philosophical views that out there, and a corresponding awareness of how difficult it is to show that any one of them is clearly superior to all the others. My ambition isn’t to show that naturalism is philosophically superior to all the non-naturalisms, but to shoe that my version of naturalism is philosophically better than the other versions of naturalism — and even that ambition is far too grandiose to be realized.
Whereas in science, the process of disciplinization — of becoming a qualified scientist, an expert — means that one’s sense of the “live options” becomes really quite narrow. And that’s a good thing — we want scientists to be working on questions that haven’t been answered yet, that take for granted the answers discovered by previous scientists. In other words, science makes progress, certain options just get taken off the table, whereas philosophy doesn’t make progress. (Although the philosophical questions do change, sort of — what was the most pressing question of one generation of philosophers can look silly a few generations later, and unintelligible a few generations after that.)
For another thing, Matzke and I have different motives for participating on the blog. He’s here as a science educator — he’s trying to get you all to see how badly distorted your understanding of evolutionary biology is. And the relationship of an educator to his or her students is not grounded in a presumption of equality. I’m not here as a educator, though I do sometimes offer corrections (as I see them) to misunderstandings of Kant or Nietzsche. I’m here because I enjoy arguing with smart people, because I think that a philosophical view (in my case, naturalism) is improved by bringing it into dialogue with those who disagree with it, and because I can use the comments here to experiment with my own ideas in philosophy of biology.
In short, Matzke and I have different intellectual backgrounds and different motives for being here, so I think it’s unfair to Matzke to point at me as a model of respectful discourse. If I had a really strong background in evolutionary biology, and I were trying to get folks to see just how badly they’ve misconstrued evolutionary theory, I might be a little nicer than Matzke, but only in a “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” sort of way.
KN, your 35 demonstrates a remarkably shallow and self-serving view of reality. Given your background, I am embarrassed for you.
– – – – – –
btw, Nick Matzke refuses to address material evidence, and I do not. He cannot put me in a position of avoiding material observations, but I can do it to him all day long.
@Kantian Naturalist 35
KN is this your assessment of what is going on? Is (e.g.) Vjtorley’s understanding of evolutionary biology badly distorted? And is Matze here as an educator?
Kantian Naturalist @ 35:
“[Matzke’s] here as a science educator — he’s trying to get you all to see how badly distorted your understanding of evolutionary biology is.”
I’d say he’s more of an ideologue propagandist.
timothya @32 claims that Podarcus sicula,,,
Italian wall lizard
,,, is an example of Micro to macro. Yet apparently unbeknownst to Timothya, further scrutiny of Podarcus sicula has now shown this to be, much like finch beaks, a cyclical variation within kind. This following video is very good for getting into the details of exactly what is happening with the rapid, and reversible, adaptation of Podarcus sicula:
Phenotypic Plasticity – Lizard cecal valve (cyclical variation)- video
Thank you for your comments. “Victory is mine,” you say? Not so fast.
(1) The word “uncommon” means “out of the ordinary; unusual.” Defined in this way, I believe that the various life-forms on Earth today do indeed have an Uncommon Descent: they are all the product of Intelligent Design, which is not a regular, law-governed process. Uncommon descent, so understood, is perfectly compatible with the view (which I happen to hold) that all living things share a common ancestry.
(2) I take it you would regard Professor Michael Behe as an Intelligent Design proponent. He accepts common ancestry, and you haven’t upbraided him for it. Why do you have a problem with my having the same view on this issue?
(3) William J. Murray has cited the statement from Frequently raised but weak arguments against Intelligent Design that “one can affirm CD [common descent] and ID [intelligent design], CD and Darwinian Evolution, or ID and not CD.” I fall into the first category; most of the ID proponents you’ve met evidently fall into the third category.
(4) Regarding my concession that Homo erectus (broadly defined) was directly ancestral to modern Homo sapiens, you write:
A few points in response:
(i) I’m quite happy to acknowledge transitional fossils. What I don’t accept is the Darwinian view that the transitions took place as a result of unguided natural processes. I think evolution was intelligently guided. See my post, Darwinians concoct a whale of a tale about the evolution of the ear.
(ii) It is a little misleading of you to characterize my position as being that “direct ancestor species can sometimes be detected in the fossil record.” As it happens, I accept Homo erectus as a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens, but that doesn’t mean I have a method for detecting and identifying “direct ancestor species.” The reason why I believe Homo erectus was a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens is very simple: there are no other remotely plausible candidates from around that time. Homo erectus wins by default. Please note that this kind of case is rare, and that if you asked me whether I accept Homo habilis as an ancestor of Homo erectus, I’d have to say, “I don’t know,” because there are other possibilities. In typical cases, Vincent Sarich’s dictum applies: “I know my molecules have ancestors, you must prove your fossils had descendants.”
(iii) I do indeed accept macroevolution, in the sense of one biological species evolving into another biological species. African cichlids are a good case in point. However, I would also accept the conclusion of Dr. Arthur Jones, who did his Ph.D. thesis in biology on cichlids, that the zoological family of cichlid fish constitutes a well-defined type. Here is how he describes his Ph.D. research on cichlid fish, a family of which there are over 1,000 different species:
In general, my view is that living things fall into various natural kinds, that these natural kinds roughly coincide with the taxon of “family,” and that the emergence of a new family of organisms requires at least one act of Intelligent Design. (In the case of whales, I’d say there were about seven or eight, to get from an Indohyus-like creature to the first true whale.) I also hold that typically, unguided natural processes are sufficient to account for the diversification of families into genera and species. (Humans are an exception.)
(iv) Regarding human evolution: my own view is that humans and chimps share a common ancestry, but that God “intervened” (I know that’s a funny word to use for a timeless Being, but I’m describing events from our time-bound perspective) in the line leading to human beings on at least three occasions: about 2 million years ago, when Homo erectus emerged; about 700,000 years ago, when Homo heidelbergensis (whom I tentatively identify as the first true human being) appeared; and about 200,000 years ago, when Homo sapiens emerged. I believe that on each of these occasions, the genes controlling brain development were manipulated by God. Thus it would be incorrect to say that I accept macroevolution for human beings. The emergence of human beings was definitely an intelligently guided process.
(5) You allege that in my discussion of macroevolution, I correctly quote you regarding the various senses of the word, but that I then: (i) lump all the usages of the term together anyway; (ii) claim that any complexity in linking microevolution and macroevolution in any one of the subtopics applies to all the others; and (iii) assume that it is reasonable to demand a “chemical” explanation of “macroevolution”, without distinguishing the various senses of the word. You also allege that in my discussion of macroevolution, I fail to make it clear what subtype(s) of macroevolution is actually being discussed.
I’d like to apologize if I created any confusion in my post, regarding what kind of macroevolution I was discussing. To be crystal clear: the kinds of macroevolution that I was particularly concerned with were:
(i) the evolution of novel structures such as the eye, the bacterial flagellum and the unique features of the human brain (which are all cases where I’d argue that exaptation isn’t a sufficient explanation for what happened); and
(ii) the origin of higher taxa such as families, orders, classes and phyla. (Genera and species don’t interest me much.)
The other kinds of macroevolution which you cite do not necessarily require intelligent guidance, in my opinion, although in particular cases they may.
However, I would maintain that all kinds of macroevolution need to be described at the chemical level, in order to be understood fully. That doesn’t mean that other levels aren’t important too. And it certainly doesn’t mean that higher levels can be boiled down to the chemical level. As I said, I’m not a reductionist, and neither is Tour.
(6) Regarding my demand for a chemical explanation of macroevolution (and here I’m talking about all kinds, whether intelligently guided or not), you write:
I’m a little disappointed that you didn’t fully grasp the point I was making in my post about explanations. To be perfectly clear: I fully accept that there are various levels of explanation, including the chemical level. I don’t claim (and neither does Professor Tour) that there is only one appropriate level of explanation for macroevolution – namely, chemistry. What I do claim (following Professor Behe) is that when studying biological processes (such as macroevolution) which occur ultimately at the molecular level, it is perfectly legitimate to demand a chemical account of what happens.
Hence your claim that “chemistry” isn’t always the correct level of explanation misses the point. Chemistry is a correct level of explanation, but not the correct level.
Regarding the Grand Canyon, it’s perfectly legitimate for a chemist like Tour to ask how water managed to cut through thousands of feet of sediments, to create the Grand Canyon in the first place. To answer that question, one would need to point out that extensive uplifting occurred in the region, making the water in the river flow faster and cut more deeply than usual (a mechanical explanation). One would also need to point out that most of the rocks in the Grand Canyon are sedimentary rocks (e.g. sandstone, shale and limestone) that were deposited in warm shallow seas and near ancient, long-gone sea shores, and one would need to explain how the chemical constituents of these rocks interact with running water (e.g. they may dissolve or decompose). Thus at some point, one would have to provide a chemical explanation.
Regarding speciation: even the most mundane cases require some sort of chemical explanation. You mentioned that “it is possible to have speciation with no new mutations at all.” I presume you were talking about hybrid speciation here, such as plant polyploidy. However, Wikipedia states that “polyploidy is important in hybrids as it allows reproduction, with the two different sets of chromosomes each being able to pair with an identical partner during meiosis.”
And that brings me to sex, which is a perfect illustration of how the various levels of explanation are all required, for a complete understanding of what’s going on. One can talk about the mechanics of sex – e.g. when discussing different positions a couple might want to try, and which ones are most conducive to achieving pregnancy. One can talk about the chemistry of sex – e.g. when explaining what happens immediately subsequent to fertilization:
If that’s not chemical, I don’t know what is.
Once can also talk about the biology of sex from a genetic perspective. Or one can discuss the benefits and drawbacks of sex from an evolutionary perspective (e.g. in relation to the Red Queen hypothesis). And one can discuss the psychology of sex: its role in contributing to bonding, and its psychological effect on different kinds of relationships. I’ve only scratched the surface here. But the point I wanted to make is that chemistry is part of the story, and that it cannot be legitimately omitted. For example, a science teacher who refused to answer a student’s question about how spermicides inhibit fertilization, or what role the vomeronasal system plays in animal reproduction, on the specious grounds that “chemistry is the wrong level of explanation when discussing sex,” simply wouldn’t be doing his/her job properly.
(7) You also write:
As I’ve indicated above in my discussion of sex, dog breeding requires a chemical explanation too. As for refusing to accept the reality of a phenomenon until you can explain it: this is a pretty irrational thing to do, when the phenomenon in question takes place right under your nose. We’ve all seen dogs mating, and we’ve all seen puppies.
And this brings me to my point about Professor Tour’s willingness to accept microevolution as a fact. He writes:
What could be plainer? The problem with macroevolution is that we don’t see it – apart from a few trivial cases at the level of the species, and even they’re disputed by some authorities. (See here for a refutation of the most common alleged instances of speciation. They don’t say anything about cichlids and sticklebacks, though.) Hence because it is unobserved, and because even some evolutionary scientists admit that it is not just a simple extrapolation of microevolution, it is perfectly proper to be skeptical of macroevolution until the details have been fleshed out, at the chemical level – especially if one has powerful prima facie arguments that seem to suggest that it could not occur naturally in the absence of intelligent guidance (e.g. not enough time – as in whale evolution; all observed mutations of the kind required are deleterious – as in the formation of new body plans).
(8) Regarding dog breeding experiments, you write:
It’s not obvious to you that the morphological differences between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua are smaller than those between a human being and a chimpanzee? May I remind you that until the discovery of genetic evidence showing that humans and chimps were 98% identical in sections of DNA that they shared in common, scientists commonly classified human beings in a separate family from the great apes, because the morphological differences between the two were so pronounced. You suggest that if we only had their skeletons to look at, we’d classify Great Danes and Chihuahuas as separate species, and you’re probably right. But we certainly wouldn’t classify them as separate families: they’re both clearly members of the dog family, along with foxes, wolves, jackals and coyotes. The only anatomical differences between them that you mentioned were differences in the skull and jaws. But if you listed the differences between a human being and a chimp, you’d come up with hundreds more.
Finally, you argue that given the rapidity with which these breeds appeared, “the rate of macroevolutionary change needed to get gorillas and humans from a common ancestor would be much, much, much slower than the rate of change observed in dogs.”
But this is just a case of quantitative reductionism. You’re treating all morphological differences between organisms as if they’re simply quantitative, in the final analysis. For my part, I would dispute the premise that qualitative differences are always reducible to quantitative ones. That needs to be argued for. It overlooks the problems of the viability and/or functionality of intermediate forms, just for starters.
More importantly, your objection overlooks the fact that evolution does not simply take place at the anatomical level. Underlying genetic changes need to occur, and these may or may not be capable of quantitative extrapolation. For instance, we don’t know if there is a viable life-form from which humans and chimps could have descended, although the fossil evidence suggests that there could well have been.
Additionally, your argument fails to take account of the fact that not all trends can be extrapolated indefinitely. For instance, would it be possible to breed a dog who was the same height as a man? I very much doubt it.
Finally, your objection ignores the possibility that each “type” of creature may have built-in limits to change, which cannot be transgressed. Is it naturally possible to start with an ape-like creature and breed it, over a period of centuries, into a human being? I very much doubt it. From what I’ve read about the evolution of the human brain, it seems extremely unlikely.
(9) You write in response to lpadron:
With regard to Professor Tour’s comment that “the emperor has no clothes,” it was made in the following context:
It was the extrapolation from microevolution that Tour was objecting to, and as we’ve seen, many evolutionists share the same objection.
Regarding Nazism, Professor Tour objected to the “unnecessarily incendiary portrayals to Nazism, Berlin-walling and church-demolishing in the movie.” As for blaming Darwin for the Holocaust, he didn’t point the finger of blame. Rather, he quoted a Jewish psychologist, Victor Frankl, as saying that “The gas chambers of Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing but the product of heredity and environment” – in other words, determinism, NOT Darwinism. What’s more, Tour did not endorse Frankl’s view. He simply declared: “If Frankl is correct, God help us.”
I think you have been rather uncharitable in your reading of Professor Tour’s online remarks. I suggest that you read his words more carefully in future.
I apologize if my tone is a little sharp in this post. Feel free to say what you like about me and my level of scholarship; my only plea is that you show Professor Tour some respect.
timothya (32): Podarcus sicula. Micro to macro.
As BA77 just responded, this is a great example of the obtuse thinking of the evolutionist. They see something move in Biology and immediately associate it with neo-darwinian processes. This P.Sicula example has been parroted around the internet for years. Dawkins even did a special feature on it attributing the lizard variations to his Blind Watchmaker process.
Come to find out the morphological variations in P.Sicula are precisely anti-darwinian. The changes in dentition, skull, and gut morphology are due to a built in system of adaptability(plasticity) wherein the environment directly triggers phenotypic changes in the species. Nothing about this reflects random mutations. (See Vervust et al. 2010: Anatomical and Physiological Changes Associated with a Recent Dietary Shift in the Lizard Podarcis sicula)
And come to realize this phenotypic plasticity actually happens quite a lot with rapid noticeable variations in species morphology, all of which have no doubt been attributed to and paraded as RM + NS at some point.
I still don’t understand why evolutionists actually believe their proposed random incremental variations (like say making bite force or beak size 10% larger than it was before) would actually be under enough selection pressure to fixate repeatedly in wild populations. It’s such a silly idea when you think about it. Then again, most of them are attributing the same potential of bacteria population genetics to animals running around in the woods…
Of course there is no apology from the Darwinists. This is their routine. When they find something in biology that gives a superficial allusion to being attributed to Darwinian Evolution, they immediately blurt it on a megaphone for the world to hear, and then let real science come along a couple years later to clean up their mess. Of course by that time the damage has already been done and the public has been exposed to yet another illusion that there is actual evidence for Evolution.
Hi bornagain77 and Eric Anderson,
Thanks very much for your helpful comments. They were much appreciated. Thank you.
In what way?
I would like to verify if I understand your point. You state that microevolution is a fact but question the validity of macroevolution even though you accept common descent which I understand to be the same thing. You question it because there is no chemical explanation but accept it because of the fossil evidence shows transitions. To rectify this problem, you posit that God must have guided the process. Isn’t this the standard “God of the gaps” fallacy that all evolutionists argue against? What happens if and when science does figure out the chemical process for micro and macroevolution? What happens to God or ID then? The question will just get pushed back to OOL until that gets solved too. One could posit that the mechanisms of evolution were front loaded but how can one possibly know that. I know that BA77 will ask for evidence of one protein that arose by natural means.
Also, why does UD accept guided evolution only? At least that’s the argument that’s common. I don’t hear anyone claiming that the weather, avalanches, star formations, chemical reactions, droughts, malaria, aids, car accidents are all guided. Why just biological evolution? Wouldn’t it make sense that if one thing is random then they all are or if one thing is guided then everything is? This would either make God evil and capricious or uninvolved in nature.
I mean no disrespect. I’m just trying to figure this evolution, ID, God thing out and so far I’m not having any luck.
I don’t know exactly what evidence you have been looking at JLAfan2001, but Theism is certainly not the worldview that has growing gaps in it!
As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy, from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact it is even very good at pointing us to Christianity:
JLA to VJT:
Common descent is the result of a putative macroevolutionary cause. In this logical relationship they cannot be the same thing; macroevolution, as an unguided process, is a sufficient cause of common descent and not a necessary one. Now if macroevolution is the cause of common descent, it must occur by some form of physical necessity — it must happen by a definite physical process capable of being elucidated by scientific investigation. Because the physicality of living systems are biological in nature, it stands to reason that biochemical processes must be said to account for macroevolution at the fundamental, material level. It does no good to point toward evidence for common descent and proclaim, “Aha, unguided processes!” for intelligent causes are logically capable of producing this effect.
Take for example an instance of genetic engineering. If a genetic defect is repaired, or more to the point, a novel function is introduced into an organism in such a way that its offspring will inherit the trait, and by some chance both states of the organism are recorded for posterity in the fossil record, will not the fossil record indicate the appearance of common descent, and a transition between features in an ancestral relationship? In what way can that insertion of novel functionality by an intelligent agent imply an unguided process? It cannot. Because it’s logically possible for both intelligent and unguided processes to produce morphological changes in ancestral lineages, the observation of morphological relationships in the fossil record, if serving as evidence of common descent, cannot reasonably be taken as the evidence for macroevolution (the unguided production of major morphological novelty).
Given this logical relationship between macroevolution and common descent, if it could be demonstrated that common descent did not occur, then neither could macroevolution (for macroevolution is said to be the cause of the observation). However we may still expect to see an artifact of common descent, even if macroevolution were not the cause. It’s logically possible for another causal phenomenon, such as intentional acts by an intelligent designer, to produce the effect of common descent. Therefore, common descent cannot itself be the evidence that macroevolution is the cause. That would be affirming the consequent. For this reason, macroevolution requires independent, empirical verification — elucidation of the biochemical processes, or more specifically, the role of unguided processes in the development of morphological novelty in biological systems at the biochemical level.
Aren’t we all?
And not without reason, particularly when it comes to macroevolution. I mean, just try to find a textbook on macroevolutionary theory. It’s as if they don’t even teach it.
And then there’s the handwaving over evo-devo, as if that explains macroevolution in single celled organisms.
‘Professor Chaitin’s point here is that if even a process of intelligently guided evolution takes, say, one billion years (1,000,000,000 years) to reach its goal, then an unguided process of cumulative random evolution (i.e. Darwin’s theory) will take one billion times one billion years to reach the same goal, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 years. That’s one quintillion years. The problem here should be obvious: the Earth is less than five billion years old, and even the universe is less than 14 billion years old.’
Don’t mess things up with math, vjt. It just makes things fuzzy.
Randomness of the gaps!
Stephen L. Talbott:
Well, it’s always nice to have an expert weigh in!
But the emperorer has no clothes, and here’s the book to prove it!
The Naked Emperor: Darwinism Exposed
Now that’s one more book than I have found on macroevolutionary theory.
So come on, help a fellow out. What’s a standard textbook on macroevolutionary theory? I’d love to read up on this stuff, and I bet Prof. Tour would as well, before the two of you meet.
Oh, and I’ll really really love you if you can point me to a standard text on macroevolution in single-celled organisms. Yeah, I’d pay good money for that one.
Hey Chance, thanks for #46. I can’t imagine laying it out more clearly or precisely.
Now, should we set up a pool on how much time will pass before the two are conflated again as if the issue had never been so emphatically put to rest?
BA77 @ 45,
That is Henry-Ford-of-the-gaps reasoning: the informal fallacy that posits a creator for the Ford motor car, Henry Ford, when the motor car’s operation and production can be understood entirely in terms of natural law.
Phinehas @ 52, thanks for the compliment. 🙂
I don’t imagine the distinction is even apparent to true believers.
Yes, depending on which of the various definitions of speciation one chooses. Just pick the one that defines it as “a population that splits geographically, and hence no longer interbreeds”. I’ve heard there are over 20 distinct definitions, although I can only name around 5 off the top of my head.
Does it occur to anyone else that the same semantic range of evolutionary terms that allows us to allegedly “quote mine” also benefits the evo-defenders? A lack of specificity can be a good thing when you want leeway to change your mind in the future, while still standing by former statements.
Fields such as math, computer science and physics don’t seem to suffer the same lack of precision in terminology.
Too true. This calls to mind one of my maxims I like to keep in mind when I hear materialistic just-so evolutionary stories:
The perception of evolution’s explanatory power is inversely proportional to the specificity of the discussion.
(On the assumption that you are monitoring this thread still. I am sorry to have to be sharper than VJT is comfortable with, but on track record I think this is needed.)
It is evident that you have made some pretty sharp assertions — accusations would not be too strong — against prof Tour, ahead of any proposed meeting.
As Dr Torley and I have documented above, there is a serious well-poisoning problem with several of these. Worse, in some cases you have made claims that are demonstrably inaccurate, e.g. Tour OBJECTED TO the close association between Darwinism and the holocaust etc made in the film, Expelled. He did cite Frankl, a physician who survived Auschwitz, on another view that is closer to that of Stein et al, and closed off with a prayer that Frankl be wrong.
In addition, in my case, your remarks come far too close to suggesting that Tour has accused evolutionary science of being fraud. The very suggestion, in a case where you cannot show that such a grave accusation was made — and note you hinted rather than stating and documenting — is not right.
I state, and have stated and headlined, that there is not a general accusation of fraud on the part of evolutionary biology. At least from representative and important design thinkers, and even the major contributors and commenters in this blog. Instead, there is a question of ideological a prioris shaped by the mindset of the past 150 years, and of a pattern of over-claiming the degree of warrant applicable to results (That “fact” thing again and that comparison to the case of gravity or roundness of earth or orbiting of planets, in a context where we are discussing an explanation proffered to account for traces from a remote and unobservable past of origins.)
Now of course, VJT connects Frankl’s comments to determinism.
I point out beyond that, that the scientific determinism of the past 150 years, is in significant part, driven by a priori materialism and linked evolutionism. I further highlight the line of thought from Darwin, Spencer and co to Heckel and co to the general German intellectual culture, one that by the 1830’s was in such a state that Heine had given serious warnings on where the matter was headed. A warning that was all too amply fulfilled in the rape of Belgium in the first world war (Bryan spoke of “Prussianism”), and which onwards, found much wider expression in the second.
I have also pointed to and headlined wider concerns regarding the links to the eugenics movement (posting the logo from the 2nd Int’l Eugenics Congress to document the sciences and other streams of thought that were held to ground the proposed global project of “the self-direction of human evolution.” [This actually appeared in the logo as the DEFINITION of eugenics. And remember, Darwin’s family were closely associated with the movement, lending it the prestige of his name.])
This raises significant issues on science in society, and linked ethics concerns.
These, I have pointed out, need to be faced and soberly addressed.
I invite you, please, to do so, as a part of the dialling down of the rhetorical voltage in the situation.
For, if the voltage is turned up to the levels that the assertions you have made (some of which are demonstrably inaccurate) no real progress will be possible.
“The perception of evolution’s explanatory power is inversely proportional to the specificity of the discussion.”
That is perhaps the most mathematically rigid thing that can be said about Darwinism! 🙂
Thank you for your questions. You write:
First, the objects that I’m seeking out are not “gaps” but what I call “jewels” – striking pieces of evidence which point to the existence of an Intelligent Designer of Nature in an especially convincing fashion – such as Melissa Travis’ post on Caribbean reef squid. My God, then, is not a God of the gaps but a “God of the jewels”: He’s a God Who has made a many-splendored crown called Nature, which points to having had a Maker, and in which He has embedded some dazzlingly beautiful jewels, which provide particularly striking confirmation of His existence, for the benefit of those people who are seeking Him with an open heart.
Second, your question presupposes that the “gaps” are shrinking in number. In fact, there reverse is the case. Consider fine-tuning. The scientific evidence for fine-tuning only became available around 1980, and even now, one new example of fine-tuning is still discovered every year, according to Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez’s recent talk on the subject. Or consider the astronomical odds against protein formation occurring naturally without intelligent guidance: again, Dr. Douglas Axe’s estimates were only made a few years ago. Or consider molecular machines, which were unknown a few decades ago, and are still being discovered today. Does that sound like “shrinking gaps” to you?
You also ask:
The reason why Uncommon Descent argues that the emergence of the various life-forms on this planet must have been intelligently guided is that these life-forms exhibit the property of having a high degree of specified complexity: that is, they are simultaneously astronomically improbable and easily describable (in terms of their functionality). Putting it another way, we can say that they have a high degree of functional information. The same cannot be said for the weather, avalanches, star formations, most chemical reactions, droughts and car accidents.
AIDS and malaria are tricky cases, as they do exhibit a high degree of specified complexity, with lots of functional information. However, before we can point the finger at God, we need to know whether they were always malign. The available evidence suggests that originally, they were not.
According to a recent press release by the National Science Foundation, modern malaria parasites began to spread to various mammals, birds and reptiles about 16 million years ago. Malaria parasites may jump to new, unrelated hosts at any time, decoupling their evolution from that of their hosts. The ancestors of humans acquired the parasite 2.5 million years ago. However, according to Dr. Robert Ricklefs, one of the biologists who conducted the recent research into the origin of the malaria parasite, “Malaria parasites undoubtedly were relatively benign for most of that history, becoming a major disease only after the origins of agriculture and dense human populations.”
What about AIDS? It appears that the AIDS virus originated relatively recently, as a mutation from SIV, the simian immuno-deficiency virus. According to Wikipedia, this virus was also benign in its original form:
According to an article in Nature News, SIV in chimps appears to spread very slowly, with infection rates among chimpanzees of only around 2%.
The spread of HIV in Africa early in the 20th century appears to be linked to the twin evils of prostitution and colonialism, according to Wikipedia.
In short, the evidence points to something that was originally innocuous, having turned malign due to outside factors, include many of our own making. I therefore think it would be unwise to claim that AIDS and malaria constitute arguments against the existence of a Deity.
Finally, I would point out that even things that are not designed in Nature are still sustained in being by God, “in Whom we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Their very contingency points to His existence. On this point, see Professor Paul Herrick’s excellent paper, Job Opening: Creator of the Universe—A Reply to Keith Parsons (2009).
I hope that helps.
Dr. Torley, thanks for the Malaria & HIV info,, along that line of thought:
Though most people think of viruses as being very harmful to humans, the fact is that the Bacteriophage (Bacteria Eater) virus,
Virus – Assembly Of A Nano-Machine – video
, is actually a very beneficial virus to man.
Of note: Bacteriophage
Excerpt: Bacteriophages are among the most common biological entities on Earth,,,They have been used for over 60 years as an alternative to antibiotics in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They are seen as a possible therapy against multi drug resistant strains of many bacteria.,,,development of phage therapy was largely abandoned in the West, but continued throughout 1940s in the former Soviet Union for treating bacterial infections, with widespread use including the soldiers in the Red Army—much of the literature was published in Russian or Georgian, and unavailable for many years in the West. Their use has continued since the end of the Cold War in Georgia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe.,,,In August, 2006 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved using bacteriophages on cheese to kill the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, giving them GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe). In July 2007, the same bacteriophages were approved for use on all food products. Government agencies in the West have for several years been looking to Georgia and the Former Soviet Union for help with exploiting phages for counteracting bioweapons and toxins, e.g., Anthrax, Botulism.
Also of note,,,
Richard Dawkins interview with a ‘Darwinian’ physician goes off track – video
Excerpt: “I am amazed, Richard, that what we call metazoans, multi-celled organisms, have actually been able to evolve, and the reason [for amazement] is that bacteria and viruses replicate so quickly — a few hours sometimes, they can reproduce themselves — that they can evolve very, very quickly. And we’re stuck with twenty years at least between generations. How is it that we resist infection when they can evolve so quickly to find ways around our defenses?”
Indeed, instead of eating us, time after time these different types of microbial life are found to be helping us in essential ways,,,
NIH Human Microbiome Project defines normal bacterial makeup of the body – June 13, 2012
Excerpt: Microbes inhabit just about every part of the human body, living on the skin, in the gut, and up the nose. Sometimes they cause sickness, but most of the time, microorganisms live in harmony with their human hosts, providing vital functions essential for human survival.
We are living in a bacterial world, and it’s impacting us more than previously thought – February 15, 2013 by Lisa Zyga
Excerpt: We often associate bacteria with disease-causing “germs” or pathogens, and bacteria are responsible for many diseases, such as tuberculosis, bubonic plague, and MRSA infections. But bacteria do many good things, too, and the recent research underlines the fact that animal life would not be the same without them.,,,
I am,, convinced that the number of beneficial microbes, even very necessary microbes, is much, much greater than the number of pathogens.”
Dr. Torley, looking around on MRSA, I found this humorous,,
French Volcanic Clay Kills Antibiotic-Resistant MRSA Superbug
Excerpt: I’ve heard of some people being told to “go roll around in the dirt” to get rid of their MRSA, and I’ve heard some reports of that working. I believe the effect was in “normalizing” their resident bacteria living on their skin. Just like in our digestive system, bacteria live in balance. Put more of the “good” guys in, and that will support your body being in balance.
MRSA – Supergerms Do they prove evolution?
Likewise, you contract a hospital infection only in a hospital. The hospitals are spraying disinfectants on every available surface to kill off their so-called supergerms, and, most importantly, dealing with serious clinical infections requiring powerful antibiotics. Maybe they would do better to bring in a few truckloads of dirt off the street every six months, and spread that around and sweep it off! Maybe the hospitals would do even better to do research on inoculating superinfection patients, not with more antibiotics, but with a competing infection that would crowd out the supergerms. (I doubt that this would work, but it’s worth exploring, especially when germs that kill by bacteriotoxins are concerned.) –
In places that are exposed to dirt from the street—such as your house—the supergerms are kept in their place not by powerful drugs and poisons but by competition with other germs. And their resistance genes are diluted by genes of the susceptible or non-resistant germs of the same species rather than being concentrated by selective breeding. That is why most non-hospital infections respond readily to antibiotics—the drug kills most of the germs, the body takes care of the rest. If it were not so, the so called supergerms would escape from hospitals and sweep the world.
Are You Too Clean? – New Studies Suggest Getting A Little Dirty May Be Just What The Doctor Ordered – December 2010
Superbugs not super after all
Excerpt: It is precisely because the mutations which give rise to resistance are in some form or another defects, that so-called supergerms are not really ‘super’ at all—they are actually rather ‘wimpy’ compared to their close cousins.
Hi bornagain 77,
Thanks for the links on bacteriophages and MRSA. They were much appreciated.
I find the following one of the most fascinating microorganisms for its ability to repair its own DNA as well as its potential to help clean up radioactive waste:
Link fail. 🙁
Why does random chance configure just about everything in the world to serve a purpose, usually innumerable purposes?
Indeed, without such a purposeful rationale, of what use would time/space-time, itself be? The purposiveness of time seems to be another indication of the primacy of mind over matter. So random chance as the Prime Mover is the very height of nonsense.
Time, itself, is, in very principle, superfluous to randomness, isn’t it? It’s like giving a computer to a pet jerbil. You might as well give it to a paving-stone or a tree, outside your house.
Whatever the linear answer to the question, ‘Why is there something, instead of nothing?’ may be, the question itself constitutes its own answer, albeit more recondite.
Hence the refrain atheists will continue to hear again and again from theists: that they, the atheists, stand for nihilism and irrationality. Not so much the Dark Night of the Soul of St John of the Cross, as the Dark Night of the Mole.
KN @ 35
Thank you for your response. I apologize for being so long in replying, but I’ve been otherwise engaged. Hope the thread isn’t dead already…
Regarding your points:
This is true. Having acknowledged that, though, it must be realized that civilized discourse is necessary to all academic endeavors. It is not peculiar to philosophy, nor is it to be rejected by evolutionary biology. Furthermore, the history of science shows that many now common scientific understandings (e.g. Big Bang, that light doesn’t need ether, that continents move, etc.) were at one point considered to be ‘crazy and wild.’ Of all fields science especially must keep an open mind so that it remains vibrant and progressive.
Again, I agree that science is progressive, but just because it seeks to advance our understanding doesn’t mean that some fundamental assumptions don’t need reexamination. We can’t simply take for granted all of the ideas that may have scientific respectability at the moment. Where would we be if science refused to reexamine geocentrism, or phlogiston theory, or blood letting? Indeed, progression in science requires a willingness to challenge long-held ideas when warranted by the data.
Another point needs to be made, namely, that while some ideas are taken off the table, others are never given serious consideration in the first place. Sometimes the philosophical assumptions that hold up the paradigm get in the way of solutions to problems that would be otherwise easy to see. Of these marginallized solutions I consider ID to be one of the foremost.
I wouldn’t dispute that your motives are different, but I think that your conception of an educator is flawed. Matzke may well desire to enlighten us UD commenters about the truth of Neo-Darwinism, but his approach can hardly be considered that of an earnest educator. The best teachers invite provocative, challenging questions from those they instruct. They don’t belittle, insult, or question the motives of those who would ask them. Matzke is so over-the-top that he even snapped at AF in another thread (who by all accounts seems to be on the same team). This is not the behavior of someone who is genuinely trying to help others to learn. The educator may not be the equal of his students, but he should treat them with a modicum of respect.
Additionally, the characterization of Matzke as the educator presumes that none of us have relevant qualifications or knowledge that allow us to make meaningful critiques of Neo-Darwinian theory. On the contrary, the claims of Neo-Darwinism are so broad that it practically invites criticism from fields outside of evolutionary biology. For instance, the claim that sophisticated biological machines can be built in a stepwise process whilst maintaining or even improving function is really at heart an engineering claim. The claim that blind processes have the capacity to generate prodigious amounts of genetic information is an information theory claim. The claims that amino acids can spontaneously form polymers in water or that the chemical reactions of metabolism can arise from a chemical soup are really matters of chemistry (granting that OOL is often classed apart from classical Neo-Darwinism). The assertion that similarity is sufficient to prove phylogenetic relationships is certainly open to scrutiny from a logician. The claim that ample time was available for some number of mutaions to occur in a population is a mathematic claim. So if an engineer, an information theorist, a chemist (like Prof. Tour), a logician, or a mathematician advances some critisim of Neo-Darwinism it can’t just be written off to ‘lack of adequate understanding.’
Lastly, though you disagree with my comparison (which of course you have every right to), I think you illustrate it quite well. Even in disagreeing you manage to be quite agreeable, even complimentary. Salutations!
Phinehas, thanks for the link to ‘the world’s toughest bacterium. Fascinating stuff.
As to bio-remediation, I think that plays very strongly into the ‘terra-forming’ of the earth:
Contrary to what materialism would expect, the very first photosynthetic bacteria found in the fossil record, and by chemical analysis of the geological record, are shown to have been preparing the earth for more advanced life to appear from the very start of their existence on earth (in the oldest sedimentary rocks on earth),,,
,,by producing the necessary oxygen for higher life-forms to exist, and by reducing the greenhouse gases of earth’s early atmosphere. Photosynthetic bacteria slowly removed the carbon dioxide, and built the oxygen up, in the earth’s atmosphere primarily by this following photosynthetic chemical reaction:
The above chemical equation translates as:
Interestingly, the gradual removal of greenhouse gases from the early atmosphere of the earth corresponded to the gradual 15% increase of light and heat coming from the sun during that time (Ross; Creation as Science). This ‘lucky’ correspondence of the slow increase of heat from the sun with the same perfectly timed slow removal of greenhouse gases from the earth’s atmosphere was necessary to keep the earth from cascading into either a ‘greenhouse earth’ or ‘snowball earth’.
More interesting still, the byproducts of the complex biogeochemical processes involved in the oxygen production by these early bacteria are (red banded) iron formations, limestone, marble, gypsum, phosphates, sand, and to a lesser extent, coal, oil and natural gas (note; though some coal, oil and natural gas deposits are from this early era of bacterial life, most coal, oil and natural gas deposits originated on earth after the Cambrian explosion of higher life forms some 540 million years ago). The resources produced by these early photosynthetic bacteria are very useful, one could even very well say ‘necessary’, for the technologically advanced civilizations of humans today to exist.
Moreover, while the photo-synthetic bacteria were reducing greenhouse gases and producing oxygen, and metal, and minerals, which would all be of benefit to modern man, other types of bacteria were also producing their own natural resources which would be very useful to modern man. Some types of bacteria helped prepare the earth for advanced life by detoxifying the primeval earth and oceans of poisonous levels of heavy metals while depositing them as relatively inert metal ores. Metal ores which are very useful for modern man, as well as fairly easy for man to extract today (mercury, cadmium, zinc, cobalt, arsenic, chromate, tellurium and copper to name a few). To this day, various types of bacteria maintain an essential minimal level of these heavy metals in the ecosystem which are high enough so as to be available to the biological systems of the higher life forms that need them yet low enough so as not to be poisonous to those very same higher life forms.
Man has only recently caught on to harnessing the ancient detoxification ability of bacteria to cleanup his accidental toxic spills, as well as his toxic waste, from industry:
As a side note to this, recently bacteria surprised scientists by their ability to quickly detoxify the millions of barrels of oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico:
Moreover, worms, in addition to their critical role for soil aeration, are also found to detoxify the soils of poisonous heavy metals:
Here are a couple of sites showing the crucial link of a minimal levels of metals to biological life:
As well, in conjunction with bacteria, geological processes helped detoxify the earth of dangerous levels of metal:
And on top of the fact that poisonous heavy metals on the primordial earth were brought into ‘life-enabling’ balance by complex biogeochemical processes, there was also an explosion of minerals on earth which were a result of that first life, as well as being a result of each subsequent ‘Big Bang of life’ there afterwards.
To put it mildly, this minimization of poisonous elements, and ‘explosion’ of useful minerals, is strong evidence for Intelligently Designed terra-forming of the earth that ‘just so happens’ to be of great benefit to modern man.
Clearly many, if not all, of these metal ores and minerals laid down by these sulfate-reducing bacteria, as well as laid down by the biogeochemistry of more complex life, as well as laid down by finely-tuned geological conditions throughout the early history of the earth, have many unique properties which are crucial for technologically advanced life, and are thus indispensable to man’s rise above the stone age to the advanced ‘space-age’ technology of modern civilization.
Of related note, bacteria play a far more nuanced role keeping our atmosphere ‘in balance’ than was first suspected:
These following sites have illustrations that shows some of the interdependent (irreducible complex), ‘life-enabling’, biogeochemical complexity of these different types of bacterial life on Earth.,,,
The size of light’s wavelengths and the constraints on the size allowable for the protein molecules of organic life, also seem to be tailor-made for each other. This “tailor-made fit” allows photosynthesis, the miracle of sight, and many other things that are necessary for human life. These specific frequencies of light (that enable plants to manufacture food and astronomers to observe the cosmos) represent less than 1 trillionth of a trillionth (10^-24) of the universe’s entire range of electromagnetic emissions. Like water, visible light also appears to be of optimal biological utility (Denton; Nature’s Destiny).
Verse, quote and music:
BA, you are a veritable walking encyclopedia of knowledge. I only wish I could read as fast as you type. 🙂
Thanks for the interesting info. I’d never really considered how extremophiles might have been employed by design during the early history of earth. This should have been obvious to me, since I’ve read about how they could potentially be used in future Panspermia expeditions to other planets.
Phinehas, “you are a veritable walking encyclopedia of knowledge”,,, not really, I’ve just taken a lot of notes on stuff that’s interested me.
Thanks for the link on the world’s toughest bacterium
Excerpt: “When subjected to high levels of radiation, the Deinococcus genome is reduced to fragments,” (…) “RecA proteins may play role in finding overlapping fragments and splicing them together.”
How can RecA proteins reconstruct fragmented DNA? How can it possibly ‘know’ the correct sequence?
Mung, over on TSZ:
LoL! YECs argue against blind watchmaker evolution producing the diversity of life starting from some unknown populations of prokaryotic-like organisms.
Ya see in their model all the information for the diversity of the Kinds is already present- meaning it does NOT require chance mutations to bring it about. “Built-in responses to environmantal cues” ala Dr Spetner would work just fine, especially given new, open niches.
Ya see YECs do NOT require new body plans with new body parts. They don’t require anything more that what dogs and cats have shown us is very possible.
Box, thanks for drawing that very important point out of that paper.
So can anyone provide a list of known micoevolutionary events that we can then check to see if any of those will lead to macroevolution as defined by Coyne in WEIT?
I agree with your assessment of Matzke in 21 above.
I have never felt that Matzke is interested in a serious, no-holds-barred intellectual debate about the plausibility of neo-Darwinian mechanisms. I’ve always felt that his responses here — to me and to everyone else — are tactical. I’ve never seen him retract a point, I’ve never seen him moderate a position, etc. Always his goal is victory, not dialogue.
Vincent’s column shows beyond a doubt that there is a much wider variation of opinion among professional biologists than the narrow view that Matzke holds. Matzke doesn’t want to deal with those differences, because that would break up the illusion of “solid consensus” that he was taught in his NCSE days must be maintained (in order to hold off the creationist and ID barbarians). Eugenie Scott, we know, wants disagreements between evolutionists kept behind closed doors, lest the “creationists” (as if Behe is a creationist!) get hold of them and “misuse” them (i.e., inform the public of them).
What is amusing is that Matzke has managed to convince so many people that he is some kind of expert on evolutionary biology. Let’s look at the facts:
1. As of his own last notice here, he had not yet finished his Ph.D. in the subject. If he has finished it since, it’s only very recently.
2. As far as I know, his publication record (peer-reviewed scientific articles, not nasty reviews of ID books) is rather scanty. Years ago he was co-author on an article about the flagellum. I haven’t heard of any peer-reviewed articles since. Maybe he has them, but I don’t know what they are.
3. Matzke spends an inordinate amount of time blogging and fighting culture wars. No scientist with a serious research program has time to do this. Only scientists who have nothing better to do. Thus, Dawkins and Coyne, who are now “coasting” on their previous reputations, and Eugenie Scott, who hasn’t done science for decades, and Miller, who hasn’t published a peer-reviewed article since his 1999 popular hit *Finding Darwin’s God*, can spend all their time in the culture war, but others can’t. Maybe if Nick spent 60 hours a week working as an evolutionary biologist, instead of using about a third of that time for wrangling on the internet, he would make something of himself as a biologist. But there seems little prospect of that. His motivation for entering the field of biology seem tainted. The scientist should be animated by pure love of truth, not by the desire to win control over science education in the high schools or any other cultural motive.
Frankly, I wish UD would stop raising Matzke’s currency by giving him headlines. I don’t think Matzke is a great scientist, or even yet a good scientist. I think he’s a grad student with a big mouth and a fierce pride which prevents him from ever granting points in argument. We have made him into a threat that he isn’t. If we leave him alone, he will become a prof at some low- or middle-ranking university, and spend his life working within the neo-Darwinian paradigm, trying to confirm little bits here and there. He isn’t going to revolutionize evolutionary biology; he isn’t even going to say anything remarkably new. He will just become one of the mass of Ph.D.s doing routine work in a highly speculative field of science, which is not, in the final analysis, a very important field of science.
The neo-Darwinists are going to lose. They are already losing, even within evolutionary biology. The fact that Matzke can’t accept that — taught badly as we was by Eugenie Scott and Ken Miller (neither one of whom has kept up with the latest results of evolutionary theory) — is not our problem. Matzke has chosen to stick with the “typewriter” of evolutionary theory (neo-Darwinism) when everyone else (Shapiro, the Altenberg group, etc.) has gone in for word processors. Nature will take its course, and he will go into history-of-science oblivion along with the weak scientific theory he has chosen to defend. Let’s let him go into oblivion; let’s stop giving him free publicity.
And if we want to set up James Tour with someone who can explain evolution, let’s set up James Tour with a senior scientist in evolutionary theory — someone like James Shapiro at the prestigious University of Chicago — not with someone who is at best just finished being a grad student.
Timaeus @ 77
I think there’s wisdom in your suggestion.
Timaeus: You have a point. I also think that it is important to identify and correct typical misleading talking points for record, and that the typical spokesman for such is a useful foil for that. But then that is a Jiu Jitsu move, and once the throw is complete, taking advantage of opposed momentum to lead to an unexpected result, that is the point where the result needs to be underscored. We note the hit-run pattern when that happens. I also notice that both NM and G are conspicuously absent from a thread in which natural theology and its links to design are explicitly on the table as speculative and exploratory issues linked to design theory. Through, the pivot of the
unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in scientific work. KF
I hear your frustration and understand your broader point. I think I have been as amused/disappointed with Nick’s approach to some of the issues as anyone and have openly expressed this to him on specific issues as they arise.
However, I think we need to be careful not to fall prey to an ‘argument from authority’ fallacy. It doesn’t matter whether Nick is an accomplished professor at a prestigious university, a grad student, an NCSE paid propagandist, or a man off the street. The only thing that matters is if he is able to engage in a meaningful discussion, think logically through the issues, and help (or even challenge) others to think through things in a clear manner.
I agree that much less attention should be paid to him, particularly given his tendency to citation bluff, obfuscate, and generally avoid the central issues. But I think that decision should be made on that basis, and not due to whatever particular standing he has within academia at some particular point in time.
Ultimately, though, I am glad Nick visits occasionally. Whatever ulterior motives he may have or grandstanding he may do, I do think he has a sincere interest in evolution and biology and his presence sometimes helps to sharpen our focus. I know I have occasionally learned something from my discussions with him.
Perhaps just as importantly, to the careful observer his input also serves as a live example of some of the weak spots of the materialistic evolutionary storyline.
It doesn’t surprise me that Matzke and Gregory absent themselves from detailed natural theology (or for that matter revealed theology) discussions. Laying their own religious cards on the table would make them vulnerable conversation partners, and thus unable to maintain the superior stance they assume in relation to the religious beliefs of others.
Thus, Matzke denies being an atheist, but won’t say what he is; and Gregory chastises people for departing from the position of the Roman Church on Adam and Eve, but when shown a document in which that position is affirmed, will not say yea or nay to it and refuses to discuss even a single sentence from the text. And we still don’t know (and likely never will know) whether Gregory thinks that univocal predication is appropriate regarding the Christian God. To lay *that* card on the table, for Gregory, would be either (with a “no” answer) to burn his bridges with Fuller, or (with a “yes” answer) to grant the theological legitimacy of the ID approach. And he can’t afford to do either. So don’t expect an answer from Gregory on that one until the Second Coming (or until Gregory gets tenure).
I agree that ultimately an argument should be weighed on its cogency, and not on the formal credentials of the person offering it. On the other hand, many on Nick’s team have boasted of his credentials, and attacked the credentials of ID people, so they have made credentials an issue. You can’t bash Wells for not publishing enough and then excuse Matzke for not publishing enough. You can’t say that Behe shouldn’t be talking about evolution because he’s a biochemist, not an evolutionary biologist, and then excuse Miller for dabbling in evolutionary biology when his field is not evolutionary biology but cell biology. Etc.
But I’m less concerned about formal fields of expertise, and completed degrees. I’m more interested in publications. Someone who really *knows* evolutionary biology will have multiple publications in the leading journals of the field, whether his degree was in biology or biochemistry or engineering or mathematics or something else, and whether he has a Ph.D. or only a Master’s. If Matzke has the potential to be a really innovative evolutionary biologist, he will already have shown it; it is not uncommon for science grad students to have several publications (at least accepted, if not yet printed) before graduating (even if those publications are often group rather than individual efforts). Where are Nick’s publications? Where has he shown that he *knows the craft* of evolutionary biology and therefore is the right person to explain it to James Tour, or to anyone else? I have seen nothing from him but sneering reviews of Behe and quarrelsome blogging. Where is the intellectual beef? Where are the calm, detached, scientific expositions, the detailed expositions of evolutionary mechanisms, free of culture-war polemics?
I have no problem with Matzke meeting with Tour. Tour will have no problem pointing out gaps in the chemistry of Matzke’s highly speculative Darwinian reconstructions. The point is that (a) someone with a much longer and deeper acquaintance with evolutionary theory, someone about twice Nick’s age, and (b) someone much less partisan, much more interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake, would make a much more useful conversation partner for someone on the scientific level of James Tour.
Eric @57 you noted this rigid mathematical relationship in evolutionary thought:
“The perception of evolution’s explanatory power is inversely proportional to the specificity of the discussion.
I falsely thought this was the perhaps the only mathematically rigid thing that could be said about Darwinism. I was wrong in that presumption:
Darwin vs. creationists is evolving debate By Terry Scambray – February 2013
Excerpt: ,,,Subsequently the tactic was to attack individuals who doubted Darwin by calling them “creationists” — meaning “crackpots.” As one historian writes, the Darwinists’ attacks “have been in almost direct proportion to the shortcomings of the theory.”
Great article Professor Turley.
I do have one question.
What do I think of this research paper disputing the claim that homo erectus is a transitional to humans?
“”Last Updated: August 20, 2005
1. Growth study of wild chimpanzees challenges assumptions about early humans, anthropologists say
July 13, 2004
Contact: Jennifer McNulty (831) 459-2495; email@example.com
Growth study of wild chimpanzees challenges assumptions about early humans, anthropologists say
A new study of wild chimpanzee growth rates, published in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that early human evolution may have taken a different course than is widely believed.
The results challenge the assumption that human evolution followed a path from a chimplike ancestor to a transitionary Homo erectus and then Homo sapiens, suggesting instead that chimpanzees have more in common developmentally with Homo erectus and that modern humans are the “out-group.”
The study was coauthored by Adrienne Zihlman, professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz; Debra Bolter, who just earned her doctorate in anthropology at UCSC; and Christophe Boesch, director of primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
The researchers examined skeletal samples from 18 wild chimpanzees of known ages and compared the data to the dentition of captive chimpanzees, which have been used as a baseline for discussion of hominid origins and the transition from ape ancestors to hominids. The eruption of teeth mark other life events, such as completion of brain growth (90 to 95 percent of brain growth is complete when the first permanent molar erupts) and life-history stages like infancy, juvenile, and adulthood.
The team’s analysis consistently showed a slower rate of development of all the teeth of wild chimpanzees compared to captive chimpanzees: Among wild chimpanzees, infancy lasted until about four years of age and mature dentition was reached between 12 and 13 years of age, compared to captive animals whose infancy ended around three years of age and who reached mature dentition about 10 years of age.
“These findings challenge a number of assumptions about the growth of hominids,” said Zihlman. “Anthropologists and paleoanthropologists have relied heavily on studies of captive chimpanzees to establish a baseline for hominid growth and to generate hypotheses about the life history and behaviors of fossil humans. We now know those scenarios are based on faulty data.”
Comparing teeth of wild chimpanzees to previous research on two Homo erectus fossil specimens, the researchers found that the first molars of both wild chimpanzees and Homo erectus emerge at about four years of age, and the second molars emerge at about eight years of age.
“Our data suggest that wild chimpanzees and Homo erectus growth patterns may not have differed from each other as much as previously thought,” said Zihlman. “These findings do not support Homo erectus developmentally as an intermediate between chimplike ancestors and modern humans. Our data also call into question the assumption that a larger body size and a big brain require a longer time to grow.”
The findings also explain why dental-eruption data derived from captive chimpanzees didn’t match the life stages of wild animals observed by researchers in the field, Zihlman noted.
The skeletal samples examined included 12 immature individuals and one young adult from the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, four immatures from Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and one immature from Bossou, Guinea.
The paper, “Wild Chimpanzee Dentition and its Implications for Assessing Life History in Immature Hominin Fossils,” is scheduled to appear in the July 20 print edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Editor’s Note: Adrienne Zihlman can be reached at (831) 459-4467 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
2. ANTHROPOLOGY: Wild chimpanzee dentition and its implications for assessing life history in immature hominin fossils
Adrienne Zihlman, Debra Bolter, and Christophe Boesch
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064; and Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany
Edited by David Pilbeam, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and approved June 4, 2004 (received for review April 13, 2004)
“Data from three African field sites on Pan troglodytes demonstrate an unambiguous pattern of a slower growth rate in wild vs. captive chimpanzee populations. A revised dental growth chronology for chimpanzees is similar to estimated timing of Homo erectus and therefore has implications for interpreting life history in hominins.””
Also this study on the pelvis of female homo erectus.
The Discovery and Analysis of a Female Pelvis
Anthropologists have just reported on an analysis of the first female H. erectus pelvis. The remains, recovered in Ethiopia, date between 0.9 and 1.4 million years in age. To their surprise, this pelvis was much wider than that of the male H. erectus and could readily accommodate the birth of a relatively large-brained infant.
The discovery of this obstetrically spacious pelvis means that H. erectus offspring didn’t require a prolonged period of brain growth outside the womb. In other words, their development was much more ape-like than human-like.
Wallstreeter: of semi-related interest:
Lucy – The Powersaw Incident – video – a humorous video showing how biased evolutionists can be with the supposed fossil evidence for human evolution:
“these australopith specimens (Lucy) can be accommodated with the range of intraspecific variation of African apes”
Nature 443 (9/2006), p.296
“The australopithecines (Lucy) known over the last several decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdraai and Makapansgat, are now irrevocably removed from a place in a group any closer to humans than to African apes and certainly from any place in a direct human lineage.”
Charles Oxnard, former professor of anatomy at the University of Southern California Medical School, who subjected australopithecine fossils to extensive computer analysis; http://creationwiki.org/Australopithecines
Israeli Researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans”; Apr 16, 2007
The Mandibular ramus morphology (lower jaw bone) on a recently discovered specimen of Australopithecus afarensis closely matches that of gorillas. This finding was unexpected given that chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans.,,,its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of Au. afarensis as a modern human ancestor.
“The australopithecine (Lucy) skull is in fact so overwhelmingly simian (ape-like) as opposed to human that the contrary proposition could be equated to an assertion that black is white.”
Lord Solly Zuckerman – Chief scientific advisor to British government and leading zoologist
Thanks, I like that one too!
Yep Bornagain77, lucy should be reclassified as an ape in textbooks.
When I was deep into evolution with my walking with mammals DVD series they portrayed lucy as walking upright most of the time. I loved the animations even though I now know they are based on the imagination of some very creative evolutionists.
I was believing in this stuff as recent as 3 years ago .
I hate being fooled
wallstreeter43, yes, and that is exactly why I am extremely suspect of anything from paleontology that purports to say humans evolved from some ape-like ancestor (especially now that the genetic evidence for 99% similarity is crumbling with the overturning of Junk DNA by ENCODE). Here are a few examples I’ve collected, besides Lucy, of the less than forthright manner in which Darwinists handle this evidence.
Hominid Hype and the Election Cycle – Casey Luskin – September 2011
Excerpt: Ignoring fraudulent fossils like Piltdown man, the last 50 years have seen a slew of so-called human ancestors which initially produced hype, and were later disproven.
Dr. Pilbeam also wrote the following regarding the theory of evolution and paleoanthropology :
“I am also aware of the fact that, at least in my own subject of paleoanthropology, “theory” – heavily influenced by implicit ideas almost always dominates “data”. ….Ideas that are totally unrelated to actual fossils have dominated theory building, which in turn strongly influence the way fossils are interpreted”
“Dr. Leakey produced a biased reconstruction (of 1470/ Homo Rudolfensis) based on erroneous preconceived expectations of early human appearance that violated principles of craniofacial development,” Dr. Timothy Bromage
DeWitt’s digital manipulation of skull 1470 – August 13, 2012
Excerpt: The skull as presented in the news websites has some significant issues that suggests that the facial reconstruction is seriously off.
“One famous fossil skull, discovered in 1972 in northern Kenya, changed its appearance dramatically depending on how the upper jaw was connected to the rest of the cranium. Roger Lewin recounts an occasion when paleoanthropologists Alan Walker, Michael Day, and Richard Leakey were studying the two sections of skull 1470. According to Lewin, Walker said: You could hold the [upper jaw] forward, and give it a long face, or you could tuck it in, making the face short…. How you held it really depended on your preconceptions. It was very interesting watching what people did with it. Lewin reports that Leakey recalled the incident, too: Yes. If you held it one way, it looked like one thing; if you held it another, it looked like something else.”
Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention, Second Edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1997), p 160
Moreover, this problem of forcing the fossil evidence into a preconceived Darwinian narrative, is not limited to the 1470 skull but this practice is found to be is widespread in the field of paleo-anthropology:
Human Origins, and the Real Reasons for Evolutionary Skepticism – Jonathan M. – December 9, 2012
Excerpt: “Cladistic analysis of cranial and dental evidence has been widely used to generate phylogenetic hypotheses about humans and their fossil relatives. However, the reliability of these hypotheses has never been subjected to external validation. To rectify this, we applied internal methods to equivalent evidence from two groups of extant higher primates for whom reliable molecular phylogenies are available, the hominoids and paionins. We found that the phylogenetic hypotheses based on the craniodental data were incompatible with the molecular phylogenies for the groups. Given the robustness of the molecular phylogenies, these results indicate that little confidence can be placed in phylogenies generated solely from higher primate craniodental evidence. The corollary of this is that existing phylogenetic hypotheses about human evolution are unlikely to be reliable.”
Hominids, Homonyms, and Homo sapiens – 05/27/2009 – Creation Safaris:
Excerpt: Homo erectus is particularly controversial, because it is such a broad classification. Tattersall and Schwartz find no clear connection between the Asian, European and African specimens lumped into this class. “In his 1950 review, Ernst Mayr placed all of these forms firmly within the species Homo erectus,” they explained. “Subsequently, Homo erectus became the standard-issue ‘hominid in the middle,’ expanding to include not only the fossils just mentioned, but others of the same general period….”. They discussed the arbitrariness of this classification: “Put together, all these fossils (which span almost 2 myr) make a very heterogeneous assortment indeed; and placing them all together in the same species only makes any conceivable sense in the context of the ecumenical view of Homo erectus as the middle stage of the single hypervariable hominid lineage envisioned by Mayr (on the basis of a much slenderer record). Viewed from the morphological angle, however, the practice of cramming all of this material into a single Old World-wide species is highly questionable. Indeed, the stuffing process has only been rendered possible by a sort of ratchet effect, in which fossils allocated to Homo erectus almost regardless of their morphology have subsequently been cited as proof of just how variable the species can be.” By “ratchet effect,” they appear to mean something like a self-fulfilling prophecy: i.e., “Let’s put everything from this 2-million-year period into one class that we will call Homo erectus.” Someone complains, “But this fossil from Singapore is very different from the others.” The first responds, “That just shows how variable the species Homo erectus can be.”
A Big Bang Theory of Homo – Casey Luskin – August 2012
Excerpt: To the contrary, she explains, habilis “displays much stronger similarities to African ape limb proportions” than even Lucy. She called these results “unexpected in view of previous accounts of Homo habilis as a link between australopithecines and humans.”
Without habilis as an intermediate, it is difficult to find fossil hominins to serve as direct transitional forms between the australopithecines and Homo. Rather, the fossil record shows dramatic and abrupt changes that correspond to the appearance of Homo.
The Truth About Human Origins:
Excerpt: “It is practically impossible to determine which “family tree” (for human evolution) one should accept. Richard Leakey (of the famed fossil hunting family from Africa) has proposed one. His late mother, Mary Leakey, proposed another. Donald Johanson, former president of the Institute of Human Origins in Berkeley, California, has proposed yet another. And as late as 2001, Meave Leakey (Richard’s wife) has proposed still another.,,”
Excerpt: Tattersall thinks H. erectus was an evolutionary dead end. Uconn says he was our immediate ancestor. There are several other differences which we won’t take the time to point out.
A recent issue of Science presents the six different explanations of hominid evolution at the right, which they refer to as “Figure 1.” Their caption says:
Figure 1. Cladograms favored in recent early hominin parsimony analyses. (A) Most parsimonious cladogram recovered by Chamberlain and Wood (19) using Chamberlain’s (18) operational taxonomic units. Homo sp. = H. rudolfensis. (B) Most parsimonious cladogram obtained in Chamberlain (18). African H. erectus = H. ergaster. (C) Cladogram favored in Wood (9). Homo sp. nov. = H. rudolfensis and H. aff. erectus = H. ergaster. (D) Most parsimonious cladogram recovered by Wood (2). A. boisei includes A. aethiopicus. (E) Most parsimonious cladogram obtained by Lieberman et al. (20). 1470 group = H. rudolfensis; 1813 group = H. habilis. (F) Cladogram favored by Strait et al. (17).
This following video is interesting to Darwinian claims about the fossil record being incomplete. In the following video, from 15:05 minute mark to 19:15 minute mark, Phillip Johnson directly addresses that claim:
Phillip Johnson – What I saw about the fossil record again,, was that Gould and Eldridge were experts in the area where the animal fossil record is most complete. That is marine invertebrates.,, And the reason for this is that when,, a bird, or a human, or an ape, or a wolf, or whatever, dies,, normally it does not get fossilized. It decays in the open, or is eaten by scavengers. Things get fossilized when they get covered over quickly with sediments so that they are protected from this natural destructive process. So if you want to be a fossil, the way to go about it is to live in the shallow seas, where you get covered over by sediments when you die,,. Most of the animal fossils are of that kind and it is in that area where the fossil record is most complete. That there is a consistent pattern.,, I mean there is evolution in the sense of variation, just like the peppered moth example. Things do vary, but they vary within the type. The new types appear suddenly, fully formed, without an evolutionary history and then they stay fundamentally stable with (cyclical) variation after their sudden appearance, and stasis (according) to the empirical observations made by Gould and Eldridge. Well now you see, I was aware of a number of examples of where evolutionary intermediates were cited. This was brought up as soon as people began to make the connection and question the (Darwinian) profession about their theory in light of the controversy. But the examples of claimed evolutionary transitionals, oddly enough, come from the area of the fossil record where fossilization is rarest. Where it is least likely to happen. Archaeopteryx would be the prime example. Its a bird so we expect it to rarely be fossilized. Yet it has been exhibit number one in the Darwinian case. There’s nothing else around it. Unlike those marine invertebrates. So you can tell a story of progressive evolution that might not work out at all if you saw through the whole body of things around it. Likewise with the ape-men. That is another area where fossilization is very rare. And where the bones of humans and apes are rather similar anyway. So (someone) can find a variant ape bone, its pretty easy to give it a story about how it is turning into a human being. If you tell the story well enough, and successfully, you get your picture on the cover of National Geographic and you become rich and famous. This could effect your judgement. One of the things that amused me is that there are so many fossil candidates for human ancestry, and so very, very, few that are candidates for ancestors of the great apes. There should be just as many (if not more) but why not? Well any economist can give you the answer to that. Human ancestors have a great American value so they are produced at a much greater rate. Now these were also grounds to be suspicious with what was going on. That there was obviously so much subjectivity. ,, The Standard explanation for why the fossil record is not more supportive of Darwinian expectations than it is, if you find that out at all (that the fossil record does not fit Darwinian expectation), is that there are so few fossils, (thus) most things aren’t fossilized. That is why (we are told by Darwinists) that the fossil record has so many gaps. Not that the theory has many gaps but that the fossil record has so many gaps. Yet that is odd if the problem is the greatest where the fossil record is most complete and if the confirming examples are found where fossils are rarest. that doesn’t sound like it could be the explanation. – Phillip Johnson – April 2012 – audio/video
“Fossil evidence of human evolutionary history is fragmentary and open to various interpretations. Fossil evidence of chimpanzee evolution is absent altogether”. Evolutionist Henry Gee, Nature 2001
“We have all seen the canonical parade of apes, each one becoming more human. We know that, as a depiction of evolution, this line-up is tosh (i.e. nonsense). Yet we cling to it. Ideas of what human evolution ought to have been like still colour our debates.”
Henry Gee, editor of Nature (478, 6 October 2011, page 34, doi:10.1038/478034a),
The Ape To Man Drawings – Another Blatant Deception of Evolution – video
Excerpt: In regards to the pictures of the supposed ancestors of man featured in science journals and the news media Boyce Rensberger wrote in the journal Science the following regarding their highly speculative nature:
“Unfortunately, the vast majority of artist’s conceptions are based more on imagination than on evidence. But a handful of expert natural-history artists begin with the fossil bones of a hominid and work from there…. Much of the reconstruction, however, is guesswork. Bones say nothing about the fleshy parts of the nose, lips, or ears. Artists must create something between an ape and a human being; the older the specimen is said to be, the more apelike they make it…. Hairiness is a matter of pure conjecture.”
“National Geographic magazine commissioned four artists to reconstruct a female figure from casts of seven fossil bones thought to be from the same species as skull 1470. One artist drew a creature whose forehead is missing and whose jaws look vaguely like those of a beaked dinosaur. Another artist drew a rather good-looking modern African-American woman with unusually long arms. A third drew a somewhat scrawny female with arms like a gorilla and a face like a Hollywood werewolf. And a fourth drew a figure covered with body hair and climbing a tree, with beady eyes that glare out from under a heavy, gorilla-like brow.”
“Behind the Scenes,” National Geographic 197 (March, 2000): 140
“most hominid fossils, even though they serve as basis of endless speculation and elaborate storytelling, are fragments of of jaws and scraps of skulls”
Stephen Jay Gould
The Fragmented Field of Paleoanthropology – July 2012
Excerpt: “alleged restoration of ancient types of man have very little, if any, scientific value and are likely only to mislead the public”
Earnest A. Hooton – physical anthropologist – Harvard University
Double Standards and a Single Variable – Casey Luskin – August 2012
Excerpt: (arguments) revolving around a single variable (brain size) which he claims (wrongly) shows smooth, gradual evolution. Even if this variable did evolve smoothly, I provide an extensive discussion in my chapter of why that would not demonstrate that humans share a common ancestor with apes. McBride fails to engage my discussion of the evolution of brain size, ignoring my arguments why skulls of “intermediate” size demonstrate very little. And as we’ll see in a further article, the authorities he relies upon to claim that the evolution of cranial capacities displays a “lack of discontinuity” in fact argue that there is great discontinuity — including “punctuational changes” and “saltation” — in the hominin fossil record as it pertains to skull size.
Music and verse:
Good To Be Alive – Official Lyric Video – Jason Gray
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
‘Podarcus sicula. Micro to macro.’
It’s back to the drawing-board again, Timothy. What ratbags, eh? Every time you fellas come up with your latest Jewel in the Crown of Evolution, Philip or some other scientist takes out his magnifying eye-glass, scrutinises said Jewel in the Crown, and begs you to at least produce some zirconium-studded gew-gaw. It’s a hard row for an honest man to be hoeing, Tim.
Did you try Google Scholar?
Really, Timaeus, I expect this sort of remark from the likes of mung or Joe, but… Oh well.
H/T Prof. T 😉
Being a non-academic yourself, you are perhaps unfamiliar with the distinction between peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed articles, between popular and technical articles, and between book reviews and original research. I can tell just by looking at this list that the vast majority of these articles are popular articles on the ID controversy, or book reviews, or other non-peer-reviewed articles. Others are articles from an earlier phase of Nick’s career, when he was a geographer, not an evolutionary biologist. Others are only projected articles or books, not yet published, and in at least one case, apparently not yet written. I’m looking for Nick’s *peer-reviewed* articles *in evolutionary biology*. It would also be interesting to know if he has any *solo* articles in that field, as opposed to 6-page articles where he is responsible for about 1/5 of the work.
When you’ve whittled that list of articles down to non-popular articles published in peer-reviewed journals, get back to me with your revised list, and then I’ll do a count of total articles, total pages, and total solo articles. Then I’ll compare that output with that of several full-time professional evolutionary biologists, and see how Nick’s track record as an expert in the field of evolutionary biology stacks up.
Here Nick has a change to do some original publication, perhaps inspired by his meeting with Tour. He can publish on the chemical basis of macroevolutionary change.
Matzke seems to have co-authored seven peer-reviewed publications over 2011/2012.
I wonder what Mike Behe’s record was over the same period. I couldn’t find anything but maybe I overlooked something.
Thanks for attempting to answer, but for clarity’s sake: Which articles were peer-reviewed? And how did you determine that?
But let’s say your count is right. Congratulations to Nick. But since the typical paper on your list is only a few pages long, and has about four (sometimes five or more) authors, I wonder how much heavy-duty scientific work such “papers” require. I’m used to disciplines where an author generally does all the research and writing himself, and where the papers range from about 12 to about 40 pages in length. Does 1/5 or 1/4 of seven 6-page papers make one a master of evolutionary biology? And the right person to explain “how evolution works” to a top chemist who may be about to receive a Nobel prize? In my neck of the academic world, someone who had produced the equivalent of maybe 15 pages on Descartes and Leibniz would not be regarded as the right person to explain “17th-century rationalism” in an authoritative fashion.
Look, if Nick has some substantive publications, I’m willing to concede that he’s a good graduate student. The point is that he isn’t a world-class expert in evolutionary theory; he’s just beginning to ply the trade of “evolutionary biologist.” If Matzke wasn’t so over-rated, and if he didn’t overrate himself, I wouldn’t bother expressing an opinion on the guy. I’d just treat him as yet another of hundreds of American grad students in evolutionary biology, hoping to win tenure some day. It’s the hype that surrounds him that irritates me — as if he is someone important in evolutionary theory — the winner of the prize bull contest at the State fair, rather than a young farmer milking his first few cows. If he hadn’t gained public notice and entry to the blogosphere for his work with the NCSE and over the Dover Trial, he would be, maybe a good grad student, but an otherwise unremarkable individual. Just as P. Z. Myers would be just another rank and file biologist teaching at an obscure satellite campus, were it not for all the noise he makes on his blog site. None of these guys are anything compared to the big guns of evolutionary theory, past or present.
To me, the person who should be explaining how evolution works to James Tour is not Matzke, but Coyne, or Orr, or Carroll (the biologist), or Shapiro, or Newman, or Jablonka — mid-career to senior evolutionary biologists of international standing. If they can’t convince Tour, Matzke is certainly not going to succeed.
By the way, Mike Behe published over 35 peer-reviewed papers over several years, in his younger days, i.e., when he was in the stage of his career Matzke is in now — the stage of trying to prove oneself competent in one’s field. So make your comparison fair. Compare Behe with his tenured critics. Ask yourself how many peer-reviewed papers Ken Miller has published since 1999, for example. Or Dawkins, since about 30 years ago.
By the way, I thought you said you were dropping out of commenting here. I had such high hopes!
Frankly, I am not concerned whether Tour gets his biology seminar or who from. If he had a genuine curiosity there are multiple lines of enquiry, the web, primary literature, lots of popular books. I am sure there are appropriate courses of study. People have their fixed ideas, opinions and beliefs and are entitled to have them (short of considering themselves enabled to impinge on the rights of others).
Exactly. And that is Tour’s problem and nobody else’s. There is the question of comprehension, too. Phlogiston theory turned out to be wrong and we don’t accept it. We can still understand it without needing to believe it. You could try to understand evolutionary theory without having to believe it. I doubt I would be convinced by ID theory although I have yet to find anyone willing to set out such a theory. Barry even admits that it is a matter of personal whim. In another thread he is asked:
While Barry’s payin’, I’m stayin’!
“I doubt I would be convinced by ID theory”
Well, yes, and I attribute that to your metaphysical *a priori* commitments.
You spot “God of the gaps” arguments in an instant; but “chance of the gaps” arguments fall outside your notice — yet all of neo-Darwinism is essentially “chance of the gaps” — with “natural selection” as a very weak attempt to paper over the powerlessness of chance to generate radically novel biological form. You ask when, where, and how the designer acted, but you don’t ask for the details regarding how a deer turned into a whale — you just accept on faith that random mutation and natural selection can do that, even though you can’t describe how it might do so yourself, and have never read a book or article that explains it, either.
In short, your skepticism is selective, and your critical faculties operate to a double standard. And this is easily explained by your metaphysical commitments. Hard-nosed skepticism about design supports your wish that there not be any designer. Lax standards regarding detailed Darwinian explanation supports your hope that life and evolution and man can be explained without reference to such a designer.
It wouldn’t matter how good the evidence for design in nature was. You would never accept the conclusion.
LoL! Yes Alan, there are many popular books but nothing in peer-review. So what is Tour to read?
And again, please link to this alleged theory of evolution. What journal was it published in?
How can anyone try to understand something that isn’t published anywhere?
Help us out here-
timeaus: I’m used to disciplines where an author generally does all the research and writing himself, and where the papers range from about 12 to about 40 pages in length.
While this is likely true of philosophy (I’ll accept your academic expertise here) it is not the norm for publications targetted at reporting experimental results. Brevity and conciseness are the rule of the day in reporting and discussing experiments and their results and science journal editors (and reviewers) insist that you pare down your manuscripts to the bare basics before it being accepted for publication. It is not uncommon in the biological sciences to have multiple collaborators and in this day and age it is encouraged over single-researchers conducting their work alone.
timeaus: By the way, Mike Behe published over 35 peer-reviewed papers over several years, in his younger days, i.e., when he was in the stage of his career Matzke is in now
You might want to recheck your assertion. Checking in on Web of Science I found that Behe published three (3) papers and one (1) meeting abstract while he was a grad student (1974-1979). Over the next 5 years I found that he published 8 manuscripts. That does not seem to jive with your assertion of Behe publishing 35 papers while he was at the stage of his career as N. Matzke is, i.e., a graduate student. I may be wrong about this but it doens’t seem like it given the information that is available.
There are several venues you can use to determine if a journal uses peer review or not and they are a valuable asset to have in your toolbox. Having published not one but two articles in Nature or a Nature associated journal is quite an accomplishment for a tenured scientist let alone a graduate student.
I’ll clarify what I meant by “the stage of his career Matzke is in now.”
By that I meant the stage between the time one first starts publishing papers (which is often in graduate school) and the time one earns tenure.
I therefore spoke inaccurately, and should have said, “Behe has published over 35 peer-reviewed papers, many of which were published during the period Matzke is in now, i.e., the pre-tenure period.”
I did not mean that Behe had published 35 papers while he was a grad student. He may have published some while he was a grad student; I do not know. You can write to him and ask him. But he himself has said that he has published over 35 peer-reviewed papers, in his former Amazon blog, now moved to UD.
Sorry for expressing myself unclearly. Basically I was responding with some irritation to the sneer of Alan Fox, who haunts these internet sites making pronouncements that good science is against ID, but cannot produce a single scientific accomplishment of his own (won’t specify any articles he’s published, any degrees he has earned, any scientific research positions he has ever held) to justify how he can tell good science from bad. He was trying to slight Behe in comparison with Matzke, when his own accomplishments are — based on any evidence he has presented to the world — less than those of either. I’m weary of his hobbyist jibes, so I indulged in a careless reply. My apologies.
As I’ve already said, if Matzke has published articles, I congratulate him.
I’ll make some brief comments on your other remarks. You say that experimental results should be written up briefly. Well, from the list of titles that was linked to, not all the articles were merely experimental results; many of them involved broader interpretive questions in evolutionary theory, and these take time to explain, as any article in history or philosophy takes time to set forth. I can understand why an article like “a new determination of the boiling point of sulfur” should be short rather than long-winded, but Matzke’s evolutionary position makes very large claims about the novelty-creating power of neo-Darwinian mechanisms, and those claims aren’t sufficiently justified by tiny, brief articles reporting isolated experimental results — they require longer exposition which expresses a synthetic understanding.
As for collegial research, I have nothing against it, but I am suspicious when someone claims to know his business and has *no* solo research. For a grad student, OK, I understand the situation — a grad student is just learning the craft and may well have his first contributions as part of a team of profs and grad students. But eventually any scientist worth his salt will be able to do some research on his own. So I look forward to one day seeing *solo* articles by Matzke in Nature or some other journal.
However, my point was not to blame Matzke for participating in team efforts; it was to point out that if five guys are responsible for the research, interpretation and write-up of a 6-page article, the reader is left wondering how much any particular individual contributed to any useful results.
Regarding peer review, my point was that Alan Fox did not explain how he determined which articles were peer-reviewed. They may all have been; but Fox didn’t say how he knew that.
It also would have been nice if Fox had admitted that a good number of the “articles” he cited were not “scholarly” but popular. (The site, remember, is called “Google Scholar,” not “Google Culture Warrior.” But apparently it lists everything a scholar/scientist has published, regardless of type.)
Anyhow, as I said, if Matzke has published several group articles, good for him. But that doesn’t make him one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists. He has a long, long way to go before that will be true. (And it will never become true, if he doesn’t significantly reduce the time he spends in culture-war activity and increase the time he spends in reading and research.) Matzke is prominent in the blogosphere, because of his visible role in the Dover Trial, for his detective work for the NCSE, and for his constant expression of his opinions. But at a big annual conference of 2,000 evolutionary biologists, most of whom aren’t at all focused on ID, creationism, etc., he is just another young, unknown face in the crowd to most of those attending. Shapiro, Jablonka, etc. aren’t rushing across the conference floor to congratulate him, or any other grad student, on his latest 6-page group article.
I’m just asking for a sense of proportion here. Matzke’s a grad student looking for his first job, not one of the leading expositors of evolutionary theory in the world today. I’ve also found his dialogical habits here on UD not to be admired — conceding points in argument is not his style, and one gets the strong impression that social/cultural victory is very important to him, whereas to a good scientist truth, not victory, is what should be important. But I don’t want to talk about Matzke any more. He will become what he will become, a great biologist, or a mediocre one, or a poor one, regardless of anything I say. But the polemical motivation which he took with him (learned partly from his NCSE friends) at the start of his graduate studies is not a healthy one; no scientist or scholar can easily guard against the corruption of pure thought that tends to happen when such motives are present.
timeaus: (first apologies I’ll figure the blockquote thing out sometime): By that I meant the stage between the time one first starts publishing papers (which is often in graduate school) and the time one earns tenure.
I don’t know what nick’s career goals but do you know for sure that he has expressed an interest in working in academia? I have no idea and it seems that a potential CV based on some assumptions might be wrong. It might be better just to compare them head-to-head at each phase of their career if that is actually a worthwhile endeavor. I see no value in projecting what Nick may or not produce over the next decade or so.
timeaus: Sorry for expressing myself unclearly. Basically I was responding with some irritation to the sneer of Alan Fox, who haunts these internet sites making pronouncements that good science is against ID, but cannot produce a single scientific accomplishment of his own (won’t specify any articles he’s published, any degrees he has earned, any scientific research positions he has ever held) to justify how he can tell good science from bad. He was trying to slight Behe in comparison with Matzke, when his own accomplishments are — based on any evidence he has presented to the world — less than those of either. I’m weary of his hobbyist jibes, so I indulged in a careless reply. My apologies.
false defenses are no defense at all. It’s not me you have to apologize too.
timeaus: As I’ve already said, if Matzke has published articles, I congratulate him.
If? Why not. congratulate him for the publications you now know exit?
timeaus: Anyhow, as I said, if Matzke has published several group articles, good for him. But that doesn’t make him one of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists. He has a long, long way to go before that will be true. (And it will never become true, if he doesn’t significantly reduce the time he spends in culture-war activity and increase the time he spends in reading and research.)
I don’t think Nick portrayed or declared himself to be ‘one of the worlds leading evolutionary biologists’. That seems to be label you put on him. If you aren’t even familiar with Nick’s publication record how can you honestly speculate on what he should or should not be doing with his time let alone on how it will advance or stifle his career objectives…whatever it/they may be.
timeaus: I’m just asking for a sense of proportion here. Matzke’s a grad student looking for his first job, not one of the leading expositors of evolutionary theory in the world today. I’ve also found his dialogical habits here on UD not to be admired — conceding points in argument is not his style, and one gets the strong impression that social/cultural victory is very important to him, whereas to a good scientist truth, not victory, is what should be important
Have you not looked at or read the response of your compadres on many different threads?
It’s a reasonable bet that Matzke wishes to become a professor of evolutionary biology, since a Ph.D. in evolutionary theory is useless for any other occupation on the planet. But I concede that I don’t know his plans. For all I know, his parents are rich, he doesn’t need any money and he just gets a kick out of studying the stuff, or likes accumulating points with which to bash ID people. In any case, his future plans aren’t important for the main thrust of my argument.
I don’t owe anyone an “apology” — certainly not Matzke or Alan Fox. Both have behaved on the internet in discreditable ways, showing a great deal of intellectual dishonesty, and a stubborn pride that will rarely (close to never) grant a point in argument. Matzke has right here on this site misrepresented ID and ID proponents in a variety of ways, and defended indefensible misrepresentations of ID by the NCSE. He has been called on it, and refused to budge an inch. I have no intellectual respect for someone like that. I was taught by very deep philosophers of very great integrity and I despise all forms of intellectual dishonesty or even intellectual unfairness, and the anti-ID lobby, of which Matzke is one of the leaders, practices both. Other deep offenders are Shallit, Moran, Myers, Coyne, Miller, Scott. These people would all have failed graduate school in philosophy, if they had argued about evolution, teleology, design, the nature of science, etc. in philosophy class the way they argue about these things in the blogosphere and in their books and articles. In a philosophy seminar, arguments based on rhetoric and partisan bias are quickly diced to bits by professors and fellow grad students.
You want me to congratulate Nick on his peer-reviewed articles? I already did, in a general way — two or three times, even if I did it in third-person language. I can’t be specific which articles, because Alan Fox never got back to me telling me which ones were peer-reviewed and which ones weren’t. But it doesn’t matter.
Let’s change the subject from Nick, Franklin. Since you are new here — I think. Tell me: which ID books have you read — not skimmed, or read negative reviews of — in full? And what works of evolutionary theory have you read? Mayr? Dobzhansky? Gould? Dawkins? Shapiro? Orr? And have you read Darwin’s Origin of Species in full? I’m not interested in talking about Matzke any more — my whole point in mentioning him was to deflect attention from him. I’m more interested in talking about the issues — mutation, selection, teleology, causality, the nature of nature, the nature of science, chance, design, etc. Care to offer your position on any of these matters? Or tell us your intellectual background — the training and reading you bring to these issues, and what got you involved in the discussion?
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That’s what I get for trying to do something from memory. 😉
My gosh! Another ridiculously stupid post by vjtorley. He writes lengthy posts that are really painful to finish reading, because the level of inanity is horrible.
What’s the chemical explanation of a star, Torley?
Now what’s the chemical explanation of a galaxy?
The chemical explanation for both are essentially the same – nuclear fission. But now you have to consider large-scale phenomena to understand and explain a galaxy.
It’s the same with micro and macroevolution. At the fundamental level, there’s no distinction between the two. Mutations are the basis of all of evolution. What are mutations? Chemical changes of course.
For e.g.: Cytosine becomes Uracil when a deamination reaction occurs. No need of Mr. God here.
But to understand macroevolution, now you got to consider large-scale processes happening at the level of populations. However, the fundamental basis of macroevolution remains the same as microevolution – mutation.
It’s that simple. The way you’re messing up simple concepts and then stubbornly clinging onto them is pathetic. I’m sorry.
I meant Nuclear fusion above
‘It’s the same with micro and macroevolution. At the fundamental level, there’s no distinction between the two. Mutations are the basis of all of evolution. What are mutations? Chemical changes of course.’
Oh no, Evolve! Don’t give ammunition to Professor Tour and his scandalously numerous admirers! He’s supposed to be an ignoramus on matters biological, because he studies them where the action takes place – at their most fundamental level, the chemical level.
And another substance-free comment by Evolve. Why isn’t there any cases of microevolution that we can extrapolate to macroevolution? The beak of the finch-> microevolution that cannot add up to macroevolution. Anti-biotic resistance- same thing. Peppered moths? More of the same.
///my own view is that humans and chimps share a common ancestry, but that God “intervened”///
Oh yeah, God intervened in a way that is indistinguishable from natural evolution! It fails because invoking God here becomes redundant, Torley.
Humans and Chimps not only share homology, but also synteny, the same errors on chromosomes, the same pseudogenes, the same useless RNA viruses in the genome…and if you compare these with more distant apes, the genetic variation increases with decreasing relatedness.
The pattern observed in most cases is exactly as evolution-by-natural-means predicts.
Invoking God here is a useless and silly endeavour. But I know you’re stubborn enough to not give up on it. Good luck.
Evolve- you don’t even know what makes a chimp a chimp nor a human a human. And there isn’t any evidence that we are the sum of our genomes. BTW evolution by natural means doesn’t make any predictions and it cannot account for chimps and humans.
Ev: Pardon but nuclear fusion is generally regarded as a PHYSICAL not a Chemical process. Also, the technical core of VJT’s remarks is what Dr Tour had to say. It seems you are indulging in if you can’t ketch Cuffee, ketch ‘im shirt. It remains the case that biology at cellular level rests on highly complex nanomachines that use chemistry in their functions, and in fact are also functionally specific, extremely complex, highly organised and information rich. The origin of such by blind chance and mechanical necessity is an assertion or assumption that has yet to pass the vera causa test, whilst prof Tour himself personally shows how intelligent design does such. You need to argue to the merits rather than to dismiss and disdain persons; persons who have plainly done their homework. KF
The Myth of 98% Genetic Similarity between Humans and Chimps (and chromosome fusion) – Jeffrey Tomkins PhD.
Human Origins(?) by Brian Thomas, M.S. – December 20, 2013
Excerpt: Three major pillars supporting a human-chimp link crashed in 2013.
1. Genetic similarity (70% instead of 98%)
2. beta-globin pseudogene (functional instead of leftover junk)
3. Chromosome 2 fusion site (encodes a functional feature within an important gene instead of a being a fusion site) All three key genetic pillars of human evolution (for Darwinists) turned out to be specious—overstatements based on ignorance of genetic function.
Comprehensive Analysis of Chimpanzee and Human Chromosomes Reveals Average DNA Similarity of 70% – by Jeffrey P. Tomkins – February 20, 2013
Excerpt: For the chimp autosomes, the amount of optimally aligned DNA sequence provided similarities between 66 and 76%, depending on the chromosome. In general, the smaller and more gene-dense the chromosomes, the higher the DNA similarity—although there were several notable exceptions defying this trend. Only 69% of the chimpanzee X chromosome was similar to human and only 43% of the Y chromosome. Genome-wide, only 70% of the chimpanzee DNA was similar to human under the most optimal sequence-slice conditions. While, chimpanzees and humans share many localized protein-coding regions of high similarity, the overall extreme discontinuity between the two genomes defies evolutionary timescales and dogmatic presuppositions about a common ancestor.
Alleged Human Chromosome 2 “Fusion Site” Encodes an Active DNA Binding Domain Inside a Complex and Highly Expressed Gene—Negating Fusion – 2013
Kairosfocus: “Pardon but nuclear fusion is generally regarded as a PHYSICAL not a Chemical process”.
I know that I am splitting hairs here, but chemical processes are physical processes. They are nothing more than the physical interaction of atoms, electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. We perceive them differently simply because the chemical is at a much higher scale.
The terms micro and macro evolution have been used by evolutionary biologists, but not frequently. And when they do, it is usually used as a matter of convenience as opposed to describing two separate processes. But IDists have jumped on this simply because they have no legs to stand on if they try to argue against small scale evolutionary changes, because we have numerous examples of these changes.
The idea that extrapolation is not an acceptable approach in science is simply bogus. It is used in every branch of science. For example, how many people have seen mountain chains formed? The theory for their formation is an extrapolation over thousands and hundreds of thousands of years based on relatively minute measurements of movements in the earth’s crust. But does anyone seriously doubt the validity of the theory?
When extrapolations are made in science, they are initially made based on relatively few data, and evolutionary theory is no different. However, the validity of these extrapolations is subsequently tested through several independent lines of inquiry. The IDist argument against extrapolating micro evolution to macro evolution is stuck in the 1800s when the validity of the extrapolation had not yet been tested. However, the validity of this extrapolation has been tested through numerous independent lines of inquiry (e,g., chemical, molecular, comparative anatomy, isotope ratios, DNA, biogeography, etc.), and none of these have cast significant doubt on the validity of the theory.
If micro-evolutionary events produced functional information instead of degrading preexisting functional information then your claim that it is not bogus to extrapolate from micro to macro would have merit, but as it is you are, willingly or not, grossly blind to the insurmountable problem at hand for Darwinists.
When macro-evolution takes a final, it gets an “F” – Using Numerical Simulation to Test the Validity of Neo-Darwinian Theory (Mendel’s Accountant)
Excerpt of Conclusion: This (computer) program (Mendel’s Accountant) is a powerful teaching and research tool. It reveals that all of the traditional theoretical problems that have been raised about evolutionary genetic theory are in fact very real and are empirically verifiable in a scientifically rigorous manner. As a consequence, evolutionary genetic theory now has no theoretical support—it is an indefensible scientific model. Rigorous analysis of evolutionary genetic theory consistently indicates that the entire enterprise is actually bankrupt.
Using Numerical Simulation to Better Understand Fixation Rates, and Establishment of a New Principle – “Haldane’s Ratchet” – Christopher L. Rupe and John C. Sanford – 2013
Excerpt:,,, the fundamental evolutionary problem historically known as “Haldane’s Dilemma” is very real.
Previous analyses have focused exclusively on beneficial mutations. When deleterious mutations were included in our simulations, using a realistic ratio of beneficial to deleterious mutation rate, deleterious fixations vastly outnumbered beneficial fixations. Because of this, the net effect of mutation fixation should clearly create a ratchet-type mechanism which should cause continuous loss of information and decline in the size of the functional genome. We name this phenomenon “Haldane’s Ratchet”.
“The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No.”
Lewin, R. (1980)
“Evolutionary Theory Under Fire”
Science, vol. 210, 21 November, p. 883
A-b: Nuclear processes are generally not viewed as Chemical ones, in other words while Chemical processes are certain types of physical interaction [typically involving valence shell electrons], other types of physical interaction are generally not categorised as chemical ones. Nuclear or particle fusion reactions are in this latter class. That is what I pointed out earlier and your attempt to suggest otherwise is without good grounds. KF
A-B: The attempt to suggest that “not frequently” is enough to dismiss the significance of a material threshold and suggest there is a neat continuum inviting smooth extrapolation begs major questions. Micro changes are observed, Macro changes especially at body plan origin level are not. The latter involves crossing search space threshold barriers well beyond the blind chance and mechanical necessity capacity of the observed cosmos. On reasonable analysis, OOL would involve genomes of 100 – 1 mn bits in that warm little pond or the like. Body plans, 10 – 100+ mn bits. Neither is reasonable on blind mechanisms. Observed changes in populations, are well below 1,000 bits. In fact with realistic pop sizes, mut rates and success proportions, generation times etc, the time to fix significant numbers of muts rapidly becomes prohibitive. seven bases worth of change would be a good index of this. For instance try out 6 – 10 mn years, 2% of 3 bn bases, and reasonable pop and generation numbers for primates and you cannot find a realistic fit. In short, macro evo on the usual sorts of blind models is a serious issue. One that label and dismiss tactics does not answer to. KF
Kairofocus, I must disagree chemistry and nuclear physics are both physical events. Or, if you will, both chemical events. Chemistry is all about how atoms react under various conditions. Nuclear physics is about how atoms react under various conditions. The only difference is a matter of scale.
A-b: I have made the matter clear enough, on good grounds; chemical interactions generally denote a small specialised range of interactions that are physical, involving valence electrons and energy levels maybe 1 – 10 eV or thereabouts. Fusion interactions are nuclear or particle events with interaction energies of order 1 – 10 MeV; fission ones involve nuclei and energy releases of maybe typically 80 – 140 or more MeV, linked to binding energy/mass defect per nucleon . . . this last involving both protons and neutrons. There is excellent reason to distinguish the two, and in particular Ev, your fellow objector to ID made a tyro’s error which I spoke to. You are doing little more than kicking up clouds of rhetorical confusion at this point. Either you know very little of physics and chemistry, or you think you can play rhetorical games to pretend that ID advocates are ignorant — in attempted defence of a tyro’s blunder. KF
PS: Just remember, there is an old joke about how to tell the physicists at a scientist convention, We are the ones that glow faintly blue or blue-green in the dark. The chemists will pronounce u-n-i-o-n-i-s-e-d as un-ionised. The difference in relevant energy levels speaks for itself. And yes Cancer is an occupational hazard for both, for different reasons.
Kairofocus, as I make a living as a chemist , I believe that I am qualified to speak on the subject. I believe that I said that the difference is one of scale. Much in the same way that the difference between paint chips at Lowes and spectroscopy is a matter of scale. They are both based on the exact same principles.
Someone cooking meth might make the same claim.
A-b: If you are a practising Chemist you need to talk with your colleagues in the Physics Dept . . . at best. Actually, you pretty well should know better. Chemistry is a physical science but it generally deals with a rather restricted and specialised set of interactions, in the main dealing with valence shell interactions and linked phenomena; with C-Chemistry taking up a huge chunk due to its connector-block properties. Fusion, especially stellar fusion of nuclei up the ladder from H to Fe depending on stellar mass, balance of radiation pressure and gravitation, etc (the dominant type in natural situations) is rather far from the focal area of Chemistry. You have wasted bandwidth on a tangential topic that only serves to show up an ill-founded contempt and intent to distract, distort, polarise, annoy and confuse. KF
PS: Let’s just say there is a reason why, e.g. stellar nucleosynthesis is a topic in Astrophysics.
PPS: Just for reference on concepts, let me contrast per a rough survey based on thoughts over the years:
Physics: The general fundamental scientific study of matter & energy, and space-time with interactions driven by basic forces (currently, strong & weak, electro-magnetic and gravitational . . . ) on scales from particles to the cosmos as a whole . . . and some would say beyond to include a potential multiverse, with time scales from ~10^-44s to 10^17s [~14 BY], distance scales from ~10^-15 m for particles up to the observed cosmos at ~ 90 bn LY and more, and energy scales to match. Physical interactions and changes are concerned with these forces and factors, typically excluding those linked to formation or breakdown of compounds etc. Formation of Iron in cores of stars in a certain mass zone leading to supernovas and its properties in alloys etc are of physical interest. Save insofar as rusting exhibits interesting electrical phenomena and affects behaviour of materials and structures, rusting as a process is not typically a physics concern, it is handed over to the Chemists. [Hence the school level contrast physical and chemical changes beloved of High School Chem teachers.]
Chemistry: a specialist (read, relatively narrowly focussed) physical science that largely focuses on valence shell dominated interactions of atoms, molecules, ions and related particles, typically divided across general & inorganic, organic and physical. (And yes, in physical Chem there is such a thing as nuclear Chemistry, and in radiation safety some of the damage mechanisms are via chemical actions of especially disturbed water molecules reacting with nearby biomolecules and causing breakdowns in biofunction.) Generally when one talks about chemical interactions and changes one is concerned with molecular identities, forming of chemical substances [the stuff commonly measured in moles etc], etc. Metal rusting is a chemical change, metal melting is by contrast a physical one.
Chemistry is an interface science, e.g. interfacing to biology through biochemistry, and bleeding over into materials science which is linked to the physics of condensed matter. Physics, characteristically, is concerned with foundations.