Mike Dunford posted Entry 203 on May 9, 2004 01:35 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/202

In a recent news release, the Discovery Institute trumpets the results of two new surveys conducted by Arnold Steinberg & Associates. These surveys appear to follow along the same lines as an earlier Zogby International survey conducted for the DI.

In both Steinberg surveys and the Zogby survey, respondents were asked whether public school biology teachers should “Teach the scientific evidence for and against [Darwin’s theory of evolution]” or “Teach only the scientific evidence for it.” In all three polls, between seventy and eighty persent of those responding selected the first answer. This question is a very nice example of a question that is intelligently designed to produce the answer that the people commissioning the survey wanted to hear.

The pollsters did not ask whether or not those responding knew of any evidence against evolution. Instead, they asked a question that contained the presumption that such evidence exists. 1 Based on the results of their carefully worded survey, they then claim that this level of public support for teaching “both sides” means that the objections that they have to evolution should be included in public school science curricula. This, of course, adds the assumption that their objections constitute scientific evidence against evolution to the preexisting assumption that there is any such evidence.

For the record, if I was aware of any credible scientific evidence against evolution, I would support teaching about it in the public schools. However, the material that the Discovery Institute presents as evidence against evolution hardly makes the grade. The vast majority of this “evidence” appears to be derived from a single book. Scathing reviews of this book have appeared in the two leading weekly scientific journals 2,3, among other places (see here for a listing of a few of the rebuttals to Wells’ book).

In the recent news release, the Discovery Institute’s Bruce Chapman attempts to deal with that issue indirectly, when he says:

“The only way the Darwin-only lobby can spin these kind of survey results,” added Chapman, “is to claim that the public is just ignorant. But that view is untenable in light of the more than 300 scientists who have publicly expressed their dissent from Darwinism, to say nothing of the many scientific articles that have been published critiquing the theory.”

While I would not use the word “ignorant”, there is good reason to believe that the public is not as well informed on scientific issues as they could be. A 2001 National Science Foundation Survey revealed that less than half of the population is aware that electrons are smaller than atoms, less than half of the population can explain what DNA is, and only 20% can correctly explain what a molecule is. Under those circumstances it does not seem reasonable to assume, as Chapman seems to, that all (or even most) of those responding to the polls commissioned by his organization are well versed in the details of evolutionary theory.

Chapman’s reference to his list of scientists who “dissent from Darwinism” does little to support his position that there is significan evidence against evolution. For comparison, the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve currently has over 400 signatories, all of whom (have PhDs in fields related to evolution, and all of whom are named Steve.

Like Chapman, I will also “say nothing” about “the many scientific articles that have been published critiquing the theory”. There is simply nothing that can be said about those articles except for the basic fact that they don’t exist. (Unless, of course, “scientific articles” is redefined to include articles from sources outside the peer-reviewed journals.)

These latest Discovery Institute surveys are really nothing new. Like those that have gone before them, they contain the presumption that the Discovery Institute’s argument is valid. It is hardly a shock when the Discovery institute concludes as a result of these surveys that their argument really is valid. In the future, one would hope that the Discovery Institute sets a better example when it comes to scientific integrity. Perhaps they could start by conducing surveys that do not depend on the wording of the questions to produce the desired results.

—Mike Dunford

Footnotes

1: (In a 2003 American Prospect article, Chris Mooney discusses the question-writing habits of Zogby; he also has recently commented on this most recent DI press release on his own blog.)

2: Coyne, Jerry A. “Creationism by stealth” Nature 410,745-746 (12 April 2001)

3: Scott, Eugenie C. “Fatally Flawed Iconoclasm.” Science, 292:2257-2258, (22 June 2001)

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Comment #1960

Posted by Jeremy Stangroom on May 9, 2004 2:52 AM (e)

“While I would not use the word “ignorant””

Why not?

That survey shows that some 30% of respondents think that the Sun goes around the earth!

And there was a survey here in the UK a while back which showed that about the same proportion of people didn’t know that hot air rises.

And during the GM debate over here it emerged that a large minority of people (I can’t remember the exact figure) thought that living things only had genes if they had been interfered with by genetic engineers! Which is quite funny, really… kind of.

Comment #1968

Posted by PZ Myers on May 9, 2004 8:03 AM (e)

If I were to answer such a poll, I’d give the same answer (teach evidence for and against), and I’m a thrice-damned liberal atheist evolutionist. As you note, though, that means finding evidence against it, which the Intelligent Design creationists have not done, and I’d also add that ID is not the scientific alternative to evolution.

Comment #1977

Posted by Leighton on May 9, 2004 10:04 AM (e)

Does anyone know off-hand where the “300 scientists who dissent from Darwinism” figure comes from?

I googled and found this list, which proudly features Francis Crick as entry #2, but it has the following caveat higher up on the page:

Please note, though much time and research has gone into this page, it is always possible that there are some inconsistencies and false information on it. It is not intended to be taken as necessarily 100% accurate, although in my unofficial opinion, it is fairly close to it.

This may or may not be the source of the “300+” figure, but if it is, it’s awfully fishy that something with such a strong disclaimer could make it into a press release.

Does anyone know if this is actually the correct list?

Comment #1978

Posted by RBH on May 9, 2004 10:55 AM (e)

There is also the U. of Cincy/Case Western Reserve survey of Ohio science professors, in which 93% responded that they knew of no scientifically valid evidence that challenges the fundamental principles of the theory of evolution and 2% said “Don’t know.” 4% answered “Yes.” Note that the poll included faculty at Bible colleges and institutions associated with evangelical and fundamentalist churches. 91% of the scientists responding said that ID is primarily a religious view.

And it’s not only ignorance about evolutionary theory in the general public that’s rampant. In a poll of the general public in Ohio (described at the same URL) at about the same time as the scientists poll, only 14% of the public answered “yes” to the question “Do you happen to know anything about the concept of ‘intelligent design’?” and 84% responded “No.” It’s noteworthy that the poll was taken when Ohio’s State Board of Education was engaged in a well-publicized dispute about whether to include intelligent design in the state science standards and ID disciples (including Jonathon Wells and Stephen Meyer) were making their pilgrimages to Ohio.

RBH

Comment #1979

Posted by cs on May 9, 2004 12:55 PM (e)

Hi, I’m conducting a poll.

Do you think that news reports about the Discovery Institute should mention only the good things they do, or do you think the news reports should also note their numerous criminal activities?

Comment #1980

Posted by Grumpy on May 9, 2004 1:06 PM (e)

Trouble with those surveys is that you can’t complain to the questioner if the question is too complex to answer. They must rigorously ask the same question for each participant, and nothing but.

Comment #1981

Posted by Andy Groves on May 9, 2004 1:55 PM (e)

Paging Paul Nelson….…..paging Paul Nelson….…. your comments on this would be appreciated……. thanks….….

Comment #1982

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 9, 2004 4:39 PM (e)

Does anyone know off-hand where the “300 scientists who dissent from Darwinism” figure comes from?

It comes from the Discovery Institute, here. It was originally 100 “scientists”, which includes numerous professions with little or no connection to biology, and they’ve since increased it to 300 worldwide, which is still pathetically small. Note that the petition that was signed doesn’t even express dissent from Darwinism; it just says “we are skeptical”, which is a rather noncontroversial statement. As with the poll, they greatly exaggerate what the petition actually says.

Comment #1983

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 9, 2004 4:41 PM (e)

Does anyone know off-hand where the “300 scientists who dissent from Darwinism” figure comes from?

It comes from the Discovery Institute, here. It was originally 100 “scientists”, which includes numerous professions with little or no connection to biology, and they’ve since increased it to 300 worldwide, which is still pathetically small. Note that the petition that was signed doesn’t even express dissent from Darwinism; it just says “we are skeptical”, which is a rather noncontroversial statement. As with the poll, they greatly exaggerate what the petition actually says.

Comment #1984

Posted by Leighton on May 9, 2004 5:47 PM (e)

Thanks for the link, Steve. I knew about their prior “100 scientists” claim (and on the list you linked to, I note several whose doctorates are in less relevant areas like philosophy). Is there also a list somewhere of the 300 dissenters worldwide (and if so, is it the link I stumbled upon?), or are they pulling the number out of thin air by making some kind of bizarre extrapolation?

Comment #1985

Posted by Kevin on May 9, 2004 6:09 PM (e)

Since the poll was directed at the citizens of California, does that mean we can expect a push to include ID at the statewide level here?

Comment #1991

Posted by shiva pennathur on May 10, 2004 6:28 AM (e)

The 300+ scientists who are “skeptical” of evolution include some rate scientists from many fields including life sciences. Apart from the terrific trio - Dembski, Wells, and Behe (throw in Johnson and it becomes the fab four) - there are notables such as Dale Schaefer at U.Cincy., the Nobel nominee (the list says so) Schaefer, Rob Kaita-Plasma Physis-Princeton, Walter Bradley-Texas A&M, Daniel Dix-Math-U.S.Carolina, etc. There are 100 names here http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/100ScientistsAd.pdf. I have been through the homepages of some from the list who are practising scientists at universities. There are others who hold a PhD but are not practising scientists (such as Wells) about whom we know little. There are pages and pages to go thru, but already there’s a clear pattern - albeit unscientific. None of these scientists is doing any work on evolution much less ID or against evolution. Nobody has “discovered” much less published on intelligent design. Dale Schaefer for instance has a huge page full of quotes contrasting views of his corner of the social ring with those of the “other side”. For those biologists who have become skeptical about evolution, maybe they need a refresher course on research and theory from the folks of Project Steve. Being good scietists I am sure they will learn from the evidence.

Comment #1992

Posted by shiva on May 10, 2004 6:30 AM (e)

The 300+ scientists who are “skeptical” of evolution include some rate scientists>> Sorry that should read ….include some first rate scientists>>

Comment #1994

Posted by Frank Schmidt on May 10, 2004 7:01 AM (e)

Brian Leiter http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/bleiter/ had a link Friday to Chris Mooney’s examination of an aspect of the phenomenon ww.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=67755. Briefly, the national news media know that the decibel level goes way down when they are “fair” which means publicizing any dissenting opinion, no matter how self-serving or contrary to the evidence.

Comment #2003

Posted by KeithB on May 10, 2004 9:59 AM (e)

Hate to be pedantic here, especially about quantum mechanics, but do electrons even *have* a “size”? Isn’t this question based on “billiard ball” atomic theory?

Doesn’t that “size” change with energy level?

If so, there may be some electrons larger than say, a hydrogen atom.

Comment #2007

Posted by Jon Fleming on May 10, 2004 11:46 AM (e)

shiva pennathur wrote:

The 300+ scientists who are ?skeptical? of evolution include some rate scientists from many fields including life sciences.

Actually the scientists are “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life”, a statement with which many posters to this blog would agree, since the modern synthesis includes other mechanisms that contribute to accounting for the complexity of life. (I doubt that those posters would sign the statement because of it’s obvious propaganda purpose).

That skepticism is a very different thing from being “skeptical of evolution”. It is certain that some of the signers are not at all skeptical of evolution; see Doubting Darwinism through Creative License.

Nonetheless, it’s all just a game; reality is not decided by majority vote.

Comment #2021

Posted by steve on May 10, 2004 3:07 PM (e)

Free online textbooks look like a really good thing for a number of reasons. I spent $500 this semester on old things which don’t much change (stat mech, fundamentals of economics, etc) But it does make it easier for backwards districts influenced by ID people to cut controvertial things. Click click, “Are you sure you want to send Darwin to the recycle bin?” Perhaps free common bio textbooks could be licensed such that they can’t be edited without permission?

Comment #2025

Posted by Steve on May 10, 2004 3:54 PM (e)

CBS news just did a story on congress investigating degree mills. I wonder if it’ll become illegal nationally? Will we be able to sue Hovind to make him stop calling himself Dr.?

Comment #2026

Posted by steve on May 10, 2004 3:56 PM (e)

Maybe we could get lucky, and draw one of those judges who likes giving creative shame-based sentences, and the sentence is that Hovind has to identify himself for six months as “I’m Kent Hovind, I used a fake degree to make people think I am educated”

Comment #2030

Posted by FRB on May 10, 2004 7:17 PM (e)

The IDEA Club’s page on Project Steve (http://www-acs.ucsd.edu/~idea/steve.htm) is really an indictment of how sloppy and dumb these ID folks can be when they are preaching to the converted.

For starters, it’s totally schizophrenic about its purpose:

All that matters is the evidence. And if you agree with us that evidence is all that matters, save yourself some time and don’t look at these lists

but only to the extent that it’s comprehensible …

(The main reason for questioning “evolution” (meaning evolution (dramatic change through the history of life) driven by Darwin’s naturalistic mechanism as the drivinfg force) actually get’s to the mechanism often sited as being one of the main driving forces of life’s diversity from an evolutionary perspective: random genetic mutation giving rise to various characteristics upon which natural selection acts.

All parentheses, apostrophes and spelling as in the original. Pathetic and disheartening. I assume that the site authors, Casey Luskin (cluskin@ucsd.edu) and Reid Hankins (wrhankins@juno.com), are adults but I’m afraid to do look further for fear that I’ll discover they are teachers somewhere.

Comment #2031

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 10, 2004 7:41 PM (e)

KeithB wrote:

Hate to be pedantic here, especially about quantum mechanics, but do electrons even *have* a “size”? Isn’t this question based on “billiard ball” atomic theory?

Electrons have a mass. And their mass is much smaller than that of a proton or a neutron. As long as the question used the word “mass”, then there is no ambiguity.

Either way though, I think it’s safe to assume that those who got the question wrong did not do so because they were thinking in terms of quantum theory. ;)

Comment #2032

Posted by steve on May 10, 2004 8:45 PM (e)

about IDEA’s page about just paying attention to the evidence, like I’ve said before, where do they get off thinking their evaluation of the evidence is worth anything at all? What would particle physicists say if a religious club got together, studied the evidence, and said that Quantum Field Theory is bad science? They’d say, sorry you don’t understand it, but that’s not our problem.

Comment #2033

Posted by steve on May 10, 2004 8:51 PM (e)

Then their members would spend years arguing on Talk Particles, complaining of being suppressed in journals, asking for direct experimental proof that every particle in the universe obeys general relativity, claiming that “Nobody’s ever witnessed an axial vector current…” etc.

Comment #2035

Posted by KeithB on May 11, 2004 9:06 AM (e)

As quoted above it said “size” rather than “mass.”

Comment #2036

Posted by Matt Young on May 11, 2004 10:07 AM (e)

Regarding the comment by KeithB:

Size is an imprecise word; it is better to talk of the diameter. But never mind.

The diameter of, say, a hydrogen atom is the diameter of the wavefunction of the bound electron. The electron, however, is not the wave function, and the wave function is not the electron. The wave function tells you the probability of finding the electron at any point. The electron itself is presumably a small particle whose radius is roughly equal to the classical radius. Its diameter is therefore less than the diameter of the hydrogen atom.

Electrons are smaller than atoms.

Comment #2037

Posted by Mark Perakh on May 11, 2004 1:05 PM (e)

Perhaps a little too far afield, so it may be ignored. The mass of an electron which is about 9.1*10^-31 kg is in fact the mass of a free electron. This damned guy we call electron can make a phisicist go crazy. As soon as an electron is in an electromagnetic field (as, for example, when it is in a crystalline lattice) it behaves in such a way as if its effective mass is rather different from the mass of a free electron. While I see nothing bad in asserting that an electron is smaller than an atom, the very concept of an electron’s size (or diameter - which implies a sperical shape) is quite ambiguous. Atoms, on the other hand, indeed have definite sizes (but not diameters because they more often tnan not are not spherical) - using the scanning tunneling microscope, many atoms have been “seen” and they indeed have a definite shape and size. I don’t believe, though, an electron can be ever “seen.” To see it photons have to be reflected from an electron, but if a photon encounters an electron, often the electron simply jumps to a higher energy level, absorbing the photon (like when an electron is in an atom), or Compton effect takes place wherein both the photon’s and the electron’s energies change, so it is a very tricky thing to devise a method for “seeing” an electron. Size can be in principle determined through scattering experiments (as Rutherford did with atomic nuclei) but I can’t imagine how it can be done with electrons. Of course, predicting what science will come up with in the future is impossible, but I guess to ever be able to define what an electron’s size is may be impossible in principle. Still, since atoms contain a nucleus plus sometimes scores of electrons, the answer to the question at hand can legitimately be given that electron indeed may be said to be smaller than an atom.

Comment #2041

Posted by Jack Shea on May 11, 2004 4:34 PM (e)

Jon:
What are you referring to when you write: “…the modern synthesis includes other mechanisms (than random mutation and natural selection) that contribute to accounting for the complexity of life.” ? Does this “modern synthesis” include any ideas borrowed from ID?

Comment #2042

Posted by Jon Fleming on May 11, 2004 5:03 PM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

What are you referring to when you write: ??the modern synthesis includes other mechanisms (than random mutation and natural selection) that contribute to accounting for the complexity of life.? ?

Things such as neutral drift or horizontal gene transfer. That’s not an exhaustive list, it’s not my area of expertise.

Does this “modern synthesis” include any ideas borrowed from ID?

No. You were kidding, right?

The modern synthesis predates ID by several decades, and ID has made no contributions whatsoever to science.

Comment #2043

Posted by KeithB on May 11, 2004 5:14 PM (e)

“Modern Synthesis” was when evolution was given *solid* mathematical footing when it was wedded to genetics. Now they are both essentially the same field of study.

Comment #2052

Posted by shiva on May 12, 2004 6:35 AM (e)

The creationist “science” movement isn’t targeting “Darwinism” alone. There is a thriving “Commonsense Science Movement” as well. Bob Lattimer one of the protagonists of creationist/ID/”science” in Ohio is close to the “creationist cosmology” folks as well and appears to believe in YEC. There was a big “creationist cosmology” confrence in Columbus, Ohio immediately following the Kavli-CERCA cosmology conference at the Case Physics Dept., Cleveland, in October 2003. While the Kavli-CERCA conference is available on streaming video for free, the “creationist cosmology” conference is available only on DVD for sale. Make what you will out of that. Dembski and the other “scientific” luminaries of the ID movement haven’t made known their views on this branch of pseudoscience. Maybe if there is heat to be raised and a similar chorus of “growing scientific evidence against Einsteinism/Bohrism/Heisenbergism” can be trusted to deliver foot-soldiers for assorted causes the folks at ID/DI might just jump on. That will be fun to watch.
http://www.creationists.org/Downloads/CCC2003%20Daily%20Schedules.pdf
http://www.youngearth.org/current_speaker.htm
http://www.worldbydesign.org/cosmology2003/review.html
http://www.commonsensescience.org/index.htm?info.htm~mainAlthough conservatives have no monopoly on pseudoscience many among them tend to make common cause with the ID/DI folks. There is no shortage of conservative columnists who overestimate their scientific talents. Like this one here
http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel040402.asp

Comment #2056

Posted by Heather on May 12, 2004 8:22 AM (e)

A quick reading of the list at http://www-acs.ucsd.edu/~idea/scidoubtevol.htm showed me 37 names (a majority are biological/chemical educators) of scientists who were included on the list because they agreed with the following statement: “a critical re-evaluation of Darwinism is both necessary and possible.” Ummm, yes… Any true scientist evaluates, re-evaluates, and begins again. Any reasonable theory (and of course I list evolution among them) MUST stand up to re-evaluation. Can this even be counted as proof that these scientists are skeptical of Darwinism?

Comment #2057

Posted by Jack Shea on May 12, 2004 9:33 AM (e)

Jon:
No, I wasn’t kidding. I was wondering if the obvious truth that information input is required for living systems to emerge and evolve was on the verge of being recognized by the hard-pressed majority of professional neodarwinian evolutionists. I now realize that the “modern synthesis” is decades old and remains the science of calculating the distribution of pre-existent genetic information and answers no “first cause” questions.

Thanks for the links you supplied. They have shown me that things are still the same, and that only the terms have changed to accommodate new levels of detail.

Neutral Drift: According to this hypothesis, most of the changes in DNA inside individuals are the result of “genetic drift” – random changes that go on all the time and aren’t steered by natural selection in one direction or another.

Horizontal gene transfer: “…the ability of Bacteria and Archaea to adapt to new environments most often results from the acquistion of new genes through horizontal transfer rather than by the alteration of gene functions through numerous point mutations

So, I see the “modern synthesists” have still not tackled the problem of where or how complex, ordered genetic information is derived but still fascinate themselves with shuffling the pre-existent deck. All reference to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics notwithstanding.

“ID has made no contributions to science”? Come on. At the very least ID has articulated some of the immense problems facing a strictly neodarwinian explanation for the origins of life and macroevolution.

Jack

Comment #2059

Posted by Batman on May 12, 2004 9:42 AM (e)

Jack, you claim that,

ID has articulated some of the immense problems facing a strictly neodarwinian explanation for the origins of life and macroevolution.

This statement is false. “ID” has not “articulated” any “problems” with darwinism as an explanation for the origins of life and macroevolution. ID has contributed nothing to scientists understanding of evolution, although it has contributed to scientists understanding of how public policy decisions are made in this overwhelmingly Christian country.

To the extent it is comprehensible and not merely a contradictory mass of lies, “ID” stands only for the bogus proposition that because scientists weren’t around to video tape the evolution of every species that ever lived, scientists don’t have the “right” to keep creationists and their wacko ideas out of public schools.

Comment #2068

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 12, 2004 11:07 AM (e)

Jack wrote:

So, I see the “modern synthesists” have still not tackled the problem of where or how complex, ordered genetic information is derived but still fascinate themselves with shuffling the pre-existent deck. All reference to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics notwithstanding.

Jack, I suggest you try reading some (any) of the actual literature concerning the evolution of new information, new functional proteins, etc. A good place to start is with some of the references posted here. Your claim that the “problem” hasn’t been tackled is based on ignorance. It is not considered a problem at all.

“ID has made no contributions to science”?  Come on. At the very least ID has articulated some of the immense problems facing a strictly neodarwinian explanation for the origins of life and macroevolution.

That’s not a contribution to science. Anyone can come up with laundry lists of problems – contributing to science means trying to solve them.

At any rate, the problems for Darwinian evolution that ID advocates come up with generally fall into two categories: Those that did not originate with ID advocates, and have in fact been addressed by scientists for a long time, and those that are simply bogus, and have been recognized as such by scientists for a long time.

Comment #2083

Posted by Jack Shea on May 12, 2004 2:34 PM (e)

Ask any chemist if RNA and proteins could have come about simultaneously by accident. Or simplify the problem and just ask if chlorophyll -which took a Nobel laureate to figure out- could synthesize itself. It cannot happen. Without information the process cannot drive itself. Energy and atoms alone are insufficient. Information, ie Design, is the required third ingredient and is visible in the world around us. Neodarwinism proposes that information arises from undirected chaos which is of course absurd.

Neodarwinism is just spontaneous generation shifted from maggots in meat and applied to molecules in ooze. Neodarwinism states that the molecules responsible for the generation and transmission of Life emerge spontaneously, randomly, from no information source, with no direction. Maggots from nothing, life-molecules from nothing, it’s the same thing. And just as absurd today as it was in the 19th century. The coding of genetic molecules is the source of Life and it did not, could not have come about by accident. We may search for the origins of the code but that the code is there is beyond dispute.

ID has articulated problems with neodarwinism. It has raised valid probability arguments, it has indicated the necessity of information as a parallel force with energy and molecules driving the origins and maintenance of living systems. ID has been brave enough to look at the complexity of the system under study and declare that accident is not the answer. Of course the system is intelligent. Look at the intelligence it takes just to unravel, let alone create it.

Jack

Comment #2086

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 12, 2004 2:56 PM (e)

Jack wrote:

Ask any chemist if RNA and proteins could have come about simultaneously by accident. Or simplify the problem and just ask if chlorophyll -which took a Nobel laureate to figure out- could synthesize itself.

Ask any evolutionary biologist if either of those things are stated by “neodarwinism.” The answer will be “no.”

It cannot happen. Without information the process cannot drive itself. Energy and atoms alone are insufficient. Information, ie Design, is the required third ingredient and is visible in the world around us. Neodarwinism proposes that information arises from undirected chaos which is of course absurd.

What is absurd are people who fell fit to critize stuff like “neodarwinism” without knowing what they actually are. Neodarwinism does not propose that information arrises from undirected chaos. (I challenge you to find a single reference that says otherwise.) What evolutionary biology does propose with good evidence is that the deterministic force of selection produces complexities and “information” in biology. Selection is a design mechanism; one that is blind, but one after all. This is what “design” advocates invariably fail to grasp. “Design” does not need a sentient, intelligent, or loving designer.

Comment #2089

Posted by Batman on May 12, 2004 3:23 PM (e)

Neodarwinism is just spontaneous generation shifted from maggots in meat and applied to molecules in ooze.

Jack, as I recall the events which people once ascribed to “spontaneous generation” were imagined to have taken place over the period of days or weeks. Neodarwinism has the luxury of hundreds of millions of years. That’s a long time. Maybe longer than you can imagine which is why you throw up your hands and assume the prostrate position.

Maggots from nothing, life-molecules from nothing, it’s the same thing.

Not at all. Scientists have proven that maggots come from flies and that complex organic molecules can form under a variety of conditions from simple and common precursors.

“The coding of genetic molecules is the source of Life and it did not, could not have come about by accident.”

And you know this because ….?

“We may search for the origins of the code …”

Thanks for your permission.

ID has articulated problems with neodarwinism.

ID has “articulated” that because biologists haven’t videotaped the evolution of every creature that ever walked on earth, that biologists are suckers. Needless to say, biologists have so much evidence to the contrary that they have written ID theorists off as a bunch of goofballs, albeit goofballs with an annoying political and religious agenda.

It has raised valid probability arguments,

Huh? None of have ever published. What arguments are you referring to?

it has indicated the necessity of information as a parallel force with energy and molecules driving the origins and maintenance of living systems.

Please elaborate! This sounds fascinating.

Of course the system is intelligent. Look at the intelligence it takes just to unravel, let alone create it.

What’s intelligent about a sightless eyeball, Jack? Seems downright stupid to me. If your God did design all the critters, he must have been smokin’ crack when he did it. And why the obsession with bacteria????

Comment #2092

Posted by Steve Reuland on May 12, 2004 3:53 PM (e)

I’m not sure why I feel compelled to respond to litanies of non-sequiturs, but here goes:

Ask any chemist if RNA and proteins could have come about simultaneously by accident.  Or simplify the problem and just ask if chlorophyll -which took a Nobel laureate to figure out- could synthesize itself.  It cannot happen.  Without information the process cannot drive itself.  Energy and atoms alone are insufficient.

Perhaps you are unaware, but unfathomable amounts of RNA are being synthesized every microsecond here on Earth. As as far as anyone can tell, it doesn’t require anything other than energy and atoms.

Your decision to add some mystic sense of “information” into the mix is not really pertinent unless you actual define what you mean by the term and explain specifically how it relates to biology. Information theorists do in fact define what they mean by information, and have shown how it applies to biology. But given their definitions, new information can evolve. Theoretical studies show how it evolves, and laboratory studies have shown it evolving right in front of our eyes. So I’m afraid you don’t have an argument of any kind unless you know something that information theorists and biologists don’t. And I somewhat doubt that.

Information, ie Design, is the required third ingredient and is visible in the world around us.  Neodarwinism proposes that information arises from undirected chaos which is of course absurd.

The first statement is bizarre. How can “information” be visible? What color is it?

The second statement is a gross mischaracterization, which demonstrates a wilfull misunderstanding of neodarwinism. 

Neodarwinism is just spontaneous generation shifted from maggots in meat and applied to molecules in ooze. 

Acutally, that’s a much better description of ID, which as far as anyone can tell, implies that things just “poof” out of nowhere when a divine something-or-other wills it thus. Neodarwinism actually proposes a specific mechanism, which can be applied to the history of living things to unravel detailed causal pathways.

Neodarwinism states that the molecules responsible for the generation and transmission of Life emerge spontaneously, randomly, from no information source, with no direction.

No, it doesn’t say that at all. It says that those molecules come from other molecules, and that information comes from other information, which then changes over time. Or do you believe that scientists have been proposing all these years that you, as a human, arose spontaneously, randomly, blah blah blah?

ID has articulated problems with neodarwinism.  It has raised valid probability arguments, it has indicated the necessity of information as a parallel force with energy and molecules driving the origins and maintenance of living systems. 

It would be helpful if you would articulate some of the problems with neodarwinism, because you certainly haven’t done so here. What you have articulated (and not very articulately) is the fact that you don’t understand the first thing about neodarwinian theory. You see, the first step to articulating a criticism of a theory is to know something about that theory.

And by the way, ID most certainly has not raised any valid probability arguments. All such arguments (at last count, there was one) explicitly ignore neodarwinism in favor of some bogus strawman of totally random combination. But I guess that shouldn’t bother you, since you do the same thing.

Comment #2095

Posted by Jon Fleming on May 12, 2004 4:26 PM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

Ask any chemist if RNA and proteins could have come about simultaneously by accident.

Ask any biologist if RNA and proteins must have come about simultaneously by accident to achieve abiogenesis.

Comment #2122

Posted by Jack Shea on May 12, 2004 10:57 PM (e)

Reed: I know what neodarwinism is: “random mutation” plus “natural selection”. You are the one who doesn’t understand neoD. “Selection” does not, cannot produce information in a system. It just culls what is there. “Selection” is death, no more, no less. Where is the “evidence” you speak of? Just because the information and the complexity are there doesn’t immediately connote neoD as an “explanation”. ID and the laws of physics recognize that the complexity of the information precludes it from arising by spontaneous means.

Batman: You can take as much time as you like. The 2nd Law says it won’t happen.
Can RNA or clorophyll assemble themselves from “ … simple and common precursors … “? No.

“ID has “articulated” that because biologists haven’t videotaped the evolution of every creature that ever walked on earth, that biologists are suckers.” ID says no such thing. It just says “look at the laws of physics and chemistry … today”.

“Needless to say, biologists have so much evidence to the contrary that they have written ID theorists off as a bunch of goofballs, albeit goofballs with an annoying political and religious agenda.” –The “evidence” which biologists conveniently ignore is that the 2nd Law prohibits the formation of the complex molecules required for life without the addition of information. Without the “information” provided by organic chemists to the “dumb stuff” of their chemical precursors nothing would happen. There are something like 50 complex steps required to derive chlorophyll, a relatively simple molecule. RNA and proteins are another matter entirely. RNA will only form from instructions. The only question then is not “if” RNA was originally coded with “intent” but “how”.

Steve: “Perhaps you are unaware, but unfathomable amounts of RNA are being synthesized every microsecond here on Earth. As as far as anyone can tell, it doesn’t require anything other than energy and atoms.” – Please! RNA is information incarnate. It is synthesized every day not by its own accord but by the information stored within DNA. Once a system is set rolling, it rolls. The question is how it starts rolling in the first place. You’re just begging the question.

“Acutally, that’s a much better description of ID, which as far as anyone can tell, implies that things just “poof” out of nowhere when a divine something-or-other wills it thus. Neodarwinism actually proposes a specific mechanism, which can be applied to the history of living things to unravel detailed causal pathways. “–Have you guys read any ID? Or is it too scary? NeoD proposes a specific mechanism which is demonstrably incorrect, actually unscientific. It violates the laws of physics, probability, common sense, the observed world and its laws.

“No, it doesn’t say that at all. It says that those molecules come from other molecules, and that information comes from other information, which then changes over time.” –Pre-existent information can be shuffled around. But new information driving complex systems does not come about accidentally. It can’t.

“Or do you believe that scientists have been proposing all these years that you, as a human, arose spontaneously, randomly” – That is what scientists have been proposing. “I” am a process of random mutation, the culmination of millions of years of accidental gene shuffling. “I” am still here because natural selection has not killed me.

“you don’t understand the first thing about neodarwinian theory.” What’s there to know? The principles are astoundingly simple. They just don’t fit the facts.

“ID most certainly has not raised any valid probability arguments.” You don’t have to go just to ID to get these. There are dozens of estimates of the probability of the random formation of RNA from the ooze and they arrive at effectively zero probability.

Jon: “Ask any biologist if RNA and proteins must have come about simultaneously by accident to achieve abiogenesis.” Ask them if they’ve ever seen it happen in a lab. It doesn’t. Unless information, ie labwork, is applied to the process.

Why does it take so much human intelligence to unravel the complexities of a system which has supposed to come into existence through no intelligence whatsoever?

Jack

Comment #2125

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 12, 2004 11:37 PM (e)

Jack wrote:

Reed: I know what neodarwinism is: “random mutation” plus “natural selection”. You are the one who doesn’t understand neoD.

As an evolutionary biologist who studies selection, I can assure you that I am not the one with the misunderstanding.

“Selection” does not, cannot produce information in a system. It just culls what is there. “Selection” is death, no more, no less.

False, selection is differential reproduction of heritable traits, no more, no less. No death needs to be involved. It is easy to think about it only in terms of survival, but such is an inaccurate picture.

Mutations are noise, potential. Selection filters this noise and produces information.

Where is the “evidence” you speak of?

You can start by reading an introductory textbook in evolutionary biology.

ID and the laws of physics recognize that the complexity of the information precludes it from arising by spontaneous means.

Unfortunately for your argument, evolutionary biology does not state that complexity arrises spontaneously. In fact, Darwin’s entire point was how a gradual, iterative process can produce complexities through only slight modificaitons.

Nature non facit saltum.

Comment #2130

Posted by MakeMineRed on May 13, 2004 6:38 AM (e)

Jack -

The only scientific rule you rely on to dismiss neodarwinism, based on your statments here, is the 2d Law of Thermodynamics. Your interpretation of that rule is incorrect. You are correct in inferring that information requires energy; however, you fail to realize that this energy is released by natural processes at all times.

MakeMineRed

Comment #2133

Posted by Jack Shea on May 13, 2004 7:26 AM (e)

Reed:
Are you making up your own neodarwinist definition? What additional terms of definition do you have that the rest of the world is missing?

“Selection” is death, whether you want to call it that or not, either through relative nonfunctionality, elimination by the herd, reproductive failure. Weaker traits/organisms “die” in favor of stronger. “Death” is the only weapon in natural selection’s arsenal.

As an evolutionary biologist studying selection you should know better than to try to pass off an old dog with a new name. “Natural selection” as “Differential reproduction” is a linguistic con. It’s like “fighting war for peace”. Read some George Orwell to learn how neologisms mask, not reveal truth. It is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Selection does not engage in reproduction in any way. It is a process of elimination, not a process of reproduction. Organisms not selected against may continue to reproduce. But “selection” has no active role to play in this reproduction. All the reproducing originates genetically. Or are you proposing some form of Lamarckism?

Mutations are, indeed, noise. Which is why living organisms are designed to mitigate against their irruption. As an evolutionary biologist you must be aware of the heroic adherence to original form which fruit flies have maintained over billions, perhaps trillions, of generations of deliberate mutation. Somehow these little heroes always remained fruit flies. Not a bluebottle or gnat emerged from the onslaught. In a neodarwinist world, where there is no inherent design in Nature, selection would have nothing but noise to work with. And it would be a freakish world indeed. In the world we see, however, natural selection has a wonderfully variegated array of more or less perfectly formed creatures to carve with its knife. Not a bizarre series of “hit or miss” aberrations formed in a blind cave but beautifully designed examples of the genius of Nature at work.

Are you referring to the “gradual, iterative process” of the Cambrian Explosion? Or do you allow that punctuated equilibrium, saltation, quantum speciation, hopeful monsters (take your pick, they all mean more or less the same, viz that the “gradual iterations” idea is dead in the water) might be the answer? As with much in the neodarwinian “just so” fantasy world, punk eek etcetera are merely linguistic cons. They are wild guesses, stabs in the dark. They purport to “explain” by the simple process of giving a new name to an old idea. The “old idea” being that Life literally explodes into existence, fully formed, perfect. Creationism anyone? Scientifically, these purported explanations are facile and empty. There is no “science” other than “we observe that this is the case –organisms emerge fully formed into existence with no obvious immediate significant precedents”. There is no explanation of the physics and chemistry of the genetic processes involved, which is where neodarwinist evolutionary theory will make its final stand. And it will be final. Our detailed understanding of the staggering informational complexity of living organisms has brought evolutionary biology face to face with the laws of physics, chemistry and the principles of mathematics. Neodarwinism is already dead and it is only neodarwinists who haven’t woken up to the fact.

Human intelligence is a subset of the Intelligence expressed in the natural world. Scientific intelligence is entirely derivative of the thing which it studies –the natural world. Is it possible to call any scientific discovery or theory “intelligent” when it is in toto merely a partial, fragmented, frequently incorrect representation of a natural system which the secondary, derived human scientific intelligence has labelled “unintelligent”? Food for thought.

Comment #2134

Posted by Jack Shea on May 13, 2004 8:11 AM (e)

MakeMineRed:
I realize that “energy is released by natural processes all the time”. I realize that in accordance with these energies a certain degree of self-assembled complexity can and does take place at molecular levels. “Life”, however, represents a different order of energy management from simple chemistry. The complexity of living systems is many orders of magnitude greater than the complexity of inorganic systems. Within the boundaries of non-living chemical self-assembly there are definite limits to what can and cannot be achieved. Self-synthesis of RNA, chlorophyll, etc, is outside those boundaries. That is a fact, one which only the most insanely religious neodarwinists will attempt to deny (though deny they will!). Taking this as fact, any theory purporting to explain the origins of life (which will of necessity then have a bearing on the subsequent evolution of life) must recognize that an additional and unique form of energy is required to drive RNA synthesis, etc. “Information” is this higher-order energy. Where this Information comes from is ultimately unanswerable and is not my point. My point is that without the addition of “Information” inorganic molecules are incapable of self-assembling into even the “simple” molecular systems which characterize all living organisms -which are of course far from simple. I invoke the 2nd Law only because Life is such a magnificent albeit temporary and illusory thermodynamic lawbreaker that it suggests that some form of energy-organization (Information) must be present in order for things to get moving in the first place. Nothing in the energy structures of inorganic molecules possesses this organizational capacity.

Jack

Comment #2137

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 13, 2004 9:58 AM (e)

Jack wrote:

“Selection” is death, whether you want to call it that or not, either through relative nonfunctionality, elimination by the herd, reproductive failure. Weaker traits/organisms “die” in favor of stronger. “Death” is the only weapon in natural seletion’s arsenal.

False. Try a diallelic fertility selection model with parameters w11=0.9 w12=1 w22=0.9.

As an evolutionary biologist studying selection you should know better than to try to pass off an old dog with a new name. “Natural selection” as “Differential reproduction” is a linguistic con. It’s like “fighting war for peace”.

What new name? Darwin, who first described the theory of evolution via selection, described it as differential reproduction. The point that you have missed is that selection is the result of differential reproduction, not of death. Death leads to differential reproduction, but it is not the only one.

As an evolutionary biologist you must be aware of the heroic adherence to original form which fruit flies have maintained over billions, perhaps trillions, of generations of deliberate mutation. Somehow these little heroes always remained fruit flies.

Yeah, so what? In the last few million years since humans, chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans have diverged from one another we all have remained great apes, primates, eutherians, mammals, amniotes, tetrapods, gnathostomes, vertebrates, chordates, deutrostomes, bilaterates, animals, eukaryotes, and biotes.

In the world we see, however, natural selection has a wonderfully variegated array of more or less perfectly formed creatures to carve with its knife. Not a bizarre series of “hit or miss” aberrations formed in a blind cave but beautifully designed examples of the genius of Nature at work.

I take it you’ve never been to a hospital pathology lab and seen the bizarre aberrations that get miscarried. For animals, selection is strongest during development. That is why you don’t see to many bizarre aberrations in nature; they perish before you have a chance to see them.

They purport to “explain” by the simple process of giving a new name to an old idea. The “old idea” being that Life literally explodes into existence, fully formed, perfect. Creationism anyone? Scientifically, these purported explanations are facile and empty. There is no “science” other than “we observe that this is the case -organisms emerge fully formed into existence with no obvious immediate significant precedents”.

Once again you are wrong. Punctuated equilibrium is not a theory about biological processes. It is an application of evolutionary theory to explain the pattern of the fossil record. See this post of mine for more detail.

There is no explanation of the physics and chemistry of the genetic processes involved, which is where neodarwinist evolutionary theory will make its final stand. And it will be final.

LOL Can’t you come up with something original? Creationists have been predicting the imminent demise of evolution for over a hundred years.

Comment #2143

Posted by Jon Fleming on May 13, 2004 4:58 PM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

Jon: “Ask any biologist if RNA and proteins must have come about simultaneously by accident to achieve abiogenesis.” Ask them if they’ve ever seen it happen in a lab.

Irrelevant, and non-responsive. I was pointing out that you are attacking a strawman argument.

It doesn’t.

Yet.

Unless information, ie labwork, is applied to the process.

Ah, the old “intelligence was within ten miles therefore intelligence caused it”. You are predictably boring.

Why does it take so much human intelligence to unravel the complexities of a system which has supposed to come into existence through no intelligence whatsoever?

Why should it not? What reason do you have for that comment other than personal incredulity?

That’s what we call “assuming the conclusion”; you assume that non-intelligent processes cannot do things that intelligence cannot easily figure out, and from that assumption you derive a conclusion that is identical to your assumption. Most impressive.

Comment #2144

Posted by Pim van Meurs on May 13, 2004 6:10 PM (e)

Jack: Where this Information comes from is ultimately unanswerable and is not my point.

Luckily enough science has real answers to these questions, although it may come as a shock to some creationists.

Check out the work by Schneider or Adami

Evolution of biological information

Adami: evolution and biocomplexity

Pay special attention to the papers on

Evolution of biological complexity

The Evolutionary Origin of Complex Adaptive Features

While ID seems to appeal to ignorance, real science seems to be doing all the hard work.

Comment #2147

Posted by Adam Marczyk on May 13, 2004 8:46 PM (e)

For further examples of how information can arise through a process of random mutation and selection, see my article:

Genetic Algorithms and Evolutionary Computation

Also, for an example of information arising in randomly formed RNA sequences (something this creationist poster seems to think impossible), see this post on talk.origins by Howard Hershey. In a millimole (about a thimbleful) of random RNA sequences, RNA enzymes showing a range of biologically interesting activities consistently arise.

Does any of this explain definitively how life began? No, it does not (and to be thorough, it is worth noting again that the origin of life is a separate field of science from the theory of evolution, and neither stands or falls on the success of the other). However, what it does show is that scientists are still searching for the answers, and progress is constantly being made. Creationists, by contrast, are in a rush to declare that we will never understand certain things simply because we do not fully understand them at present. Just think of how many scientific advances would never have come about if this deplorable attitude had existed in the past!

Comment #2151

Posted by Heather on May 14, 2004 6:29 AM (e)

Jack Shea wrote “There is no explanation of the physics and chemistry of the genetic processes involved” Jack, if you are truly interested in learning about the chemistry and physics involved in gene mutation, follow this link: http://www.talkorigins.org/pdf/molecular-genetics.pdf to an article called Plagairized Errors and Molecular Genetics by E. E. Max. Pay particular attention to the diagrams and to the entire section labled “DNA Basics.” I relearned quite a bit that I had forgotten. Very interesting.

Comment #2152

Posted by MakeMineRed on May 14, 2004 8:55 AM (e)

Jack:

“Life”, however, represents a different order of energy management from simple chemistry. 

“Life” still uses simple chemistry; its management has evolved.

Within the boundaries of non-living chemical self-assembly there are definite limits to what can and cannot be achieved.  Self-synthesis of RNA, chlorophyll, etc, is outside those boundaries.  That is a fact, one which only the most insanely religious neodarwinists will attempt to deny (though deny they will!). 

Sez you! Look, Adam had it right in his comment. And look at this story regarding RNA: http://www.carlzimmer.com/articles/2004/articles_2004_Before_DNA.html .

Taking this as fact, any theory purporting to explain the origins of life (which will of necessity then have a bearing on the subsequent evolution of life) must recognize that an additional and unique form of energy is required to drive RNA synthesis, etc. 

It’s not a fact.

“Information” is this higher-order energy.  Where this Information comes from is ultimately unanswerable and is not my point. 

Seems to me that this is your point. You are questioning the origin of life here, not evolution, as Adam pointed out above.

My point is that without the addition of “Information” inorganic molecules are incapable of self-assembling into even the “simple” molecular systems which characterize all living organisms -which are of course far from simple. 

See Adam, above.

I invoke the 2nd Law only because Life is such a magnificent albeit temporary and illusory thermodynamic lawbreaker

Huh? Life doesn’t break the 2d Law. Entropy increases whenever life is created.

that it suggests that some form of energy-organization (Information) must be present in order for things to get moving in the first place.  Nothing in the energy structures of inorganic molecules possesses this organizational capacity. 

An RNA world is the prevalent hypothesis for what came before the DNA world, and scientists are working on the questions this proposes. Seems to me that your argument will become more constrained over time.

MakeMineRed

Comment #2197

Posted by Jack Shea on May 14, 2004 4:42 PM (e)

Reed:

False. Try a diallelic fertility selection model with parameters w11=0.9 w12=1 w22=0.9.

Ouch! Blinded by science! Is the answer 42? No, it’s microevolution. No one denies the principles and mathematics of heredity, genetic drift, population genetics, etc……Somehow these little heroes always remained fruit flies.

Yeah, so what? In the last few million years since humans, chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans have diverged from one another we all have remained great apes, primates, eutherians, …..

“Diverged” in theory. There is no evidence of any sort. Fruit flies and bacteria should have shown much greater tendency to speciate than they have. They show no such tendency despite many years of observation.

For animals, selection is strongest during development. That is why you don’t see to many bizarre aberrations in nature; they perish before you have a chance to see them.

And there are brilliantly intelligent procedures taking place inside living organisms to make sure that things run smoothly and aberrations are held at bay. Organisms are resistant to mutation. They know it wreaks havoc. This is a profoundly intelligent system.

See this post of mine for more detail….….And it will be final.

LOL Can’t you come up with something original? Creationists have been predicting the imminent demise of evolution for over a hundred years.

We’re patient. I take the Einsteinian perspective: “There are those who believe nothing is a miracle and those who believe everything is a miracle. I am of the latter persuasion”.

From you: “Evolutionary biology does not explain where the first self-replicating system came from, due to the simple fact that evolution cannot happen until after the first self-replicator comes into existence.”

Still begging the question. The first self-replicator is the first step of evolution. It represents a new chemical paradigm –biochemistry, with its unique laws and potentials. Experience and observation teach us that once major paradigms are established –the four forces for example- they do not vary. This seems to be an overriding law of Nature, which thrives on indulgent pattern held in place by rigorous order. The principle seems to be one which utilizes simple basic units to produce complex effects, simple unit equations blossoming into extravagantly ordered arrays of those units. With the emergence of self-replicators “simple” inorganic chemistry enters an entirely unique domain –Life- an organic world where the old laws remain inviolate while at the same time new laws with new potentialities come into existence.

The interface of these two legal systems, set and subset, is where neodarwinist evolutionary difficulties arise. The recognized laws of inorganic chemistry do not include the potential to generate energy-as-replicable-information on the scale of complexity required by even the simplest self-replicating molecule. There seems to be general agreement on this. Put another way, it is impossible for the first step on the road to evolution to have been taken accidentally. The specific type of energy required –complex, replicable information- is not present in chemical soups. Therefore chance cannot have had any significant role to play in the formation of the first self-replicating molecules.

Since it is axiomatic that once Nature has established the initial boundaries of any system it does not vary those boundaries, it is fair to assume that the initial foundational procedures for living systems –molecularly-bound, complex, transferable information arising from a source other than the inorganic molecules comprising the system- will inevitably be carried through all subsequent living systems. Thus, if chance had a minor role to play in the formation of the first self-replicators it will continue to have a minor role in all subsequent evolution. Once first principles are established it is Nature’s way to continue to enlist these principles for all subsequent developments within the limits of the system.

Life precedes and defines Death. Without Life, Death does not exist. Death cannot exist on its own. “Death” in fact can only be defined in terms of Life. When certain aspects of a living system cease to function an organism “dies”. When certain aspects of a dead system cease to function (lose their “deadness”) an organism does not “live”. A living organism is never described as “a not-dead organism” but a dead organism is frequently described as “non-living”. Death is, therefore, a secondary attribute of living systems. Death has no properties of its own whereas Life has abundant properties. Death is merely the absence of a quality; Life is the manifestation of a quality. Death comes from Life, Life does not come from Death.

Is it logical, then, that a secondary attribute of living systems would be given the primary role in shaping those living systems? Is it possible in Nature that the failure of Life, the cessation of Life, plays the role of the principal sculptor of the shape and continued existence of life on earth?

Comment #2198

Posted by Jack Shea on May 14, 2004 5:03 PM (e)

…… it has indicated the necessity of information as a parallel force with energy and molecules driving the origins and maintenance of living systems.

Please elaborate! This sounds fascinating.

I think the Sun has a big role to play. Light as a conveyor of information. The five elements which make up 98% of the Sun’s mass are the five elements at the root of all living systems. The importance of chlorophyll, the first photoreaction. Heliocentrism taken to the max. But the wonderful Persian poet Hafiz writes about “the Sun beyond the sun”…. …… Of course the system is intelligent. Look at the intelligence it takes just to unravel, let alone create it.

What’s intelligent about a sightless eyeball, Jack? Seems downright stupid to me. If your God did design all the critters, he must have been smokin’ crack when he did it. And why the obsession with bacteria????

Sightless eyeball? I guess you mean the Blind Watchmaker. I don’t know. I mostly see eyeballs that see. For some reason the Universe wants to watch itself through our eyes. Who knows? Light plays a big role in any case. “Obsession with bacteria” … Umm … I don’t know.

Comment #2199

Posted by Jack Shea on May 14, 2004 5:09 PM (e)

That was for Batman.

Jack

Comment #2201

Posted by Leighton on May 14, 2004 5:11 PM (e)

Jack, FYI, your posts would be a lot easier to parse if you used the quote tags.

Comment #2202

Posted by Sean on May 14, 2004 5:11 PM (e)

“Diverged” in theory. There is no evidence of any sort.

Wrong. The analysis of DNA sequences of extant organisms is great evidence for divergence. Unfortunately, it’s not videographic evidence which is the only evidence you are likely to accept (please let us know if there is any other type of evidence that you would accept as a legitimate “sort” of evidence to support divergence).

Fruit flies and bacteria should have shown much greater tendency to speciate than they have.

This is an interesting statement. Can you back it up?

(1) How was the complete lack of any “tendency to speciate” in bacteria OR fruit flies shown? and, uh, which species of bacteria or fruit flies are your referring to when you make this statement?

(2) What “tendency to speciate” *should* fruit flies and bacteria have shown? i.e., at what rate should fruit flies speciate? at what rate should bacteria speciate? and, uh, do these rates apply to all species of bacteria and fruit flies, regardless of the environments in which they live?

(3) How did you determine the appropriate “tendency” in (3)?

Comment #2203

Posted by Jack Shea on May 14, 2004 5:22 PM (e)

Jon:

Not personal incredulity, just a recognition of what actually comprises the mind. Scientific truths are measured against a pre-existent entity, the very entity which happens to be the role of science to understand. Science is the craft of discovery. Inventions follow of course but they are derived from principles which are accurate descriptions of the natural world. The natural world itself, therefore, is the superset of the subset human mind. Scientific thought approximates the reality. The scientific mind is composed of partial reflections derived from that reality. The “intelligence” then, is something which is already there, already exists as the natural world. The scientific mind is merely its reflection, not its creation. Without the natural world the scientific measure of that world could not take place. Whereas we know that the natural world has long predated human perception of it.

So where is the original intelligence?

Jack

Comment #2204

Posted by Batman on May 14, 2004 5:34 PM (e)

Sightless eyeball? I guess you mean the Blind Watchmaker.

No, I mean where is the intelligence in putting eyeballs in species that can’t see with them? It’s like putting your toilet upside down above your bed. That’s not intelligent. It’s idiotic. It’s random.

To paraphrase Zappa, “If the sightless eyeball is dumb, then God is dumb and maybe even a little ugly on the side.”

“Obsession with bacteria” … Umm … I don’t know.

There are more species of bacteria by far than any other organisms on the planet. I assumed you realized that because you seemed to have some idea of the expected rates of speciation of bacteria. Perhaps I was wrong.

Comment #2205

Posted by Jack Shea on May 14, 2004 5:35 PM (e)

Sean:

Fruit flies and bacteria should have shown much greater tendency to speciate than they have.

It seems that creatures like to hang onto their original form. As if there are limits in what the template will allow. There seems to be a barrier which mutation is not allowed to cross. Fruit flies stay fruit flies. Bacteria stay bacteria.

I have never come across any articles contradicting this but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Jack

Comment #2207

Posted by Sean on May 14, 2004 5:45 PM (e)

Jack you are avoiding the question.

You said

Fruit flies and bacteria SHOULD HAVE SHOWN much greater tendency to speciate than they have.

And I’m asking you how much speciation SHOULD they have shown and how did you determine this speciation rate? I’d like the expected rates for fruit flies and bacteria and I’d like to know what you base those calculated rates on.

creatures like to hang onto their original form.

Really. Are domestic dogs “creatures”?

Comment #2219

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 14, 2004 9:49 PM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

“Diverged” in theory. There is no evidence of any sort.

Really now?

Fruit flies and bacteria should have shown much greater tendency to speciate than they have. They show no such tendency despite many years of observation.

Interesting claim. Care to back it up? How much tendency to speciate should fruit files and bacteria have shown?

And there are brilliantly intelligent procedures taking place inside living organisms to make sure that things run smoothly and aberrations are held at bay. Organisms are resistant to mutation. They know it wreaks havoc. This is a profoundly intelligent system.

Who is “they?”

The first self-replicator is the first step of evolution.

The formation of the first self-replicator is not the first step of evolution, for the logical fact that evolution cannot occur until after the first replicator does. It is like saying that the first part of Hamlet was the birth of Shakespeare.

The recognized laws of inorganic chemistry do not include the potential to generate energy-as-replicable-information on the scale of complexity required by even the simplest self-replicating molecule.

What scale of complexity is that? Please list the “recognized laws of inorganic chemistry” in toto and demonstrate how they are relevant to the origin of organic life.

Put another way, it is impossible for the first step on the road to evolution to have been taken accidentally. The specific type of energy required –complex, replicable information- is not present in chemical soups. Therefore chance cannot have had any significant role to play in the formation of the first self-replicating molecules.

So you are saying that “complex, replicable information” is a type of energy? I sure don’t remember that in my physics class. Got any scientific citation for the existence of the energy of “complex, replicable information?” Furthermore, got any reference that such energy is not present in “chemical soups.” And finally, got any reference that such vital energy is necessary for life?

Comment #2279

Posted by Dave on May 15, 2004 11:37 PM (e)

I don’t know for certain, but I think that I read that the signatories in Project Steve can come from any branch of science (computational science was mentioned as a fringe group), so long as they are doing peer-reviewed active research. It may be that they are required to be doing something related to biology (please correct me if I am wrong).

Comment #2306

Posted by Jack Shea on May 16, 2004 7:23 PM (e)

Sean:

And I’m asking you how much speciation SHOULD they have shown and how did you determine this speciation rate? I’d like the expected rates for fruit flies and bacteria and I’d like to know what you base those calculated rates on.

One would expect something if macroevolution is happening all the time. But there is nothing. There can be no “expected rate of speciation” because speciation has never been observed to take place. There are no ground rules or observed fluctuations in rates, there are no “rates” at all because there is no documentation of “speciation” as a process. There is absolutely nothing to go on. So to project a “speciation rate” could only be a wild guess. At the moment the projected speciation rate would have to be zero, since that is what all available experimental evidence has invariably shown to be the rate of speciation.

Really. Are domestic dogs “creatures”?

Yes, and a good example. Despite the intensive breeding over thousands of years of dogs, horses, cattle, cats, etc, there is not a single instance of any of these animals beginning to branch out into new species. The phenotypic variety of dogs is very extensive…but they are all dogs and can all interbreed. So when Darwin tells me that a bear can turn into a whale I look to Nature to see where this might be occurring in primary stage alterations within species. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

Comment #2309

Posted by Jack Shea on May 16, 2004 7:43 PM (e)

Reed:

Really now? (with a link to a Talk.Origins article on hominid fossils)

Fossils do not reveal speciation as a process. They are hearsay information at best and subject to such wide ranges of interpretation that they are unreliable and discountable as scientific evidence of speciation as a process. If I dig up the graves of every dead dog on earth I can put together a very plausible scenario of obvious speciation from the skeletal evidence. But of course all I am doing is projecting geneological and “evolutionary” developments based on structural similarities. The eohippus and hominid purported evolutions, as indeed all fossil analyses, are not and can never be evidence for speciation or evolution. They reveal structural similarities between related organisms, no more, no less. The idea that fossil records could prove speciation is a lingering 19th century conceit, and is equivalent to suggesting that we in the 21st century will be able to fully understand the nature of light once we fully perfect prisms. The fossil record is a catalogue of shapes. Speciation is a reproductive, generational process. The means which we have to study if and how speciation occurs are not found in fossils. If there are means, they are better found in the innumerable studies of populations of small-scale organisms which reproduce in very short time frames and which can therefore be studied over very many generations. Drosophila and bacteria have been used for such studies. Speciation has never been seen to occur. Before you try to peg me with a request to list every such experimental study let me just say that if unarguable speciation had ever occurred within any Drosophila or bacterial study the event would have been trumpeted on the cover of every single science publication on earth and every doubter of the neodarwinist creed would have been beaten into submission with the findings. If this has happened I have missed it.

Who is “they?”

Do I have to parse sentences for you? “They” are organisms. “They” are holistic systems with a comprehensive genetic awareness of “their” correct form, “they” are biologically self-referential synchronized systems that are programmed to resist radical mutative alteration. The burden of proof is on neodarwinists to show that this is otherwise. So far the available evidence shows that mutation is inimical to organisms, not evolutionary.

The formation of the first self-replicator is not the first step of evolution, for the logical fact that evolution cannot occur until after the first replicator does. It is like saying that the first part of Hamlet was the birth of Shakespeare.

You are quite right. The first step of evolution predates the first self-replicator by whatever length of time it took to lay the groundwork for the first self-replicator to emerge. The intelligence shaping the Universe does not appear out of nowhere when life gets going. It is there from the very beginning, inherent in all creation. “Life” is but one of its innumerable manifestations. The intelligence present in atoms forms elements, the intelligence of elements forms molecules … you get the idea. Scientific intelligence is nothing but a relatively impoverished facsimile of the sheer genius of the universe itself. The word “genius” applied to the universe is, of course, an injustice. The capacity of the universe for endless reformation of its essential ideas seems to be limitless, profound, ultimately beyond human rational comprehension. Scientific intelligence is the ability to craft reasonable approximations of the workings of nature. Nature is therefore the teacher and science the student. This does not abnegate the worth of science as an important exploration of underlying natural truths. It does indicate, however, that the original “intelligence” resides not in the scientific mind but in the natural world of which the scientist’s mind is but a reflection. I see myself in the mirror but the image in the mirror is not “me”. My reflection cannot contain anything which is not first present in “me”. If my reflection in the mirror possesses “intelligence” then the authentic, original “me” must also possess intelligence.

Without Shakespeare there would be no “Hamlet”. Infinite monkeys notwithstanding.

So you are saying that “complex, replicable information” is a type of energy? I sure don’t remember that in my physics class. Got any scientific citation for the existence of the energy of “complex, replicable information?” Furthermore, got any reference that such energy is not present in “chemical soups.” And finally, got any reference that such vital energy is necessary for life?

Are you serious? Apart from the fact that everything is energy (E=mc2), information can be seen as a highly directed form of energy. Genetic functions are extremely specific interactive energy equations. Chemical soups possess energy potentials which on their own are not capable of self-organizing into the higher-order chemical-energy formations which constitute life. They can progress on self-organizational pathways only so far. “Life” is informational patterning, the ability of a system to organize chemistry in ways which the chemical components on their own are incapable of achieving.

Comment #2310

Posted by Sean on May 16, 2004 8:05 PM (e)

So when Darwin tells me that a bear can turn into a whale I look to Nature to see where this might be occurring in primary stage alterations within species. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

THAT is a most impressive straw man Jack. Congratulations, you win the prize.

“Despite the intensive breeding over thousands of years of dogs, horses, cattle, cats, etc, there is not a single instance of any of these animals beginning to branch out into new species.”

Jack, a little news flash for you: “thousands of years” is a blink of an eye in geologic time. It’s like me asking you to cut the grass in the outfield at Yankee Stadium and then 0.05 seconds later calling you a worthless pile of doo-doo because you hadn’t finished.

Does that sound reasonable, Jack? No it doesn’t. And for the same reason, neither do you.

I would be interested to know how you define species Jack. Unless you provide us with a definition, your statement that “speciation has never been observed to take place” is meaningless.

For the same reason, I would like to know how you define “observed.” If by “observed” you mean “video-recorded in real time” or something of that nature, I would like to know how you know that you are the offspring of two human beings, as opposed to a mating event between your mother and a non-human creature which is capable of reproducing with a human.

Comment #2311

Posted by Sean on May 16, 2004 8:13 PM (e)

Jack said

The phenotypic variety of dogs is very extensive … but they are all dogs and can all interbreed.

Sorry about the second follow up post, Jack, but since you’re an expert on dog breeding, can you tell me whether a Yorkshire terrier has ever given birth to live offspring resulting from a natural mating with an English Mastiff?

I’m just curious.

Comment #2312

Posted by Jean Lee on May 16, 2004 8:15 PM (e)

“If I dig up the graves of every dead dog on earth I can put together a very plausible scenario of obvious speciation from the skeletal evidence.”

Jack, just out of curiosity, do you need to know when the dogs were buried for your skeletal analysis?

Simple yes or now will suffice.

Comment #2313

Posted by Matt Maloney on May 16, 2004 8:19 PM (e)

If my reflection in the mirror possesses “intelligence” then the authentic, original “me” must also possess intelligence.

And if the reflection is just an UNINTELLIGENT collection of photons bouncing off a thin film of mercury behind a cheap piece of glass …

Comment #2314

Posted by Mary Kate Olsen on May 16, 2004 8:26 PM (e)

“The intelligence present in atoms forms elements, the intelligence of elements forms molecules … you get the idea.”

Yeah, I’m starting to see where you’re coming from. By chance have you spoken to Jimi lately? I’ve got a few questions to ask him about the Isle of Wight.

“Scientific intelligence is nothing but a relatively impoverished facsimile of the sheer genius of the universe itself.”

Dude that is so heavy.

“The word “genius” applied to the universe is, of course, an injustice.”

I agree that you should be punished.

Comment #2328

Posted by Jack Shea on May 17, 2004 4:05 AM (e)

Mary Kate:

I will presuppose that you are a scientist and that you are intelligent, though I may be making false and rash assumptions. What constitutes the contents of your scientific intelligence? Principles derived from the natural world. Nothing in the scientific mind exists without reference to the natural world. Science is measured against the natural world. The only way the universe can be said to be unintelligent is to say that all scientists are unintelligent, and to erase the word “intelligence” from our vocabulary since we will have stripped it of all meaning. Did E=mc2 come from Einstein’s mind? In essence, no. The principle is lodged in natural law. Einstein’s mind revealed it. The human mind, with all its complexities, is a reflection of pre-existing entities. Einstein himself realized that his own vast intelligence was but a poor reflection of the intelligence resident in the universe which he perceived, as do all scientists, through a glass darkly. If a mind of Einstein’s calibre could recognize superintelligence in all workings of the universe at the very least it is a point of view deserving of some attention and respect, whether one agrees with it or not. Newton, Faraday, Hendrix, many other great geniuses have recognized that the universe is the work of superintelligence. It is so obvious that human life, human creative intelligence owes its existence to an infinitely greater intelligence I am amazed that it can be denied. Give it any name you like. It’s damn smart, damn creative.

By the way there are much more intelligent ways you could have attacked this argument but you chose none of them.

Comment #2329

Posted by Jack Shea on May 17, 2004 4:10 AM (e)

Jean:

Jack, just out of curiosity, do you need to know when the dogs were buried for your skeletal analysis? Simple yes or now will suffice.

No. My post to Reed on fossils explains why fossils are bogus evidence for speciation.

Comment #2331

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 17, 2004 5:16 AM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

Fossils do not reveal speciation as a process. They are hearsay information at best and subject to such wide ranges of interpretation that they are unreliable and discountable as scientific evidence of speciation as a process.

You claimed that there was no evidence for the divergence amongst the apes. Fossil hominids are such evidence. All of your baseless pontifications don’t change that. Besides fossil evidence, there are genetic, morphological, and behavioral evidence for the divergence. There is also evidence both experimental and observational from other taxa about the processes of evolution, including speciation.

Before you try to peg me with a request to list every such experimental study let me just say that if unarguable speciation had ever occurred within any Drosophila or bacterial study the event would have been trumpeted on the cover of every single science publication on earth and every doubter of the neodarwinist creed would have been beaten into submission with the findings. If this has happened I have missed it.

You still didn’t answer the question: How much tendency to speciate should fruit files and bacteria have shown? You have made a bold claim about modern biology. Inability to answer the question renders your position without foundation.

If you want an example of speciation, try London underground mosquitoes. I’m sure you can find the reference on pubmed.

“They” are organisms

Okay then, how do “they” know that mutations wreaks havoc. Please explain how single celled organisms know anything about mutations.

The burden of proof is on neodarwinists to show that this is otherwise.

Nope. You have made several positive claims about organisms. Complete with undefined buzzwords.

  1. They know that mutations wreak havoc.
  2. They have a “correct” form.
  3. They are holistic systems with a comprehensive genetic awareness of their correct form.
  4. They are biologically self-referential synchronized systems that are programmed to resist radical mutative alteration.

These are all positive claims. The burden is on you to demonstrate their verity. As it stands now, it is a bunch of gobblety-gook that doesn’t impress this geneticist.

The first step of evolution predates the first self-replicator ….

Please explain how descent with modification can begin prior to descent and modification?

Without Shakespeare there would be no “Hamlet”

And that doesn’t mean that Hamlet begins before Francisco is at his post.

information can be seen as a highly directed form of energy.

And Bozo the Clown can be seen as the epitome of tragedy. It doesn’t mean that it is right. I asked you specifically for a scientific reference. Your failure to produce one tells me that you have no scientific support for your statements about information and evolution.

How about you stop pontificating and produce some goods?

Comment #2348

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 17, 2004 2:55 PM (e)

Jack Shea:

So when Darwin tells me that a bear can turn into a whale I look to Nature to see where this might be occurring in primary stage alterations within species. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

Look out! There’s a polar bear coming up behind you!
Not to mention fossils of whale evolution past. But what is your view? Whales are fish?

[hr]

Comment #2355

Posted by Jon Fleming on May 17, 2004 5:30 PM (e)

So where is the original intelligence?

What original intellignece? Lots of experiments have demonstrated that intelligence is not necessary to give rise to CSI or whatever buzzword of complexity you care to choose.

Comment #2402

Posted by Brian on May 18, 2004 4:18 PM (e)

Hmmmm… You seem to think that evolution is fool proof. Please I strongly urge you to take a look at this site http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/qa.asp

This is for any of you who, whose hearts are not completely hardened. If you want to know what I mean by hardened, then look it up in the bible.

Comment #2429

Posted by Jack Shea on May 19, 2004 4:52 AM (e)

Reed:

You claimed that there was no evidence for the divergence amongst the apes. Fossil hominids are such evidence.

I don’t see hominid fossils as evidence of anything except similarity of shape and many scientists agree. Prove otherwise. It can’t be done. How much can a plaster cast of a man tell us about the man? (No, I don’t believe fossils are plaster casts). There are as many morphological and skeletal dissimilarities among living humans as there are among the “hominid” clan. The same is true of the purported evolution of cetaceans. The absurdity of “descent with modification” shows its true colours here. We start with a small, tapir-like four-legged land creature and end up with a 70 ton blue whale swimming the globe. What are the detailed biological/geneological pathways for this kind of evolution? Even the paleontological pathways are ridiculous. The jump from teeth to baleen is the most preposterous … but the entire fanciful scheme is “just so”.

Okay then, how do “they” know that mutations wreaks havoc. Please explain how single celled organisms know anything about mutations.

Single-celled organisms aren’t self-aware (probably) but they possess complex systemic knowledge of how to be single-celled organisms. They are also programmed to adhere to a master genetic template, to disallow radical morphological change . Here is an interesting article on Tetrahymena:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2350633.stm

“(The researchers) discovered a hitherto unrecognised system of checks used to ensure the organisms DNA has not become contaminated before it goes to the next generation.Tetrahymena houses different versions of its dna in each of its two nuclei. The smaller nucleus (called the micronucleus) does nothing more than keep the cell’s full genome safe. It seems that Tetrahymena uses the smaller of its two nuclei as a master record of its dna so that it always has a safe set of genes for the cell’s offspring.

The other nucleus, called the macronucleus, uses “working” dna to regulate the cell’s life functions.”

How much tendency to speciate should fruit files and bacteria have shown?

Drosophila and bacteria should show zero speciation (“speciation” as evidence of even minor macroevolutionary tendencies). The results fit the prediction. Drosophila experiments also consistently reveal that in surprisingly few generations even grossly mutated fruit fly populations return to morphologically “healthy/normal” populations.

If you want an example of speciation, try London underground mosquitoes.

The London Underground mosquitoes are still mosquitoes. They can’t breed with their predecessors but that doesn’t make them flies or ants or beetles. Hence: “They are biologically self-referential synchronized systems that are programmed to resist radical mutative alteration”. They are genetically programmed to remain mosquitoes.

Please explain how descent with modification can begin prior to descent and modification?

There is no such thing as darwinian “descent with modification”, ie macroevolution. Existing genes get shuffled around, damaged etc but no radically new information is allowed to enter the system. So, thousands of different types of fruit flies but none of them on their way to becoming bluebottles. That’s precisely what all the drosophila and bacteria observations/experiments teach us. Genetic constraint preserving a morphological mean.

ME: information can be seen as a highly directed form of energy.

YOU: And Bozo the Clown can be seen as the epitome of tragedy. It doesn’t mean that it is right. I asked you specifically for a scientific reference. Your failure to produce one tells me that you have no scientific support for your statements about information and evolution.

DNA-RNA reactions.

Comment #2431

Posted by Jack Shea on May 19, 2004 5:29 AM (e)

Jon:

My point is that scientific intelligence is a faithful, incomplete imprint of intelligence systems which pre-exist in the natural world. The more faithful the imprint from nature the more scientifically valid the intelligence. The “intelligence”, the “scientific facts” do not originate in the scientist’s mind. They are entirely derivative. As an analogy, consider the natural world as DNA, and science as RNA. The original intelligence/information is in the DNA and RNA is a reflection. Science is the legitimate plagiarist of a book that is already written.

Jack

Comment #2439

Posted by Pim van Meurs on May 19, 2004 9:25 AM (e)

Jack: I don’t see hominid fossils as evidence of anything except similarity of shape and many scientists agree. Prove otherwise. It can’t be done. How much can a plaster cast of a man tell us about the man?

Quite a bit. Check out how scientists approach what to the layman may appear to be an insurmountable issue.
Of course science is not really about proof but about hypotheses, rejection/falsification. All Jack seems to have to offer is appeal to personal incredulity.

That’s often the best ID has to offer imho.

As far as Jack’s comments on DNA/RNA, I fail to really see any argument there.

But what is interesting is how the structure of RNA and protein networks both are ‘scale free’. Scale free networks like found in RNA or proteins can be shown to arise from simple models of duplication followed by divergence. Not only do such networks lead to modularity but also evolvability, robustness and degeneracy. Fascinating data that show how at the level of DNA and RNA, information can arise helping us understand how evolution happened.

Comment #2444

Posted by Pim van Meurs on May 19, 2004 9:51 AM (e)

More on fossil hominids

and PBS

Becoming Human

Check out how phylogenetic and cladistic analyses are used to support the arguments and claims. Perhaps Jack can tell us how he believes science has reached these conclusions?
It’s hard work full of hypotheses, data analyses.

Comment #2459

Posted by Ed Darrell on May 19, 2004 2:39 PM (e)

Jack said:

Speciation has never been seen to occur. Before you try to peg me with a request to list every such experimental study let me just say that if unarguable speciation had ever occurred within any Drosophila or bacterial study the event would have been trumpeted on the cover of every single science publication on earth and every doubter of the neodarwinist creed would have been beaten into submission with the findings. If this has happened I have missed it.

May we presume that in your neck of the woods you have never had grapefruit, and that broccoli is just another Italian family name?

Speciation is on display at your supermarket, in the produce aisle and at the meat counter. If you wished to eat in America while avoiding evidence of speciation, you’d starve.

Why would you submit to evidence on the front page of a newspaper or from a science journal in the future, or at any point in the past, when you won’t do it now, Jack?

Speciation spectacularly demonstrated itself as early as 1870 with the observed rise of a salt grass on the mudflats of the Thames river which was offspring of American salt grass (accidentally imported as ballast in ships) and a common European variety. The new variety was immediately identified as a new species by several unique characteristics. Chromosome studies done decades later revealed that the new species had simply utilized the entire set of genes from both parents, which made it a new species incapable of breeding back, immediately.

You could also read about speciation occurring in real time, under the gaze of careful scientists, in Jonathan Weiner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Beak of the Finch, a story of evolution in our time.

The American Museum of Natural History has a collection of trilobites assembled and curated by Niles Eldredge which demonstrates evolution of many new features, over 2,000 different species which lived over a period of 300 million years.

Why is it not on the front page so you can eat crow, Jack? I don’t know. But the information is there, just the same, and it clearly demonstrates speciation.

Comment #2465

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on May 19, 2004 6:41 PM (e)

Jack Shea wrote:

I don’t see hominid fossils as evidence of anything except similarity of shape and many scientists agree. Prove otherwise. It can’t be done.

It is easy to prove otherwise, all I have to do is establish one other thing. The simplest one to establish is the chronological ordering of the fossils. Fossil hominids don’t just show similarity of shape, but also that the similarity of shape can be ordered in time to show a progression from non-human to human.

Take this for example.

Single-celled organisms aren’t self-aware (probably) but they possess complex systemic knowledge of how to be single-celled organisms.

Please demonstrate where single-celled organisms store this “knowledge.”

They are also programmed to adhere to a master genetic template, to disallow radical morphological change.

Please demonstrate how an organism knows what the phenotype of genotype will be before said phenotype is expressed? Then please explain how the organisms is able to determine if it is a “radical morphological change.”

Drosophila and bacteria should show zero speciation (“speciation” as evidence of even minor macroevolutionary tendencies). The results fit the prediction. Drosophila experiments also consistently reveal that in surprisingly few generations even grossly mutated fruit fly populations return to morphologically “healthy/normal” populations.

See section 5.3.

The London Underground mosquitoes are still mosquitoes. They can’t breed with their predecessors but that doesn’t make them flies or ants or beetles. Hence: “They are biologically self-referential synchronized systems that are programmed to resist radical mutative alteration”. They are genetically programmed to remain mosquitoes.

You do realize that “mosquito” is not a species; it is a family (Culicidae). The fact that they can’t breed might not make them files or ants or beetles, but it does make them a new species. The flaw in your argument is that the statement that Northern House Mosquitoes in the London underground are still “mosquitoes” is equivalent to saying that humans and chimps are still “apes.” I don’t see how you can accept mosquitoes and reject apes at the same time.

There is no such thing as darwinian “descent with modification”….

Tell that to dog owners. Now, how about answering my question: “how can descent with modification begin prior to descent and modification?”

DNA-RNA reactions.

Care to explain how DNA-RNA reactions demonstrate that “information can be seen as a highly directed form of energy.” Oh yeah, I am still waiting for that scientific reference.

Comment #2469

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 19, 2004 8:30 PM (e)

Jack, first it was a bear that couldn’t adapt to life in water:

So when Darwin tells me that a bear can turn into a whale I look to Nature to see where this might be occurring in primary stage alterations within species. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

I reminded you of the polar bear so you dropped that point. Now you want a tapir-like animal. Well, it’s only moderately tapir-like, but I offer the hippopotamus. It can give birth in water and is probably the whale’s closest living land relative.

There are also otters and seals, giant walruses and tiny water shrews. With so many mammals showing so many adaptations for life in water, I think that question is answered. And there are fossils of the early stages of the transition of whale ancestors to the marine life style.

Whales have mammalian skeletons, including vestigial hind limbs at times. They give birth to live young and then suckle them. They live in small groups of related individuals as many mammals do. They combine vocal communication with echo location as mammals do. They have mammalian genes and proteins. What reason is there to be incredulous about their ancestry?

What is your alternative hypothesis?

Comment #2500

Posted by Jack Shea on May 21, 2004 7:05 AM (e)

Pete:
Polar bear was your joke. I don’t want a tapir-like animal. I don’t want the hippo. I don’t want giant walruses or tiny water shrews. They are all bogus sources for the existence of whales.

Taking vertebrates as an example, my alternative hypothesis is that 99% (very rough estimate of course) of vertebrate genotype is effectively locked against radical mutation. It is “locked” by a system of master genes which filter out random or any other mutations which would threaten the existence of all organic systems necessary for an organism’s survival. Bilateralism, specific skeletal system, number, type and distribution of internal organs, in other words the bulk of the beast, are systems essential for survival and are therefore maintained within a protective genetic shield. A large degree of replicable stability is built into the system. Where the sytem fails, in the rare instances when it does, natural selection (ie death) cleans up. There is evidence, which neither you nor Reed care to comment on, for the existence of master genes against which all mutations are referenced before they are passed on to offspring. Even without this evidence it is clear that the existence of essential vertebrate systems and characteristics, taken as “given” in neodarwinist theories of evolution, is in fact not “given” at all. Stabilizing, master genetic systems work to ensure an adherence to gross morphology.

Bilateral symmetry, a feature of all vertebrates, has not “evolved”. It has been there from the beginning. It is not “evolving” now. As a genetic system it is locked. The circulatory system is locked. The nervous system is locked. The metabolic system is locked. None of these vertebrate functions are unrestrictedly responsive to random mutation. The genetic system contains very specific instructions regarding the existence, organization and placement of the vast majority of an animal’s characteristics. But there are such wide variations among vertebrates. Where does this variety come from?

Random mutations are allowed to occur in aspects of the animal which are not threatening to the animal’s survival: colour, shape detail and size. Gene shuffling, point mutations, etc, relating to secondary characteristics are not screened by master genes in the same way as, say, the genes responsible for bilateral symmetry or the existence of a heart. It doesn’t matter in stark survivability terms if a bear is dark or light brown. It does matter if it does or does not have a heart.

There are clearly two different modes of gene transfer taking place in vertebrates (as in all other living things). One, the “primary” genetic system, relates to systems essential for survival. These include an animal’s basic morphology, its skeletal shape, distribution of organs and so on. These systems do not evolve in any major way by any random means. If they were subject to random mutation without master genetic screening we would see evidence of at least one species of vertebrate possessing, say, six legs. There is nothing inherently life-threatening in having six legs. Insects do fine with six legs. But it doesn’t happen because vertebrate master genes do not let it happen. Two, the “secondary” genetic system relates to attributes which may enhance survivability but are not essential for survival. Colour, shape detail, size. Randomnness is given some rein, though even here random factors are kept in check and phenotype is most frequently the result of a mixing of pre-existent genetic material between males and female. Nature seems to abhor accident in living things as much as it abhors vacuum everywhere.

Dogs are the best example of randomly-produced variety existing within stable, non-random genetic systems:

“All dogs, regardless of breed, are essentially identical in anatomy. The skeleton of the domestic dog has about 321 bones, with variations in the number of bones in the tail and the presence of a dewclaw, an extra digit on the paw that not all breeds have. The rib cage consists of 13 pairs of ribs; the spine has 7 cervical vertebrae, 13 thoracic vertebrae, 7 lumbar vertebrae, and 3 sacral vertebrae. Rear paws have four complete digits and front paws have four or five digits. Most puppies have 28 temporary teeth, which are replaced with 42 permanent teeth at about six months of age. “

The same stable genetics required to maintain anatomical synchronicity in dogs, despite superficial variations, will be resistant to “evolving” into anything other than dogs. The primary genetic system is designed not to evolve randomly, since the haphazard invasion of the genetics responsible for the existence of an essential organ, for example, would endanger an animal’s survivability. Most of an animal’s genes are “hands off” to random effects, for the simple reason that they contain information necessary for the animal’s living existence. We observe no evolutionary development in the existence/nonexistence of these systems. This invariability indicates the existence of a master control system: “All vertebrates will have four legs, two eyes..” and so forth.

It is obvious that the vast majority of a vertebrate’s genetic system is “locked” in this way. The living system is designed to keep on living. Shuffling around the inessential bits of DNA and opening them up to the vagaries of sexual reproduction produces a multitude of different variations on a theme. But the theme is resistant to change, resistant to evolution produced by random means. Fruit flies will always be fruit flies, dogs will always be dogs.

Comment #2509

Posted by Holger Czukay on May 21, 2004 10:38 AM (e)

Bilateral symmetry, a feature of all vertebrates, has not “evolved”. It has been there from the beginning.

The beginning of what, Jack?

Comment #2555

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 22, 2004 5:14 AM (e)

Jack, I thought you were looking for mammals living today that showed various stages of adaptation to life in water.

So when Darwin tells me that a bear can turn into a whale I look to Nature to see where this might be occurring in primary stage alterations within species. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

Now I see that you personally think that mammal species are genetically “locked” and can’t evolve enough to adapt to life in water. All I can say is that that is not science.

What is your explanation of the origin of all the different mammals?

Comment #2558

Posted by Jack Shea on May 22, 2004 9:14 AM (e)

Holger, Pete:
If you want to challenge the essentials of any of my posts, I’ll be happy to engage in a discussion. It looks like the substance of what I’ve written is unassailable since no one ever goes for the jugular. I keep getting asked for science but I see no science in return. Even on those rare occasions when I proffer some sci evidence (Lysistrata or whatever it is master gene) the ball doesn’t come back. I don’t even see logical thinking. I see evasion. Phony questions. Slender comments, meaningless questions. Maybe I’m just seeing things that aren’t there.

The beginning of vertebrates, Holder. See Reed for lessons on parsing sentences. Or better yet, show me some fossil or any other evidence for asymmetrical vertebrates. Then explain to me why bilateral symmetry is off the evolutionary map. Not a whiff of a change in 550 million years.

Pete: It is the science of the obvious that certain vertebrate systems ARE locked, in terms of their very existence, as I stated and as you gloss over. The existence of any aspect of vertebrate morphology cannot be taken as “given”. In vertebrates we see that all major skeletal attributes and organic systems -symmetry, brain/nervous, circulatory, metabolic, organ placement, etc, ARE NOT EVOLVING, AND HAVE NOT EVOLVED in the fossil record. What is staring us in the face is the remarkably UNEVOLUTIONARY nature of the design, function and layout of the major componenets of vertebrate anatomy. We see change in organ shape, size, and perhaps details of chemistry but we see no new additions or alterations to the basic components, functions and layout of vertebrate systems. Their existence and general layout are “locked”. Since they appear universally, without exception, in vertebrate phenotype, it follows that genetic locks must exist which do not permit variation (as existence/nonexistence) of these attributes and systems. We have found major aspects of vertebrate anatomy which do not evolve. The general systemic pattern is locked. That this has eluded us for so long is only because it is so obvious.

This is observed fact, therefore science. How are we to interpret this fact in light of neodarwinist explanations for evolution? There can be only one conclusion: certain vertebrate characteristics are not open to the free-form process of random mutation as an evolutionary tool. For 550 million years there has been no mutation of the basic systems, the foundational anatomical patterns, comprising vertebrates. How much more “locked” can you get? These locked systems are of course genetically derived and present in DNA before their expression.

I move into scientific hypothesis when I suggest that the observed unvarying stability of these genetic systems indicates that their resistance to change might be comprehensive. That is, the master gene which produces this unvarying stability would also work to prevent gills from turning into lungs, etc. Not a wild hypothesis given that this master gene system has already shown that its function is to keep to established patterns over vast amounts of time.

In other words, design is resident in vertebrate genes. Vertebrates are not shaped by chance alone but by inherent intention as well. Inherent intention is responsible for the basic structure of vertebrates, which does not vary anywhere in the phylum Chordata. The list of attributes shared by all members of Chordata is a list of gene functions that do not vary across a wide spectrum of very different-looking animals. We see here a fixed pattern, “locked” genes. There is no evidence of its random disruption. The pattern maintains its intent, distributes directed information in such a way that it establishes a template for its next stage of emergence.

Here the shape of Chordata diverges into new variety. Chordata splits into new definitions of itself. The Bears, the Deer, the Whale, the Mouse, the Platypus, the Dolphin, the Dog. Within these basic animal types we see much diversity. Many kinds of Bear, many kinds of Whale. We know that the exchange of genetic information between male and female in each of these animal groups results in observed changes in appearance over generations. We see elements of predictability resulting from these exchanges as well as productions which seem to emanate from random causes. We see immense variety in size, shape detail and coloration. A great deal of evolution within basic animal type is indeed taking place. Hundreds of different varieties of dog, but all Dog.

That these beasts look and behave differently from one another is undeniable. A mouse and a whale. A very specific, stable and organized system forms a template which has existed without variation since the first emergence of vertebrates on the earth. Every vertebrate possessess the same basic pattern, the same basic genotypic/phenotypic design. There is no variation at the level of primary systems. No evidence of evolutionary departure from the basic pattern. The design of the master gene(s) prevents it from happening. At a very basic level, form is fixed.

Where that design comes from is a separate question. I don’t have the answer. The implication is that master gene templates emerge in an instant of phenomenally brilliant creativity … but in what do they emerge? What paper is The Book of the Snake written on? The Book of the Whale? In vertebrates we need an animal before we can have an egg. But it may be that there exist unicellular organisms which make good paper for someone with a knowledge of Creation’s alphabet. What is required is energy and information, very high-order information and very subtle forms of energy. We come face to face with “we don’t know”. Nor will we ever know. The final answer is outwith the reach of science. There will always remain an “a priori”, a new question which will be answerable and whose answer will generate a new question and so on. In science we can describe mechanisms but not origins. There are many names for the indefinable origins of existence but It has no name.

Comment #2560

Posted by Holger Czukay on May 22, 2004 10:23 AM (e)

Bilateral symmetry, a feature of all vertebrates, has not “evolved”. It has been there from the beginning.

The beginning of what, Jack?

Comment #2674

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 24, 2004 12:09 PM (e)

Jack, I don’t want to keep going back and forth with “It is” “It isn’t”, but you keep saying that such and such is science when it is not. You know that the things you assert here do not come from science books or research journals.

We were talking about whales, but now you say a lot about bilateral symmetry. It is quite remarkable that you look at the immense variety of animals that have descended from the earliest ‘just barely a chordate’ amphioxus like animal and say there has been no real change. We have bats and snakes, fish and whales, quick monkeys and slow sloths in the same trees and moles in the ground. Yes, they are bilaterally symmetric as are roaches, lobsters and spiders. Since that works well, why change it?

But let’s get back to something more specific, namely whales. Are you now OK with the evolution of whales, because they have bilateral symmetry and hence haven’t “really” changed much? Recall that we have fossils of the intermediate stages, and also various living animals showing that various degrees of adaptation (by mammals) to life in water are feasible, and of course whales have mammalian genes.

Bear in mind that your statements about genomes being “locked” and/or having “intent” are not based on scientific research. Instead, we know about genes that control the timing and amount of growth in a young organism, and we know that changes in these genes can drastically change the shape of the organism. For an example of this and of how much change you have probably observed yourself, just remember frogs. At first they are tadpoles, with gills and fish-like tails. Then later they develop legs and lungs. (Gills do not change into lungs. They are separate developments).

Also bear in mind that there is no scientific reason to think that the amount of change that is observed in a short time is all that can happen in a much longer time. Instead it is more like (but of course not exactly) this: if X amount of change can happen in 100 years, then ten X can happen in 1000 years and so on.

All in all, I see no reason for you not to accept the evolution of whales from land animals. Do you?

Pete

Comment #2675

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on May 24, 2004 12:10 PM (e)

Jack, I don’t want to keep going back and forth with “It is” “It isn’t”, but you keep saying that such and such is science when it is not. You know that the things you assert here do not come from science books or research journals.

We were talking about whales, but now you say a lot about bilateral symmetry. It is quite remarkable that you look at the immense variety of animals that have descended from the earliest ‘just barely a chordate’ amphioxus like animal and say there has been no real change. We have bats and snakes, fish and whales, quick monkeys and slow sloths in the same trees and moles in the ground. Yes, they are bilaterally symmetric as are roaches, lobsters and spiders. Since that works well, why change it?

But let’s get back to something more specific, namely whales. Are you now OK with the evolution of whales, because they have bilateral symmetry and hence haven’t “really” changed much? Recall that we have fossils of the intermediate stages, and also various living animals showing that various degrees of adaptation (by mammals) to life in water are feasible, and of course whales have mammalian genes.

Bear in mind that your statements about genomes being “locked” and/or having “intent” are not based on scientific research. Instead, we know about genes that control the timing and amount of growth in a young organism, and we know that changes in these genes can drastically change the shape of the organism. For an example of this and of how much change you have probably observed yourself, just remember frogs. At first they are tadpoles, with gills and fish-like tails. Then later they develop legs and lungs. (Gills do not change into lungs. They are separate developments).

Also bear in mind that there is no scientific reason to think that the amount of change that is observed in a short time is all that can happen in a much longer time. Instead it is more like (but of course not exactly) this: if X amount of change can happen in 100 years, then ten X can happen in 1000 years and so on.

All in all, I see no reason for you not to accept the evolution of whales from land animals. Do you?

Pete

Comment #10211

Posted by andrew on November 12, 2004 12:43 PM (e)

Question from someone who knows very little about intelligent design.

The proponents of intelligent design theory believe that all living organisms were designed, constructed, and placed into existence by a being or entity with intelligence.

Therefore they believe that it is POSSIBLE that life can be designed, constructed, and placed into existence by a being or entity with intelligence.

So does ID theory then support the possibility that humans (beings with intelligence), have the ability to design a machine that is considered alive?

Comment #10216

Posted by Great White Wonder on November 12, 2004 1:16 PM (e)

So does ID theory then support the possibility that humans (beings with intelligence), have the ability to design a machine that is considered alive?

As I recall, ID apologist Charlie Wagner doesn’t rule out the possibility that humans designed all the life on earth. Ask him to explain (of course, he’ll first deny ever having said anything of the sort and then you’ll have to search the archives here to “refresh” him).

Comment #10267

Posted by Bob Maurus on November 13, 2004 10:33 PM (e)

GWW,
I think you’re unfairly attributing something to Charlie that rightly should be laid at the feet of Horatio’s Hypothesis, which pointed out the oversight in Nelson’s Law, and showed that, indeed, in the absence of contrary evidence, humans designed all life on earth (including ourtselves) - and potentially much, much more.