Intelligent Design

What Elizabeth Liddle doesn’t understand about the Cambrian explosion

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Yesterday, I posted A succinct case for Intelligent Design, which featured a 123-word critique of unguided mechanisms for evolution – in particular, neo-Darwinism – as an explanation for the genes, proteins and different kinds of body plans found in living things. The passage, which was taken from Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt (Harper One, 2013), read as follows:

“This book has presented four separate scientific critiques demonstrating the inadequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanism, the mechanism that Dawkins assumes can produce the appearance of design without intelligent guidance. It has shown that the neo-Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the origin of genetic information because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins and, consequently, (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes, are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information necessary to build a body plan.” (pp. 410-411)

I also quoted Dr. Meyer as pointing out that unguided processes could not account for the origin of life, since “explaining the origin of life requires – first and foremost – explaining the origin of the information or digital code present in DNA and RNA,” and contemporary naturalistic theories of life’s origin “fail to account for the origin of the genetic information necessary to produce the first selfreplicating organism.” I then posed a challenge to skeptical readers: how would you attempt to rebut Dr. Meyer’s case, in 200 words or less?

Various critics objected that my brief quote from Dr. Meyer failed to explain why Intelligent Design was a better alternative. However, a commenter named Mung helpfully supplied the following quote from Darwin’s Doubt:

…[E]ach of the features of the Cambrian animals and the Cambrian fossil record that constitute negative clues – clues that render neo-Darwinism and other materialistic theories inadequate as causal explanations – also happen to be features of systems known from experience to have arisen as the result of intelligent activity. In other words, standard materialistic evolutionary theories have failed to identify an adequate mechanism or cause for precisely those attributes of living forms that we know from experience only intelligence – conscious rational activity – is capable of producing. That suggests, in accord with the method of historical scientific reasoning elucidated in the previous chapter, the possibility of making a strong historical inference to intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of those attributes. (p. 358)

Much to my astonishment, not one of the skeptics commenting on my thread took up my challenge, which was: how would you attempt to rebut Dr. Meyer’s case, in 200 words or less?

One commenter, Dr. Elizabeth Liddle, supplied a handy summary of Darwin’s evolutionary theory: “When self-replicators reproduce with heritable variance in reproductive success, variants that reproduce most successfully will become more prevalent”. She added that “we now know that variants can also become highly prevalent even if they do not contribute to reproductive success, and this actually makes Darwin’s mechanism even more successful, because not every variant needs to be reproductively more successful than the competition to stand a chance of propagating through the gene pool.” All well and good; but it completely fails to address my challenge. How, according to modern evolutionary theory, did the functional genes and proteins found in modern organisms evolve within the time available, and how did new body plans evolve, despite the observed inability of mutations to generate viable large-scale developmental changes, let alone epigenetic information?

Dr. Liddle, who is a psychologist but not a biologist, then launched an ad hominem attack on Dr. Meyer, declaring: “His understanding of evolutionary theory is weak, and actual evolutionary theory is a better alternative.” Barry Arrington then put up a post citing testimonials of well-credentialed biologists who praised Dr. Meyer’s book – a book which, I should add, was anonymously reviewed by two biologists and two paleontologists. No science book is altogether free from error, but we can safely assume that the likelihood of there being any scientific howlers in Darwin’s Doubt is negligible.

Dr. Liddle responded by citing a post of her own, over at The Skeptical Zone, in which she had previously exposed what she referred to as Meyer’s mistake. So I decided to read it. And after reading it, my verdict is: in all fairness, Dr. Liddle’s technical criticisms of three phylogenetic diagrams in Dr. Meyer’s book are valid ones; however, Dr. Liddle has a very poor grasp of the conundrum posed by the Cambrian explosion – much poorer, I might add, than Darwin’s was, in 1859.

Dr. Liddle’s error

Dr. Liddle reveals her faulty understanding of Dr. Meyer’s argument (and of the Cambrian explosion) when she writes (bolding is mine – VJT):

All branching events, in Darwin’s proposal, whether the resulting lineages end up as different phyla or merely different species, start in the same way, with two populations where there once was one, and a short morphological distance between them. It is perfectly true that the longer both lineages persist for, the greater the morphological distance will become. But that isn’t because they started different, or because the phyla come later. It’s because what we call phyla are groups of organisms with an early common ancestor, whose later descendents have evolved to form a group that has a large morphological distance from contemporary populations who descended from a different early common ancestor.

So when a phylum, or a class, or even a kingdom first diverges from a single population into two lineages, the “morphological distance” from the other lineage will be very short. We only call it a “phylum” because eventually, owning to separate evolution, that distance becomes very large.

In boxing circles, that’s what’s called leading with your chin. For my part, I’m no pugilist, unless one wishes to describe verbal sparring as boxing; but I can spot an incautious remark when I see one.

The simple point that Dr. Liddle fails to grasp is that the morphological distance between the various animal phyla hasn’t grown with time. It was just as big 520 million years ago as it is today. The really big morphological changes occurred right at the beginning, and the changes that occurred after that were specializations within each phylum which did not in any way increase the morphological distance between the various phyla. Arthropods and chordates were just as morphologically distinct 500 million years ago as they are now. Certainly, new classes of arthropods and chordates have appeared since then, but the changes that subsequently occurred in the body plans of various arthropod and chordate lineages are far more modest than the sharp differences we find between the different phyla. That is why the Cambrian explosion constitutes such a conundrum for paleontologists. And that is why Darwin felt he could only get round the conundrum by hypothesizing that the various phyla of animals had in fact diverged at a much earlier date, when (he believed) the morphological differences between them would have been much smaller.

Think I’m making this up? Allow me to quote a few experts. (Bolding is mine – VJT.)

The fossil record suggests that the major pulse of diversification of phyla occurs before that of classes, classes before that of orders, and orders before families. This is not to say that each higher taxon originated before species (each phylum, class, or order contained at least one species, genus, family, etc. upon appearance), but the higher taxa do not seem to have diverged through an accumulation of lower taxa.
Erwin, D., Valentine, J., and Sepkoski, J. (1988). “A Comparative Study of Diversification Events.” Evolution, vol. 41, p. 1183.

Described recently as “the most important evolutionary event during the entire history of the Metazoa,” the Cambrian explosion established virtually all the major animal body forms — Bauplane or phyla — that would exist thereafter, including many that were ‘weeded out’ and became extinct. Compared with the 30 or so extant phyla, some people estimate that the Cambrian explosion may have generated as many as 100. The evolutionary innovation of the Precambrian/Cambrian boundary had clearly been extremely broad: “unprecedented and unsurpassed,” as James Valentine of the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently put it.
(Lewin, Roger; “A Lopsided Look at Evolution,” Science, 241:201, 1988.)

This disquieting discovery led Lewin to muse aloud:

“Why, in subsequent periods of great evolutionary activity when countless species, genera, and families arose, have there been no new animal body plans produced, no new phyla?

And here’s a quote from Valentine et al., to cap it all:

Taxa recognized as orders during the (Precambrian-Cambrian) transition chiefly appear without connection to an ancestral clade via a fossil intermediate. This situation is in fact true of most invertebrate orders during the remaining Phanerozoic as well. There are no chains of taxa leading gradually from an ancestral condition to the new ordinal body type. Orders thus appear as rather distinctive subdivisions of classes rather than as being segments in some sort of morphological continuum.
Valentine, J.W., Awramik, S.M., Signor, P.W., and Sadler, P.M. (1991) “The Biological Explosion at the Precambrian-Cambrian Boundary.” Evolutionary Biology, Vol. 25, Max K. Hecht, editor, Plenum Press, New York and London, p.284.

In their most recent book, The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity (Roberts and Company, 2013), Douglas Erwin and Jim Valentine freely acknowledge that the stark differences between the phyla that appear over a 10-million-year interval during the Cambrian period make it difficult to even imagine what the last common ancestor (“LCA”) would have looked like:

To be sure, all pairs of crown phyla had common ancestors; as far as we know, however, none of those bilaterian LCAs had features that would cause them to be diagnosed as members of living phyla, although that could be the case in a few instances. In other words, the morphological distances — gaps — between body plans of crown phyla were present when body fossils first appeared during the explosion and have been with us ever since. The morphological disparity is so great between most phyla that the homologous reference points or landmarks required for quantitative studies of morphology are absent. (p. 340)

If highly respected experts in the field acknowledge the stark differences between the various animal phyla from their very first appearance, and if these same experts are genuinely perplexed as to why no new phyla have appeared since the Cambrian, then we can be sure that Dr. Liddle’s breezy assertion that the reason why no new phyla have appeared since then is that not enough time has elapsed rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works, at the morphological level. Dr. Liddle evidently believes that the morphological differences between taxa are a simple function of time: groups which diverged a mere 10 million years ago might be classified as different genera, while groups which diverged 100 million years ago would probably be classified into different classes, and groups that diverged 500 million years ago would be classed as different phyla. As she writes: “We only call it a ‘phylum’ because eventually, owning to separate evolution, that distance becomes very large.” For Liddle, the statement that any two animal phyla diverged at least 500 million years ago is trivially true: if they had diverged more recently, we wouldn’t call them phyla, but classes, orders, families, genera or species, depending on the time when they diverged.

Now, if fossils were classified into different taxa purely on the basis of the (mostly random) changes that have accumulated in their genomes over millions of years, then Dr. Liddle would be correct. But that’s not how we classify fossils, because we don’t have their genomes. DNA has a half-life of just 521 years. When classifying fossils into different phyla, scientists have no choice but to go by their morphological characteristics. What Dr. Liddle overlooks is that even if most genetic changes accumulate at a slow and relatively steady pace, it doesn’t follow that morphological changes do. Nor does it follow that epigenetic changes accumulate in this way.

The sudden appearance of new animal body plans during a narrow window comprising a mere 1/1,000 of the Earth’s geological history is a non-trivial fact, when contemporary evolutionary biologists continue to find deeply puzzling. Charles Darwin did too, for he wrote:

“I cannot doubt that all the Silurian trilobites have descended from some one crustacean, which must have lived long before the Silurian age….Consequently, if my theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Silurian strata was deposited, long periods elapsed, as long as, or probably longer than, the whole interval from the Silurian to the present day…..The case must at present remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.”
The Origin of Species. 1859. London: John Murray. 1st edition, pp. 306 – 308.

(I should point out that at the time when Darwin wrote, the strata that we now call Cambrian were classified as belonging to the Silurian period.)

Darwin ascribed the Cambrian explosion to imperfections in the fossil record. Today, we know better. Darwin was an intellectually honest scientist; his Origin of Species contains several chapters devoted to rebutting the scientific difficulties in connection with his theory. One wonders what Darwin would have concluded, if he had known then what we know now.

I hope that fair-minded readers will conclude that Dr. Liddle has fundamentally misunderstood the argument Dr. Stephen Meyer was making in his book, Darwin’s Doubt.

74 Replies to “What Elizabeth Liddle doesn’t understand about the Cambrian explosion

  1. 1

    Dr. Liddle, who is a psychologist but not a biologist, then launched an ad hominem attack on Dr. Meyer, declaring: “His understanding of evolutionary theory is weak, and actual evolutionary theory is a better alternative.

    Weird. Apparently neither you, nor Barry, understand the meaning of “ad hominem.”

    “Argumentum ad hominem means responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments.”

    As the statement you quote characterizes Meyer’s grasp of evolutionary theory, and makes no reference to Meyer’s character, it is not an ad hominem remark.

    Further, if “His understanding of evolutionary theory is weak” were by any stretch ad hominem (it’s not), then “Dr. Liddle has a very poor grasp of the conundrum posed by the Cambrian explosion” and “Dr. Liddle has fundamentally misunderstood the argument Dr. Stephen Meyer was making in his book” would have to be considered ad hominem remarks too (they’re not), as they bear essentially the same content (‘So and so has a poor understanding of something.’)

    Which brings us to my first sentence, above…

    UDEditors: No, it is you who does not understand the term. It is a Latin term that means literally “to the man.” It consists of any attack on the other person instead of the argument he made. It is not limited to attacks on character. It is illicit because it is an attempt to redirect the discussion from the truth or falsity of the opponent’s argument to a matter that is completely irrelevant with respect to whether his argument is true or false.

    The statement “he is no palaeontologist” does not respond to any argument Meyer made. It is an attack directed at his personal qualifications. Therefore it clearly falls within ad hominem, because even if it is true (and it is), it is irrelevant as to whether Meyer’s arguments are true or false.

    Dr. Torley’s statements are not ad hominem. He says, essentially, Liddle has a poor grasp of the issue AND HERE IS WHY I SAY THAT. He then goes on to provide numerous details as to why Liddle’s argument is false. Any child can see the distinction between that and Liddle’s one sentence attack on Meyer.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    Elizabeth Liddle also has problems keeping track of the sewage she spills into the UD combox, sometimes contradicting herself in the same thread:

    EXHIBIT A:

    EL @ comment 10 of prior post:

    But he [i.e., Meyer] is no palaeontologist, and apparently doesn’t see that as a problem. It is though . . .

    EL @ comment 43 of same post:

    I do not criticise Meyer because he is not a qualified palaeontologist. I don’t even criticise him because he, not being a qualified palaeontologist, writes a book on the palaeontology.

    EXHIBIT B:

    Comment 91 to another post:

    The statement “the Earth has been orbiting the Sun since before humans existed” is a conclusion, made by human discerners, based on the available evidence. It is “objectively true” . . .

    Comment 102 to the same post:

    all scientific conclusions are provisional, not “objectively true”.

  3. 3

    Barry, those two statements are perfectly consistent. Read them again.

    ETA: hint: with what follows each

    UDEditors: OK; I read them again, including what followed each. In the first you criticized Meyer for not being palaeontologist. In the second you claim you never criticized Meyer for not being a palaeontologist. And in this comment you claim those two statements are “perfectly consistent.” Lizzie, get help.

  4. 4

    Thank for actually tackling my argument, Vincent, and indeed for acknowdging the validity of the point I made vis a vis Meyer’s diagram.

    I have to take issue with the idea that anyone can “safely assume” there are “no major howlers” in a book simply because it was reviewed by some qualified people. Other qualified people have indeed identified a great many howlers. So it would come down to which qualified people you believe – scarcely a “safe” choice to have to make.

    But I congratulate you on having made your point about the Cambrian explosion much more cogently (and succinctly!!!) than Meyer did. You write:

    The simple point that Dr. Liddle fails to grasp is that the morphological distance between the various animal phyla hasn’t grown with time. It was just as big 520 million years ago as it is today. The really big morphological changes occurred right at the beginning, and the changes that occurred after that were specializations within each phylum which did not in any way increase the morphological distance between the various phyla. Arthropods and chordates were just as morphologically distinct 500 million years ago as they are now. Certainly, new classes of arthropods and chordates have appeared since then, but the changes that subsequently occurred in the body plans of various arthropod and chordate lineages are far more modest than the sharp differences we find between the different phyla. That is why the Cambrian explosion constitutes such a conundrum for paleontologists. And that is why Darwin felt he could only get round the conundrum by hypothesizing that the various phyla of animals had in fact diverged at a much earlier date, when (he believed) the morphological differences between them would have been much smaller.

    That is a long way from Meyer’s argument, and is a much sounder one. You, unlike Meyer, acknowledge that Darwin predicted that phyla should be more similar at the base of the tree than they are higher up. Meyer appears to argue that, according to “Darwinism” they should only exist at the tips of the branches!

    So to address your argument I refer you to Nick Matzke’s detailed critique, in which he points out that the rootless trees of Cambrian myth are indeed rooted deeply in time.

    But Nick really is a palaentologist, so I’ll leave him to supply the details.

  5. 5
    Zachriel says:

    vjtorley: The simple point that Dr. Liddle fails to grasp is that the morphological distance between the various animal phyla hasn’t grown with time.

    That’s right! After all, humans are ‘just’ elaborated Deuterostomes. A tube with appendages to stuff food into one end. Microevolution!

    http://www.wired.com/wp-conten.....ty-01a.jpg

    vjtorley: Certainly, new classes of arthropods and chordates have appeared since then, but the changes that subsequently occurred in the body plans of various arthropod and chordate lineages are far more modest than the sharp differences we find between the different phyla.

    As we go back towards the divergence of the various phyla, the forms more and more resemble one another. Molecular evidence has been particularly helpful in determining the steps involved.

  6. 6
    Barry Arrington says:

    Zachriel @ 5. You failed to grasp the point of the OP. I will try to simplify it for you: All of the major differences between the animal groups appeared at the very beginning; therefore the major differences between the animal groups could not have been caused by divergence between the groups over time.

    Now that I’ve simplified it for you, can you tell why your comment at 5 totally misses the mark?

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    EL @ 4:

    That is a long way from Meyer’s argument . . .

    Did you even read the book? That IS Meyer’s argument. Meyer’s entire thesis is that the problem Darwin recognized at the beginning (and which Darwin thought would be solved as the fossil record was more fully discovered) has only gotten worse. Thus the name of the book Lizzie — Darwin’s Doubt.

  8. 8
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: All of the major differences between the animal groups appeared at the very beginning; …

    We grasped the point fine. You’re saying there are no “major differences” between humans and other chordates.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....terrae.JPG

    We do see the family resemblance, but if you look closely, there are some slight differences.

    As we go back towards the divergence of the various phyla, the forms more and more resemble one another. Molecular evidence has been particularly helpful in determining the steps involved.

    Barry Arrington: … therefore the major differences between the animal groups could not have been caused by divergence between the groups over time.

    There was a burst of diversification, what is called adaptive radiation, but as we go back towards the divergence of the various phyla, the forms more and more resemble one another. So, yes, the differences became greater over time.

  9. 9
    Mark Frank says:

    On the meaning of ad hominem.

    As a fallacy it means to make an irrelevant attack on someone’s character rather than address the argument. It does not mean to make an unsubstantiated attack. To accuse Meyer of not being a palaeontologist is clearly relevant to his claims about paleontology whatever opinion people may have about the justification for that comment.

  10. 10
    Box says:

    Lizzie: Meyer appears to argue that, according to “Darwinism” they should only exist at the tips of the branches!

    Well of course! Do you even have a basic understanding of the theory of evolution, branching and common descent? And how is that different than what VJTorley is saying?

    [edit:]

    Of course, the fossil record does show an overall increase in the complexity of organisms from Precambrian to Cambrian times, as Darwin expected. But the problem posed by the Burgess Shale is not the increase in complexity, but the sudden quantum leap in complexity. The jump from the simpler Precambrian organisms (further explored in the next chapters) to the radically different Cambrian forms appears to occur far too suddenly to be readily explained by the gradual activity of natural selection and random variations. Neither the Burgess Shale nor any other series of sedimentary strata known in Walcott’s day recorded a pattern of novel body plans arising gradually from a sequence of intermediates. Instead, completely unique organisms such as the bizarre arthropod Opabinia (see Fig. 2.9)—with its fifteen articulated body segments, twenty-eight gills, thirty flipper-like swimming lobes, long trunk-like proboscis, intricate nervous system, and five separate eyes12—appear fully formed in the Cambrian strata along with representatives of other fundamentally different body plans and designs of equal complexity.
    Darwin, as we know, regarded the sudden appearance of the Cambrian animals as a significant challenge to his theory.13 Where natural selection had to bridge yawning chasms from relatively simple life-forms to exquisitely complex creatures, it would require great expanses of time.14

    [Meyer, DD, Ch.2]

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark @ 9.

    It took me ten seconds to find the dictionary definition of ad hominem

    directed against a person rather than against his arguments

    This is not surprising, because, as I said, it literally means “to the person.” An attack on character is certainly a type of ad hominem, but it is not the only one.

    Again, the whole reason it is a fallacy is because it distracts from the issue — whether the argument is true or false — and focuses on something else.

    To accuse Meyer of not being a palaeontologist is clearly relevant to his claims about paleontology

    It depends on what you mean by “relevant.” Certainly it is relevant to trying to get people to discount Meyer’s arguments based on his academic background rather than on the truth or falsity of what he says. That is why an ad hominem is considered illicit Mark — it is relevant to a matter other than the truth or falsity of the other person’s argument.

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    To all of the Darwinists who are trying to redefine “ad hominem,” consider the following statement:

    We should discount everything Darwin said about paleontology because he had no formal academic credentials in paleontology.

    True or false?

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    Z @ 8:

    You’re saying there are no “major differences” between humans and other chordates.

    False. Z, here’s a hint. You can’t just make stuff up. Does it not bother you to make false claims to support your position? I think it would bother me.

  14. 14
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    Much to my astonishment, not one of the skeptics commenting on my thread took up my challenge, which was: how would you attempt to rebut Dr. Meyer’s case, in 200 words or less?

    Uh? The third comment was mine:

    “He explains perceived weaknesses in his understanding of evolutionary theory but gives no reason why design is a better alternative.”

    I could have phrased this better but you seem to have no problem interpreting it as taking up your challenge as you immediately replied:

    “You both correctly point out that in the short paragraph I quoted, Dr. Meyer doesn’t explain why Intelligent Design is a better alternative. Actually, Dr. Meyer explains this elsewhere in his book, but I can sum it up in two words: causal adequacy.”

    As the challenge only asked us to address the quote I cannot see how you can claim no one took up the challenge. (Even Jim Smith, an ID supporter, recognised the problem in the quote.) If you had challenged us to rebut the whole book in less than 200 words that would indeed be a a challenge.

    UDEditors: And even more astonishing is Mark’s apparent belief that the “third comment” he links to somehow responds to Dr. Torley’s challenge.

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    Z @ 8:

    There was a burst of diversification, what is called adaptive radiation, but as we go back towards the divergence of the various phyla, the forms more and more resemble one another. So, yes, the differences became greater over time.

    Again, you don’t seem to grasp the point of the OP.

    No one disputes that there has been divergence over time within phyla. You are knocking down a straw man.

    The issue is this: There are major differences between phyla at the very beginning. That’s why they call them phyla Z. Duh.

    The conundrum that everyone recognizes from Darwin right on down to the present day (see the quotes of modern scientists in the OP) is that the differences between the phyla appear at the beginning. Well, I should say, that everyone recognizes that conundrum expect apparently you.

    Now, I will try one more time. The problem to be addressed is “how did the major differences between the various phyla arise at the very beginning.” Now, explain for the class how your assertion that “there has been divergence within the various phyla” does not even address that problem, far less solve it.

  16. 16

    Barry:

    Ad hominem: Meyer must be wrong because he is not a palaeontologist.

    Not Ad hominem: Meyer is wrong; this may be because he is not a palaeontologist.

    Non-palaeontologists can be right about palaeontology. Meyer isn’t one of them.

  17. 17

    Barry:

    There are major differences between phyla at the very beginning. That’s why they call them phyla Z. Duh.

    What?

  18. 18
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: False.

    Here is your statement: “All of the major differences between the animal groups appeared at the very beginning”. A direct reading of your statement is that there are no major differences between humans, hagfish, and bats. We’ll take your following statement as a clarification.

    Barry Arrington: The conundrum that everyone recognizes from Darwin right on down to the present day (see the quotes of modern scientists in the OP) is that the differences between the phyla appear at the beginning.

    Of course. That’s what is meant by divergence. A division in lineage occurs, and the branches go in different directions. When flowers evolved, it led to diversification into the new niches afforded by the change. You could say “All of the major differences between flowering and non-flowering plants appeared at the very beginning” of the divergence of flowers, but if that is your claim, it’s a tautology. The change that led to flowers led to flowers.

    Barry Arrington: The problem to be addressed is “how did the major differences between the various phyla arise at the very beginning.”

    Phyla are a rather arbitrary distinction in terms of evolution. A better formed question would be to ask the origin of bauplans. Molecular studies have traced the origin of what is sometimes called a genetic toolbox, a process that didn’t take place all at once, but through stepwise change. (There may have also been environmental changes that spurred the ensuing radiation.) Once in place, it led to experimentation with different body plans, followed by a winnowing process.

  19. 19
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    Barry somehow thinks that my comment was not a response to your challenge. In the name of sanity please correct him. After all it was a concise version of the point Jim Smith made and you yourself not only treated it as a response to your challenge but accepted the criticism was correct with respect to that quote.

  20. 20
    bornagain77 says:

    Darwin’s Doubt narrated by Paul Giem – The Origin of Body Plans – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....page#t=290

    Body Plans Are Not Mapped-Out by the DNA – Jonathan Wells – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meR8Hk5q_EM

    The insurmountable problem of ‘form/shape’ for neo-Darwinian explanations has now been demonstrated by a few different methods. (May 2015)
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-563822

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    Z @ 18.

    I tried very hard. It is difficult to know whether you are too stupid to understand the issue, or if you understand it well enough and deflect nevertheless.

    Statements like this “Phyla are a rather arbitrary distinction in terms of evolution” make it clear that you have no interest in a rational discussion.

  22. 22
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: Statements like this “Phyla are a rather arbitrary distinction in terms of evolution” make it clear that you have no interest in a rational discussion.

    Definition based on genetic relation… Definition based on body plan …
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylum

    Phylogenetically, a phylum is an arbitrary grouping. We might call chordates a phylum, but if we changed our level of classification to deuterostomes or vertebraates, it wouldn’t change the genetic relationships.

    Returning to your original statement, of course, the major differences between phyla occurred early, then they diversified from there.

  23. 23

    Barry:

    [An Ad hominem attack] consists of any attack on the other person instead of the argument he made. It is not limited to attacks on character.

    Most definitions refer to character. A few do not.

    Wikipedia: “Responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments.”

    Dictionary.com: “Attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.”

    Meriam webster: “Marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.”

    The Free Dictionary.com: “Attacking a person’s character or motivations rather than a position or argument.”

    Your Dictionary: Attacking the character, motives, etc. of an opponent rather than debating the issue on logical grounds.

    English Dictionary: “Directed against a person rather than against his arguments.”

    MacMillan: “Criticizing a person’s character instead of what they are saying.”

    American Heritage: “Attacking a person’s character or motivations rather than a position or argument.”

    Oxford Dictionaries: (Of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

    At any rate, Barry, your contention is grossly hypocritical, as your responses often resort to insults and personal characterizations.

  24. 24
    Barry Arrington says:

    Phylogenetically, a phylum is an arbitrary grouping.

    Stop it Z. Seriously. It is embarrassing.

  25. 25
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: Seriously.

    That’s easy to resolve. Please provide a scientific definition of phylum for the purpose of this discussion.

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Without delving on the points and tactics above, AmHD:

    >>char·ac·ter (k?r??k-t?r)
    n.
    1.
    a. The combination of mental characteristics and behavior that distinguishes a person or group. See Synonyms at disposition.>>

    Character includes then things like qualifications and other important circumstances of life and mind.

    In the case of Dr Meyer, he is not a paleontologist but is qualified as a philosopher of science specialising in origins and with linked knowledge of the history of science.

    To dismissively say to/of such he is not a paleontologist is to disparage the man and his relevant qualifications.

    To attack the man rather than address the merits of the case is to be irrelevant, and it is clearly an ad hominem.

    KF

  27. 27
    Barry Arrington says:

    Z @ 25.

    Once it has become clear that you have no interest in a good faith discussion, it would be foolish to continue it. This discussion is closed.

    There has been some benefit from the discussion. You are living proof that even though certain advice was given 3,000 years ago, it remains vitally relevant to this day:

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    Proverbs 26:4

    I would put it in more earthy terms:

    Once a person has shown you his ass, turn away unless you want to see more of his ass.

  28. 28

    Barry:

    Statements like this “Phyla are a rather arbitrary distinction in terms of evolution” make it clear that you have no interest in a rational discussion.

    Frankly, Barry, the fact that you think so rather make it clear that you are not.

    If IDists want to poke sticks at an over-simplified toy model of evolution that is not just over-simple, but plain wrong in many respects, then they are welcome, but they shouldn’t then expect their critiques to be taken seriously.

    On the other hand if you are actually interested in the vast body of knowledge and theory, underpinned by a vast body of data, then at least make an effort to listen when people try to explain some of the basics.

    Such as the absolutely basic point that groupings like “phyla” and “family” etc, are, in fact arbitrary. IF the data form a tree (and they do) and IF that tree is the result of populations branching off from other populations constant, which is what you’d expect under Common Descent and which the data support, and IF some of those branches go extinct quite quickly while other diversify hugely and are extant today, THEN, deciding to call a particular set of branches “phyla” is, indeed, arbitrary. Think of an actual tree – say an oak. If there is a fork at 5 feet, and one of those branches forms another fork 3 feet further up, while the other forms a fork 6 feet further up, are they all “phyla”? Are the first three “phyla”? Or only the first two?

    Because that’s the pattern of data we observe (using phylogenetics) and that’s what Common Descent predicts: continuous change, and constant branching.

    ID has a perfectly good project. It would be fascinating to find that Nature was guided by a Mind.

    But you won’t find that it is by refusing to take the science of evolution seriously, and Meyer won’t do it by failing to get some basic palaeontology right.

    And it won’t be found on UD if, having invited people to write guest posts putting an alternative point of view, you then delete their entire user record, including all their posts, without explanation.

    I’m outta here.

  29. 29

    Barry is worried about ad hominem attacks. I noted:

    At any rate, Barry, your contention is grossly hypocritical, as your responses often resort to insults and personal characterizations.

    As if on cue, Barry says to Zachriel:

    There has been some benefit from the discussion. You are living proof that even though certain advice was given 3,000 years ago, it remains vitally relevant to this day:

    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

    Proverbs 26:4

    I would put it in more earthy terms:

    Once a person has shown you his ass, turn away unless you want to see more of his ass.

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    Liddle:

    Such as the absolutely basic point that groupings like “phyla” and “family” etc, are, in fact arbitrary.

    That statement proves that you do not know what “arbitrary” means or you do not know what “phyla” means, or both. Based on my history with you it would be pointless to try to educate you.

    I am content with the record as it stands. For example, you think you can get away with saying mutually exclusive things in the same thread. See above. The readers can judge whether any assertion you make is credible.

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    Bill at 29. Again, you don’t seem to know what “ad hominem” means. In the comment you quote I am not attacking Zachriel’s argument. I am not making a counter argument of any kind. I am observing that he is a fool and that it is therefore pointless to argue with him. Try harder Bill.

  32. 32

    Barry:

    Try harder Bill.

    No need. You’re doing all the work for me.

  33. 33
    Box says:

    Reciprocating Bill: No need. You’re doing all the work for me.

    Translation: I’ve got nothing.

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    Reciprocating Bill

    At any rate, Barry, your contention is grossly hypocritical, as your responses often resort to insults and personal characterizations.

    I will be happy to explain why this is not the case. Barry is not presenting an “ad-hominem argument.” His harsh rebuke is a response to an irrational and frustrating attempt to avoid argument. It is not meant to suffice as or substitute for an argument. By contrast, an ad-hominem argument is one that is based on a personal attack.

  35. 35
    sean samis says:

    Elizabeth,

    Congratulations! If they bother to name a thread after you, that is a great complement to you, no matter how dark their comments get.

    sean s.

  36. 36
    velikovskys says:

    Stephen B:

    Barry is not presenting an “ad-hominem argument.” His harsh rebuke is a response to an irrational and frustrating attempt to avoid argument.

    “I tried very hard. It is difficult to know whether you are too stupid to understand the issue, or if you understand it well enough and deflect nevertheless.”

  37. 37
    Silver Asiatic says:

    EL

    ID has a perfectly good project. It would be fascinating to find that Nature was guided by a Mind.

    But you won’t find that it is by refusing to take the science of evolution seriously, and Meyer won’t do it by failing to get some basic palaeontology right.

    And it won’t be found on UD if, having invited people to write guest posts putting an alternative point of view, you then delete their entire user record, including all their posts, without explanation.

    I’m outta here.

    Apparently, you don’t think Meyer takes evolution seriously. There are a number of scientists who have said otherwise.

    In any case, I think the door is open if you want to return.

  38. 38
    Box says:

    Stephen Meyer on “phyla”:

    The term “phyla” (singular: “phylum”) refers to divisions in the biological classification system. The phyla constitute the highest (or widest) categories of biological classification in the animal kingdom, with each exhibiting a unique architecture, organizational blueprint, or structural body plan. Familiar examples of phyla are cnidarians (corals and jellyfish), mollusks (squid and clams), echinoderms (sea stars and sea urchins), arthropods (trilobites and insects), and the chordates, to which all vertebrates including humans belong.
    The animals within each phylum exhibit distinguishing features that enable taxonomists to divide and group them further into other, progressively smaller divisions, beginning with classes and orders, and eventually coming to families, genera, and individual species. The broadest and highest categories within the animal kingdom—such as phyla and classes—designate the major categories of animal life, typically designating unique body plans. Lower taxonomic categories—like genus and species—designate smaller degrees of difference among organisms that typically exemplify similar overall ways of organizing their body parts and structures.
    Throughout the book I will use these conventional categories of classification, as do most Cambrian paleontologists. Nevertheless, I am aware that some paleontologists and systematists (experts in classification) today prefer “phylogenetic classification,” a method that often uses a “rank-free” classification scheme.6 Advocates of modern phylogenetic classification argue that the traditional classification system lacks objective criteria by which to decide whether a certain group of organisms should be assigned a particular rank of, for example, phylum or class or order.7 Proponents of rank-free classification attempt to eliminate subjectivity in classification (and ranking) by grouping together animals that are thought, based upon studies of similar molecules in different groups, to share a common ancestor. This method of classification treats groups that emerge at roughly the same time on the tree of life as equivalent. Nevertheless, even proponents of phylogenetic classification often use the conventional taxonomic categories in their technical discussions of specific organisms because of their common scientific usage. So despite my own sympathy with some of the concerns of rank-free advocates (see below), I have chosen to do the same.
    [S.Meyer, DD, Ch.2]

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    There are major differences between phyla at the very beginning. That’s why they call them phyla Z.

    hehehe. But Barry, if we had been alive back then we would not have called them phyla, we would have called them species.

    Actually, no. The anti Darwin’s Doubt crown fails again.

    If we had been around back then, faced with the evidence, there would not have been any theory of evolution. lol

  40. 40
    Mapou says:

    vjtorley:

    In other words, the morphological distances — gaps — between body plans of crown phyla were present when body fossils first appeared during the explosion and have been with us ever since.

    Why do I not see anybody in the Darwinist camp attempt to refute vjtorley’s argument?

    Here’s my opinion. It is a devastating argument from a master debater. It is a merciless knockout blow from an accomplished “pugilist”. I have to avert my eyes. It’s too painful to watch. 😀

  41. 41
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    On the other hand if you are actually interested in the vast body of knowledge and theory, underpinned by a vast body of data, then at least make an effort to listen when people try to explain some of the basics.

    For such a simple theory. Really?

  42. 42
    Zachriel says:

    Box (quoting): The phyla constitute the highest (or widest) categories of biological classification in the animal kingdom, with each exhibiting a unique architecture, organizational blueprint, or structural body plan.

    Except for those higher and wider categories. Above the phylum chordata, we have the superphylum deuterostomia, the unranked bilateria, and the subkingdom eumetazoa. Of course, there are many other unranked divisions, as expected from a branching process.

    Box (quoting): Advocates of modern phylogenetic classification argue that the traditional classification system lacks objective criteria by which to decide whether a certain group of organisms should be assigned a particular rank of, for example, phylum or class or order.

    There’s nothing wrong with using the traditional nomenclature, as long as one realizes the ranking is somewhat arbitrary.

  43. 43
    Barry Arrington says:

    Barry @ 2:

    Elizabeth Liddle also has problems keeping track of the sewage she spills into the UD combox, sometimes contradicting herself in the same thread:

    EXHIBIT A:

    EL @ comment 10 of prior post:

    But he [i.e., Meyer] is no palaeontologist, and apparently doesn’t see that as a problem. It is though . . .

    EL @ comment 43 of same post:

    I do not criticise Meyer because he is not a qualified palaeontologist. I don’t even criticise him because he, not being a qualified palaeontologist, writes a book on the palaeontology.

    Elizabeth responds:

    Barry, those two statements are perfectly consistent. Read them again.

    Barry replies to Elizabeth:

    OK; I read them again, including what followed each. In the first you criticized Meyer for not being palaeontologist. In the second you claim you never criticized Meyer for not being a palaeontologist. And in this comment you claim those two statements are “perfectly consistent.” Lizzie, get help.

    Elizabeth’s last word:

    I’m outta here.

    Barry’s helpful translation from Darwinese: “I got caught. Then I got caught again when I doubled down. I will never admit I was wrong to do what I did, but it is too embarrassing to stay. I will slink back over to my echo chamber where they will cheer me on no matter what I say, even if it contradicts something I just said.

  44. 44
    Zachriel says:

    vjtorley: In other words, the morphological distances — gaps — between body plans of crown phyla were present when body fossils first appeared during the explosion and have been with us ever since.

    That assumes that hagfish and humans, both from the phylum chordata, have the same body plan.

    In any case, not only does the molecular evidence argue against that statement, but Kimberella represents a primitive triploblastic bilaterian from the precambrian, probably a protostome, meaning that deuterostomes and protostomes had already split by that period.

  45. 45
    bornagain77 says:

    Zachriel you tried that same molecular evidence and Kimberella (small shelly) bit on the other thread and you were refuted:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-564142

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-564173

  46. 46
    Box says:

    Zachriel, is there a point to what you’ve written beyond avoiding the argument presented in the OP?

  47. 47
    Mapou says:

    Dr. Stephen C. Meyer is a major thorn on the side of the Darwinists, that’s for sure. No wonder they’re so up in arms and foaming at the mouth about Darwin’s Doubt. It’s a painful kick in their arses which is being heard and felt around the world. How long can this asymmetrical warfare last? LOL.

  48. 48
    Axel says:

    I’d love to see that other uber sophist have an argument with EL: the one with the strange two-word name, ‘Darwin (something), I believe. I think he was a philosophy lecturer or professor, but said he no longer had to time for forum discussions.

    It would be hilarious to hear such an argument. I believe I heard him adduce his belief in ’emergentism’, and since EL has admitted that would be a synonym for magic …

    I’m sure he’d have an answer of some kind. It would beat Mayweather v Paquaio into a cocked hat. Though the novelty of being on the right side of an argument might actually ‘throw’ her, cause her to lose confidence in her Byzantine skills.

  49. 49
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    IF the data form a tree (and they do) and IF that tree is the result of populations branching off from other populations constant, which is what you’d expect under Common Descent and which the data support, and IF some of those branches go extinct quite quickly while other diversify hugely and are extant today, THEN, deciding to call a particular set of branches “phyla” is, indeed, arbitrary.

    Sadly irrelevant. There were no trees in the Cambrian, arbitrary or otherwise. And that’s the point of the OP, which we’re still waiting for some one to address.

  50. 50
    Mung says:

    Zachriel:

    That assumes that hagfish and humans, both from the phylum chordata, have the same body plan.

    LoL!

    Now we have humans and hagfish in the Cambrian!

    Or not.

  51. 51
    Mapou says:

    Mung @50,

    What Zachriel is saying is that the human body plan (and, by evolutionary association, the primate body plan as well) did not exist in the Cambrian. Therefore what? Well, therefore Darwinian evolution is correct and Torley’s argument is refuted. It’s simple, really. We just need to understand the lingo. But then again, we all know that Zachriel is an experienced weaver of lies and deception.

  52. 52
    Zachriel says:

    bornagain77: you tried that same molecular evidence and Kimberella

    Don’t see where Kimberella has been refuted.

    Box: is there a point to what you’ve written beyond avoiding the argument presented in the OP?

    See #44.

    Mung: There were no trees in the Cambrian, arbitrary or otherwise.

    Modern genomics has resolved many of the relationships. See Edgecombe et al., Higher-level metazoan relationships: recent progress and remaining questions; Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 2011.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    velikovskys @36

    Apparently, you still do not understand the meaning of an ad-hominem argument even after I went out of my way to explain it. Let me try another way:

    If I were to say that your non-response to my explanation was vacuous, dull-witted, and simple-minded, that would not be an “ad-hominem” argument. It would simply be a well deserved insult.

  54. 54
    Box says:

    Zachriel: See Edgecombe et al., Higher-level metazoan relationships

    You’ve got nothing that would come as surprise to Meyer. As has been pointed out to you before, in ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ Meyer quotes multiple times from the paper by Edgecombe et al and also uses a diagram of ‘the canonical tree of the Metazoa’ from their paper.

  55. 55
    bornagain77 says:

    Zach:

    Current Biology Paper’s Assumptions and Methodology Dramatically Underestimate “Rates of Change” in the Cambrian Explosion – Casey Luskin – October 31, 2013
    Excerpt: According to the paper, they dated the beginning of panarthropoda at 556.6 Ma. Why did they choose this date? Is it because we have fossils of organisms thought to belong to panarthropoda from that date? No, it isn’t. We don’t have fossils potentially belonging to panarthropoda from that far back. Rather, they chose that date because that’s when the first potential bilaterian fossil, Kimberella, is found, and this therefore places a lower-constraint on the origin of panarthropoda back to that time.
    So what was Kimberella? Was it anything like an arthropod? Nope. It’s an enigmatic creature which if anything was more like a mollusk. Stephen Meyer explains Kimberella in Darwin’s Doubt:

    “The fourth group is the fossils of what may be primitive mollusks, a possibility that received support from a recent discovery in the cliff s along the White Sea in northwestern Russia. There, Russian scientists have discovered thirty-five distinctive specimens of a possible mollusk called Kimberella, probably a simple animal form. These new White Sea specimens, dated to 550 million years ago, suggest that Kimberella “had a strong [though not hard], limpet-like shell, crept along the sea floor, and resembled a mollusk.” (p. 81)

    However, paleontologists have recognized that the placement of Kimberella within mollusks is not clear-cut. As Budd and Jensen write:

    “Kimberella does not possess any unequivocal derived molluscan features, and its assignment to the Mollusca or even the Bilateria must be considered to be unproven.”
    (Budd, Graham E., and Sören Jensen, “A Critical Reappraisal of the Fossil Record of the Bilaterian Phyla,” Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 75 (2000): 253-95.)

    So if Kimberella is not a member of panarthropoda, and not anything like an arthropod, why did the authors take it as the starting point for their calculations of evolutionary rates of arthropods?
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....78581.html

    Of note; wikipedia has Kimberella classified with Small Shelly fauna

    Small Shelly Fauna
    Dickinsonia[19] Halkieria sclerites[20]
    Kimberella[21] Helcionellids[22]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ralization

    And yet, while Small Shelly fossils have been used to attack Darwin’s Doubt, in the literature leading paleontologists themselves admit that Small Shelly fossils are of dubious interpretation. Marshall himself stated that small shellys are “largely problematic fossils” that are “hard to diagnose, even at the phylum level.”

    Small Shelly Fossils, and the Length of the Cambrian Explosion – Casey Luskin – October 23, 2013
    Excerpt: as Marshall’s own technical writing has made clear. For example, in a 2006 paper in Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Marshall acknowledges that these fossils are of unclear evolutionary affinities and importance. He calls them “largely problematic fossils” that are “hard to diagnose, even at the phylum level.”2 Figure 1 of his paper portrays them as apparently disconnected to the later radiation of Cambrian animals. This impression is reinforced in the text of his article where he notes that the small shelly fossils for the most part are “problematic” organisms of unknown classification:,,,

    Other authorities agree that these small shelly fossils [SSFs] are of unclear evolutionary significance and affinity. In his book On the Origin of Phyla, James Valentine argues that the SSFs “are very difficult indeed to interpret.”4 Valentine’s 2013 book, The Cambrian Explosion, co-written with Douglas Erwin, notes that “many SSFs are still poorly understood.”5 Simon Conway Morris found them so unimportant that he does not mention them in either of his authoritative books on the Cambrian explosion (Crucible of Creation or Life’s Solution).

    Nevertheless, Marshall faults Meyer for failing to mention the SSFs and claims this alleged oversight resulted in his understating the length of the Cambrian explosion:

    Meyer completely omits mention of the Early Cambrian small shelly fossils and misunderstands the nuances of molecular phylogenetics, both of which cause him to exaggerate the apparent suddenness of the Cambrian explosion.

    Now Marshall never mentions any specific errors in Meyer’s treatment of molecular phylogenetics so we must await his further critique on that subject. But what about the claim that Darwin’s Doubt exaggerated the brevity of the Cambrian explosion? Should Meyer have included the appearance of the early Cambrian small shelly fossils as part of the explosion when he estimated the length of that event? Not according to a very recent paper by Marshall himself. In 2010, Marshall co-wrote with James Valentine in the journal Evolution (emphases added):

    By the beginning of the Cambrian Period, near 543 million years ago, a few kinds of “small shelly” fossils are found, <2mm in largest dimension. The small shellys rose to a peak in abundance and diversity during the period from 530 to 520 million years ago, when representatives of living phyla are found among them. During that same period, a chiefly larger-bodied invertebrate fauna of up to a dozen phyla, and including many soft-bodied forms, is also first represented by fossils. This geologically abrupt appearance of fossils representing quite disparate bodyplans of many living metazoan phyla is termed the Cambrian explosion…6

    Let's unpack the construction of this paragraph, in which Marshall explains the length of the Cambrian explosion in relation to the small shelly fossils. Starting at the end of the quote, Marshall and Valentine equate "the Cambrian explosion" with the "geologically abrupt appearance of fossils representing quite disparate body plans." They further identify this period with "that same period" wherein "a chiefly larger-bodied invertebrate fauna of up to a dozen phyla, and including many soft-bodied forms, is also first represented by fossils." Marshall and Valentine also equate that period of time with "the period from 530 to 520 million years ago" and distinguish it from the earlier time in which the first small shelly fossils arose. Thus, according to Marshall — in a co-authored technical paper written in 2010 — the Cambrian explosion does not begin with the first appearance of the small shelly fossils 543 million years ago, or during the earliest part of the Cambrian period. Rather, he and fellow paleontologist James Valentine affirm that the explosion begins about 530 million years ago and lasted to about 520 million years — a date consistent with what Valentine has written elsewhere, including in his recent book with Erwin that Marshall cites approvingly in his review of Meyer.7

    Thus, by Marshall's own admission, (a) the appearance of small shelly fossils around 543 million years ago does not mark the beginning of the Cambrian explosion, and (b) the Cambrian explosion should be dated to 530 to 520 million years when we see the "abrupt appearance" of many disparate body plans, long after the small shellies appear. This means that Marshall has acknowledged in print that the "Cambrian explosion" itself lasted only about 10 million years — just as Meyer affirmed in Darwin's Doubt. Indeed, Marshall and Valentine affirm that SSFs appear long before the primary explosive radiation of Cambrian animals and they affirm a 10-million year duration for the Cambrian explosion. In response to Nick Matzke (see here), I documented many scientific papers written by other Cambrian experts that also assign an approximately 10 million year period for the main pulse of morphological innovation that paleontologists typically call the Cambrian explosion.8 So here again we see one of Meyer's critics criticizing Meyer for holding a position9 about a factual matter that leading Cambrian paleontologists also hold — in this case, a position that Marshall himself has sometimes publicly affirmed.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....78261.html

  56. 56
    Mung says:

    Zachriel: Modern genomics has resolved many of the relationships.

    So? They got DNA from Cambrian animals?

    According to your modern genomics, how long did the Cambrian explosion last?

  57. 57
    ppolish says:

    “Don’t see where Kimberella has been refuted.”

    You really should read “Darwin’s Doubt”, Zach. It’s even worth a reread. Dr Meyer early on discusses Kimberella (Chapter 4 “The NOT Missing Fossils”). And Spriggina & Charnia & Dickinsonia (named after Dawkins btw).

    Conclusion? The Ediacaran offers its own challenge to NS & RM, but pales in comparision to the challenge of the Cambrian. Boom.

  58. 58
    Zachriel says:

    bornagain77: So what was Kimberella?

    Nearly a thousand fossils at various stages of development have now been found. Kimberella is almost certainly a bilaterian and most probably a protostome. That means the diversification of metazoa started before the earliest Kimberella.

    Mung: They got DNA from Cambrian animals?

    Molecular studies of extant organisms allows the determination of branching order due to the nested hierarchy. Perhaps we forgot the citation. See Edgecombe et al., Higher-level metazoan relationships: recent progress and remaining questions; Organisms, Diversity & Evolution 2011.

    ppolish: You really should read “Darwin’s Doubt”

    What about “Darwin’s Doubt” sheds light on the fact that animal diversification predates the Cambrian? Everything we have seen is ID of the Gaps, then when a gap is filled in, creates two new gaps.

  59. 59
    eigenstate says:

    You really should read “Darwin’s Doubt”, Zach. It’s even worth a reread. Dr Meyer early on discusses Kimberella (Chapter 4 “The NOT Missing Fossils”). And Spriggina & Charnia & Dickinsonia (named after Dawkins btw).

    Conclusion? The Ediacaran offers its own challenge to NS & RM, but pales in comparision to the challenge of the Cambrian. Boom.

    If there is scientific evidence and analysis to go with the rhetoric and lawyering that Meyer offers, that would seriously earn a major slot as an article in a prestigious journal. It would be a big deal.

    I’m not holding my breath any more than you are waiting for that, as we know the evidence for such does match the claim.

    Here’s an example from Darwin’s Doubt that shows Meyer’s intellectual dishonest that runs through his book on the Kimberella, issue:

    The fourth group is the fossils of what may be primitive mollusks, a possibility that received support from a recent discovery in the cliffs along the White Sea in northwestern Russia. There, Russian scientists have discovered thirty-five distinctive specimens of a possible mollusk called Kimberella, probably a simple animal form. These new White Sea specimens, dated to 550 million years ago, suggest that Kimberella “had a strong [though not hard], limpet-like shell, crept along the sea floor, and resembled a mollusk.” 3 Paleontologist Douglas Erwin, of the Smithsonian Institution, has commented: “It’s the first animal that you can convincingly demonstrate is more complicated than a flatworm.” 4 Additionally, seafloor tracks from Precambrian sediments in both Canada and Australia have been attributed to mollusks, since the tracks resemble what might have been left by a row of small teeth on the tongue-like ribbon of some mollusks as they scraped food particles off the seafloor. In this case, Kimberella may well have been the track maker. 5 The authors of the original descriptive paper in Nature, Mikhail Fedonkin, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Benjamin Waggoner, then at the University of California at Berkeley, conclude as much and suggest that such creatures “began to diversify before the beginning of the Cambrian.” 6 Paleontologists, however, are still weighing the evidence. 7

    Meyer, Stephen C. (2013-06-18). Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (Kindle Locations 1523-1537). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

    (emphasis mine)

    I don’t have the hard copy of the book, just the electronic edition so no page numbers, just ebook locations — it’s hard to enough to justify the more modest price of the Kindle version going to this guy, no matter how the author commissions are structured between e-books and print).

    He can’t just completely ignore Kimberella without looking even more foolish. So he notes what the science has concluded — that Kimberella is not only a complex bilaterian, but a mollusk, and far, far earlier in the timeline than his argument, already squeezed beyond credibility can allow. This is rank dishonesty and deception offered to his reader. He’s certainly smart enough to know that experts in this area will see that on a first reading. He must just adopt the creationist hope that he sounds credible and trustworthy enough and that the faithful credulous will dismiss the grounded accusations of legerdemain on this topic.

    This is not how honest scholars operate. Meyer may have (religious or other) reasons to doubt the Kimberella as mollusk conclusion, a conclusion that pushes deuterostome-protostome divergence point *way* earlier than was previously thought. But such a view would have to identified as at odds with consensus in the field, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, a fact that substantially undercuts the fundamental thesis of the book, if true.

    Instead, Meyer says “Paleontologists, however, are still weighing the evidence.” Pathetic. It requires the reader to have a pretty strong background in the area to identify the factual misrepresentation, and doesn’t even mention the ramifications implied by his allowance that Kimberella “may well have been the track maker”.

    If you read any amount of scientific articles on this stuff, that kind of move sticks out conspicuously. Scientists are, if anything, overly fastidious about such qualifications and go out of there way to clarify the falsifying and nullifying impacts of questions that aren’t settled or may “go the other way”. In science, though, this just means following the method — replace a weaker model with a better one. Meyer is an apologist with a PhD, though, and so this is what you get. A veiled reference to the data already in hand that falsifies his thesis about the Cambrian, without any recognition or mention of what that data means for his thesis.

    I’ve read the book twice now, and so am happy to discuss more. The passage I quoted is the only place in the book (outside of the bibliography/footnotes) where he refers to Kimberella so this is not a matter of “leaving” out the later (or earlier) passage from the book where he deals with this subject in a more forthright way.

    If you think you can pull out a “refutation” I’d be quite interested to hear how you think that works. Is it as simple as waving your hands, like Meyer, and suggesting “Paleontologists, however, are still weighing the evidence”???

  60. 60
    Mapou says:

    Eigenstate @59,

    Instead of weaving your way around the truth and acting like a fool, why don’t you address the OP’s argument? You know, the article at the top of the page? It is a really straightforward argument. It simply says that the gaps between major phyla did not get wider over the eons as Darwinian evolution predicted. Anything else is an attempt on your part to score brownie points from your fellow cult members (and other dufuses) over at antievolution.org.

  61. 61
    bornagain77 says:

    Zachriel, Kimberella, along with other small shellys, are of dubious interpretation and are not, as much as you may wish to the contrary, ‘almost certainly a bilaterian’:

    “Kimberella does not possess any unequivocal derived molluscan features, and its assignment to the Mollusca or even the Bilateria must be considered to be unproven.”
    (Budd, Graham E., and Sören Jensen, “A Critical Reappraisal of the Fossil Record of the Bilaterian Phyla,” Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 75 (2000): 253-95.)

    Moreover, as Luskin pointed out, if Kimberella helped any phylum at all it would be the mollusk phylum

    “It’s an enigmatic creature which if anything was more like a mollusk.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....78581.html

    So that would still leave you with 24 or so other phyla unaccounted for.

    Are you so desperate for any support whatsoever for your atheistic worldview that you are willing to ignore the enormity of the problem that the Cambrian presents for neo-Darwinian processes?

    Which brings us back to the most important question of all. Where did all the information come from for all these different phyla?

    The math simply does not work out for neo-Darwinian processes for even ‘simple’ novel proteins, changing one protein into another protein, and for protein-protein binding sites, (Axe, Gauger, Behe), no matter how long you make the waiting time!

    Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 12 – Complex Adaptations and the Neo-Darwinian Math – Dr. Paul Giem – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....38;index=7

    “Shared Evolutionary History or Shared Design?” – Ann Gauger – January 1, 2015
    Excerpt: The waiting time required to achieve four mutations is 10^15 years. That’s longer than the age of the universe. The real waiting time is likely to be much greater, since the two most likely candidate enzymes failed to be coopted by double mutations.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....92291.html

    When Theory and Experiment Collide — April 16th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Based on our experimental observations and on calculations we made using a published population model [3], we estimated that Darwin’s mechanism would need a truly staggering amount of time—a trillion trillion years or more—to accomplish the seemingly subtle change in enzyme function that we studied.
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....t-collide/

    Waiting Longer for Two Mutations – Michael J. Behe
    Excerpt: Citing malaria literature sources (White 2004) I had noted that the de novo appearance of chloroquine resistance in Plasmodium falciparum was an event of probability of 1 in 10^20. I then wrote that ‘for humans to achieve a mutation like this by chance, we would have to wait 100 million times 10 million years’ (1 quadrillion years)(Behe 2007) (because that is the extrapolated time that it would take to produce 10^20 humans). Durrett and Schmidt (2008, p. 1507) retort that my number ‘is 5 million times larger than the calculation we have just given’ using their model (which nonetheless “using their model” gives a prohibitively long waiting time of 216 million years). Their criticism compares apples to oranges. My figure of 10^20 is an empirical statistic from the literature; it is not, as their calculation is, a theoretical estimate from a population genetics model.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/9461

    Of note: although Dr. Behe had been mercilessly vilified by neo-Darwinists for daring to suggest that there could possibly be an ‘Edge’ to evolution (i.e. possibly be a limit to what Darwinian processes could be expected to accomplish), Dr. Behe’s was vindicated and his 10^20 number was recently verified in the lab.

    The Vindication of Michael Behe – podcast/video – 2014
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itkxFbyzyro

    Moreover, body plans are not even reducible to mutations in DNA as is presupposed in neo-Darwinism:

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins and Information for Body Plans – video
    https://vimeo.com/91322260

    Dr. Stephen Meyer comments at the end of the preceding video,,,
    ‘Now one more problem as far as the generation of information. It turns out that you don’t only need information to build genes and proteins, it turns out to build Body-Plans you need higher levels of information; Higher order assembly instructions. DNA codes for the building of proteins, but proteins must be arranged into distinctive circuitry to form distinctive cell types. Cell types have to be arranged into tissues. Tissues have to be arranged into organs. Organs and tissues must be specifically arranged to generate whole new Body-Plans, distinctive arrangements of those body parts. We now know that DNA alone is not responsible for those higher orders of organization. DNA codes for proteins, but by itself it does not insure that proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, will all be arranged in the body. And what that means is that the Body-Plan morphogenesis, as it is called, depends upon information that is not encoded on DNA. Which means you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter, because in the best case you are just going to find a new protein some place out there in that vast combinatorial sequence space. You are not, by mutating DNA alone, going to generate higher order structures that are necessary to building a body plan. So what we can conclude from that is that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is grossly inadequate to explain the origin of information necessary to build new genes and proteins, and it is also grossly inadequate to explain the origination of novel biological form.’
    Stephen Meyer – (excerpt taken from Meyer/Sternberg vs. Shermer/Prothero debate – 2009)

    “This book has presented four separate scientific critiques demonstrating the inadequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanism, the mechanism that Dawkins assumes can produce the appearance of design without intelligent guidance. It has shown that the neo-Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the origin of genetic information because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins and, consequently, (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes, are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information necessary to build a body plan.”
    Stephen Meyer – Darwin’s Doubt – (pp. 410-411)

    Darwin’s Doubt narrated by Paul Giem – The Origin of Body Plans – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?l.....page#t=290

    Body Plans Are Not Mapped-Out by the DNA – Jonathan Wells – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meR8Hk5q_EM

    Zach, for you to point to a fossil of dubious interpretation and pretend that you have gone one inch towards ‘explaining away’ the insurmountable information problem for neo-Darwinism is, IMHO, as unscientific as a person can get.

    It is similar to pointing to a slingshot and declaring that you have now solved the problem of how to land men on the moon.

    That is how detached from reality your thinking is in this matter!

  62. 62
    ppolish says:

    “If there is scientific evidence and analysis to go with the rhetoric and lawyering that Meyer offers, that would seriously earn a major slot as an article in a prestigious journal. It would be a big deal.”

    Major slot as an article, Eigenstate? In a prestigious journal? How about a major book with a prestigious publisher. Kind of like Origin of Species. A modern day updated Origin of Species though. With current scientific evidence.

    Edit…BA77 you’re awesome in your presentation of evidence. Awesome:)

  63. 63
    eigenstate says:

    @Mapou,

    Instead of weaving your way around the truth and acting like a fool, why don’t you address the OP’s argument? You know, the article at the top of the page? It is a really straightforward argument. It simply says that the gaps between major phyla did not get wider over the eons as Darwinian evolution predicted. Anything else is an attempt on your part to score brownie points from your fellow cult members (and other dufuses) over at antievolution.org.

    I think VJT has misunderstood the point about morphological distance. Perhaps a few crude ASCII “diagrams” will help illustrate my point on this confusion.

    Body Plan A:


    --*--*--

    Body plan B, derived/evolved from A:

    >-*--*--

    Body plan C, also derived/evolved from A:

    --*--*--*--

    The ancestor A has three jointed body segments. Organisms with body plan B have a symmetrical “split” of one segment into two “proto=legs”. Organisms with body plan C has a forth jointed body segmented.

    Now: the “morphological” distance between these three types of organisms is both tiny in an absolute sense — these are small scale variations, with, for example, C being just an additional cycle (3 vs 2) in the duplication of the “source” body segment — and huge in a historical/developmental sense. That absolute distance does not change, as VJT points out; it’s the same change back (say) 520MYA as it always was. But the changes *themselves* are small. The *ramifications* of those changes are big.

    If we let evolutionary processes run across populations of these types, and these happen to be lineages that persevere and diversify over long periods of time, you will find very different looking organisms that evolve from them, including, perhaps new body plans. But while these lineages can and do diverge in their morphologies, both in relation to each other “inside the phyla”, if we suppose that B and C organism are phyla, here, the “aggregated morphological distance” grows, and the original B and C variations remain historical what they always were (of course!). It’s still a tiny change at the point of root divergence, but a divergence that resulted in huge downstream “subtrees” of evolutionary diversification.

    The mistake VJT and fellow travelers are making, is the misconception that a body plan change is somehow “bigger” as a matter of chemistry and evolutionary change than other basic changes in, say, gene expression. Put another way, and simplified for illustration purposes, if “every change is a mutation in just one base pair”, then all changes are “biological simple” (and tiny), but may have HUGE differentiating effects. One “change” may be the macro transformation of the body plan, another “change” may be completely inert, undetectable as a change in organism by any external means of examination.

    Which is just to say that “body plan changes” are not “massive accumulations of smaller changes”. They are incremental, small scale changes that happen to have large scale effects. So the simple ASCII body plans above are not “far apart”, morphologically, if large branches of the tree of life grow from them, those small changes become “huge” because of the size and scale of these branches that originated in them. We might say “morphological distance can be measured as the size of the branch that grows from it”, in one sense, all while affirming that the actual divergence at the root is a small, even quantum change.

    If that’s still not clear, consider body plan D, evolved from A:

    |
    --*--*--
    |

    If organisms of body plan D die out and go extinct quickly, they won’t represented on our graphs as phyla as B and C would in this scenario. They changes are all the same size for B, C and D, but there are no “wildly diverse descendants” to compare with descendants from B and C.

    This point focuses on VJT’s confusion in his OP with respect to his putative errors found in Dr. Liddle’s comments. I don’t read Dr. Liddle as saying what VJT assigns to her, but I’ll let Dr. Liddle speak for herself on this. For VJT’s part, though, he’s not understanding the role the “branch size” for any lineage plays in providing the basis for our understanding of “morphological distance”. The “morphological distance” vertebrates and invertebrates does not (and cannot) obtain at the point of divergence (this is a quantum in terms of evolutionary processes). Rather, the “morphological distance” obtains only insofar as that divergence resulted in diverse progeny from that divergence.

    This is a basic pedagogical problem rather than a biological issue for VJT, and any that would subscribe to this criticism.

    This point does NOT, however, address either the relative abruptness of a rich array of different body plans in a fairly narrow span of geological time, nor the absence of new animal body plans since. There are lots of competing plausible hypotheses out there, many of which are not exclusive with respect to many of the others, but the answer is “we don’t know”, and it’s matter under current investigation. If oxygen levels played a key role, cool. If it was a minor role, and a more primary role was played by the selection effects of early predators on the scene, also cool. If glaciation provided some broad array of bottlenecks that accelerated innovation, cool. Don’t know at this point, we’ll have to wait and see what further discoveries in this area reveal. It’s an area of intense investigation, and particularly with recent advances in developmental biology and molecular systematics, we are gaining much better insight into the likely timelines and lineages that occurred, which will help us handicap the likelihood of other dynamics, like environmental catalysts.

    In any case, while that’s a fascinating topic for science, it’s a fish out of water on an ID blog. It’s enough to say, science has learned this, and only this, with so much left unknown and unanswered yet. ID has no role or contribution or anything of value to contribute here, in any case. Science is what got us to the humble place we’re at, and what hard-won progress we might realize comes from science, with ID completely flaccid, religious apologetics bitching from the sidelines.

    In light of that, there is no “problem” here to address with respect to ID. ID has no competing model, no competing mechanisms, no alternative metrics or systematics. It’s got nothing to compete with what science is doing, nothing at all. So I have no trouble nodding to all the limits we have in science nonchalantly; that’s the nature of science. It’s tough, hard going, and is not only never complete or “true” in the religious abuse that word, but often goes decades being stuck without significant progress or breakthroughs. It’s not a given a that question with the faintest of hints of evidentiary signals — OOL, development of diverse bauplans in Cambrian and earlier, to name two — will ever be answered beyond merely plausible conjectures.

    The idea that any of these complaints somehow gain ID any standing of the field, though, is a non-sequitur. Any failures of shortcomings in our scientific knowledge, and these are many, do not constitute traction or credibility for ID. ID doesn’t offer or define anything to compete with science, for all science’s limitations. So I’m quite happy to speculate along with others about which hypotheses about body plan diversification 525MYA seem most plausible, but such a discussion in no way supports Meyer (and by extension, the ID community’s) claim, that such doubts or limitations somehow increase the likelihood of ID as the “best explanation by default”. Practial knowledge doesn’t work that way, that’s a superstitious epistemology.

    If ID has nothing to suggest in place of scientific theories or even to compete with highly speculative “hunches” from scientists, then there are no consequences for science for casually acknowledging the fact: “we don’t know”.

  64. 64
    Querius says:

    Elizabeth Liddle noted,

    On the other hand if you are actually interested in the vast body of knowledge and theory, underpinned by a vast body of data, then at least make an effort to listen when people try to explain some of the basics.

    How vast? 😉

    -Q

  65. 65
    eigenstate says:

    Major slot as an article, Eigenstate? In a prestigious journal? How about a major book with a prestigious publisher. Kind of like Origin of Species. A modern day updated Origin of Species though. With current scientific evidence.

    These are not remotely equivalent. Publishers and booksellers succeed on commercial profitability. There’a a big market — huge — for religious BS in America. Especially religious BS of the “science-y apologetics” genre, a kind of anaesthetic for the myriad Christians dealing with the angst of science undermining their religious traditions and superstitious intuitions. You can go all conspiracy-theory and put your victim-face on about poor persecuted theists having their religious apologetics closed out of serious academic journals, but the fact is, getting into Nature with a breakthrough like that requires serious work, and a substantial body of evidence. Writing a book takes a lot of work, granted, but it doesn’t require any of the evidence, model testing and empirical validation that a scientific breakthrough like this would require. Identifying the publisher as “prestigious” doesn’t help the author’s case even a little bit.

    This is a format where BS is agressively and mercilessly rooted out. Who wouldn’t love to lead a breakthrough like this, even if it did have religious implications (assuming here that it would)? You’d be world famous.

    There’s an old wise-ass formula for “how to become a millionaire”: the first thing you do is go get a million dollars….

    That’s a simple enough recipe, but that first step is pretty difficult. So too with a scientific advance like you contemplate here: all you gotta do is get the evidence. Well, yeah, but nature is what it is, and doesn’t cooperate just because you really want this answer or that.

    A publisher, on the other hand, is much more flexible and cooperative. The Secret Language of Birthdays a book on astrology, ranks WAY higher on Amazon’s best seller list than Darwin’s Doubt, for example: rank ~5000 for the former, ~10,000 for the latter. What more need be noted than that to dispense with this “published a popular book” response?

    ETA: punctuation

  66. 66
    Cross says:

    eigenstate @ 65

    “Who wouldn’t love to lead a breakthrough like this, even if it did have religious implications”

    I’m guessing, you wouldn’t.

    Lets see:
    “religious BS”, “religious BS of the “science-y apologetics” genre”, “kind of anaesthetic for the myriad Christians dealing with the angst of science undermining their religious traditions and superstitious intuitions”

    Don’t think you would let a divine foot in the door no matter what the evidence.

    Please don’t masquerade as open minded when you would only entertain a “materialist” answer to the Cambrian explosion.

    Cheers

  67. 67
    Querius says:

    Somehow, it seems appropriate to post this now . . .

    As he (or she) proudly steps into the arena, the crowd roars thunderously. He is dressed in a tight-fitting black outfit intricately embroidered with bright gold thread that twinkles under the burning sun, the traje de luces, the suit of lights.

    He is Darwin’s matador.

    The powerful bull charges into one end of the arena, but Darwin’s matador is unconcerned. He is prepared. He is ready. He is focused.

    As the bull comes near, Darwin’s matador catches the bull’s attention with a bright red cape and shakes it, taunting the bull:

    Darwin’s Matador: “Survival of the fittest” is not central to Darwinian theory.

    The bull charges. Darwin’s matador knows he has several moves depending on what the bull does next.

    Charging Bull: Darwin wrote about the survival of the fittest. It was central to his theory! See here, I have a quote . . .

    Darwin’s Matador: We’re talking modern evolutionary science here, past even neo-Darwinism.

    Crowd: Ole’!

    Charging Bull: If an organism doesn’t survive it doesn’t reproduce.

    Darwin’s Matador: Exactly. We are talking about reproduction, not survival.

    Crowd: Ole’

    Charging Bull: “Fittest” is a tautology.

    Darwin’s Matador: Exactly. The “fittest” changes as the environment changes.

    Crowd: Ole’

    Darwin’s Matador: Makes deprecatory comments—skillfully placing two barbed banderillas in the bull’s shoulders.

    Crowd: Ole’

    Charging Bull: But how do any new genes fare?

    Darwin’s Matador: They become part of the extensive gene pool of the organism, where they might be included in the genetic drift.

    Crowd: Ole’

    Charging Bull: But how do brand new genes, not to mention body plans, originate?

    Darwin’s Matador: Well we don’t know all the details yet, but it musta happened because we’re here!

    Charging Bull: Because “we’re here” is not exclusive.

    Darwin’s matador experiences exploding pain as one of the bull’s horns sinks deep into the matador’s groin, and the bull lofts him into the air. Again. And again.

    The crowd gasps as the other toreros immediately rush in to try to distract the bull, but they’re too late.

    As Darwin’s Matador is carried from the arena, he shouts repeatedly “I won, I won.”

    -Q

  68. 68
    Mapou says:

    eigenstate @63,

    I refuse to read all that crap. If you can’t be clear and succinct, I immediately suspect you’re spinning lies and deception. I don’t mind a long winded explanation but reducing it to a short paragraph or two should suffice. For example, I contracted VJT’s argument in a single line. An abstract is all I ask for. If you can’t do that, then I will automatically assume you’re selling crap, which you probably are.

  69. 69
    vjtorley says:

    Hi eigenstate,

    Thank you for your posts. Re Kimberalla, I’ll keep my remarks brief. If you look at the Wikipedia article, you’ll see that its status is still disputed, and I should add that in his book, Dr. Meyer quotes Erwin and Valentine as declaring that no less than 13 distinct phyla appeared over a very brief period (6 million years). You might also like to look at the ENV post, Are the Ediacarans Transitional Forms for the Cambrian Explosion? But even if the Cambrian explosion were 50 million years in duration, the problem remains: how did so many new animal body plans originate within such a geologically short period?

    You acknowledge this problem when you write that your proposal regarding the origin of body plan changes “does not address either the relative abruptness of a rich array of different body plans in a fairly narrow span of geological time, nor the absence of new animal body plans since.” Thanks for that concession, eigenstate.

    Your suggestion that body plan changes are “incremental, small scale changes that happen to have large scale effects,” where (for argument’s sake) you suppose that “every change is a mutation in just one base pair,” overlooks Dr. Meyer’s vital point that genetic changes cannot account for the evolution of new body plans. Epigenetic changes are also required. As Dr. Meyer puts it in his book:

    “In addition to the information stored in individual genes and the information present in the integrated networks of genes and proteins in dGRNs [developmental gene regulatory networks – VJT], animal forms exemplify hierarchical arrangements or layers of information-rich molecules, systems, and structures. For example, developing embryos require epigenetic information in the form of specifically arranged (a) membrane targets and patterns, (b) cytoskeletal arrays, (c) ion channels, and (d) sugar molecules on the exterior of cells (the sugar code)… Much of this information resides in the structure of the maternal egg and is inherited directly from membrane to membrane independently of DNA…
    “…This information at a higher structural level in the maternal egg helps to determine the function of both whole networks of genes and proteins (dGRNs) and individual molecules (gene products) at a lower level within a developing animal.”
    (2013, pp. 364-365)

    Your argument also assumes that evolution is a bottom-up process: low-level genetic changes cause top-level morphological changes. The thrust of Meyer’s entire argument in Darwin’s Doubtis that the Cambrian explosion must have been a top-downprocess – and many eminent paleontologists agree with him.

    Finally, you argue that it was science that uncovered the Cambrian explosion in the first place, and that ID has no competing model. But as Dr. Meyer documents in his book, the Cambrian explosion was familiar to scientists in the nineteenth century, and it was invoked even then by Darwin skeptics such as paleontologist Dr. Louis Agassiz, as evidence against the hypothesis that all living organisms arose via natural selection (or some other unguided process). Darwin himself conceded that the Cambrian explosion “may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained,” and he declared that “the difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory no doubt were somewhere accumulated before the Silurian epoch, is very great.”

    As for a competing model, here’s my hypothesis in a nutshell: intelligent terra-forming. I would expect the various phyla of animals to have been engineered as soon as the Earth’s environment was (chemically and biologically) ready to support them. If we find some animal phyla predating others, I would predict that the latter have additional chemical and ecological requirements that the former do not.

    Hope that helps.

  70. 70
    Silver Asiatic says:

    eigenstate

    There’s an old wise-ass formula for “how to become a millionaire”: the first thing you do is go get a million dollars….

    That works well for the materialist origins story.
    How do you get a universe from nothing?
    Easy – the first thing you do is get some matter, energy and physical laws. Then everything else follows from that.

  71. 71
    Mark Frank says:

    VJ

    May I draw your attention to my #14 above? I cannot understand how my comment:

    “He explains perceived weaknesses in his understanding of evolutionary theory but gives no reason why design is a better alternative.”

    cannot be construed as an attempt to rebut Dr. Meyer’s, case, in 200 words or less. Especially as you yourself admitted it was a good point.

  72. 72
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    Barry @ 11

    Wow, Barry.

    According to you, if I say “It’s important for a lawyer to swear at the judge during closing arguments”, and you say “A real lawyer would never say that”, that is an ad hominem argument.

    That’s a new low, even for you.

  73. 73
    velikovskys says:

    SB

    Apparently, you still do not understand the meaning of an ad-hominem argument even after I went out of my way to explain it.

    Thank you for doing something that makes you happy (I will be happy to explain why this is not the case.), and sorry that you went out of your way unasked.

    His harsh rebuke is a response to an irrational and frustrating attempt to avoid argument.

    So just to be clear, your position is that since there was never an actual argument by Z ,only an attempt to avoid argument by critiquing Barry’s actual words of his argument, that without an argument ,there can be no ad-hom only a justified harsh rebuke.

    Barry”

    “It is difficult to know whether you are too stupid to understand the issue

    ,or if you understand it well enough and deflect nevertheless.”

    Which brings me back to the point of my non response, Barry does not seem to be responding that Z is not making an argument, only that the argument is stupid or deceitful ( excluded middle) because the character of Z . This seems to me to be meant to suffice as or substitute for an argument why Z was incorrect in his analysis of Barry’s actual words , based on a personal attack.

    I was hoping for your help to reconcile this.

    Let me try another way:

    If I were to say that your non-response to my explanation was vacuous, dull-witted, and simple-minded, that would not be an “ad-hominem” argument. It would simply be a well deserved insult.

    Actually no problem since they were Barry’s words and your assumption.

  74. 74
    Querius says:

    Silver Asiatic @ 70,

    How do you get a universe from nothing?
    Easy – the first thing you do is get some matter, energy and physical laws. Then everything else follows from that.

    Hmmm. That’s remarkably similar to variations of how to become a millionaire. First you get two million dollars . . .

    -Q

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