Friday, February 5, 2010

How to Read Darwin

The first two chapters of Origin are on the topic of biological variation. In the first chapter Darwin discusses what breeders had learned (Variation Under Domestication) and the second chapter discusses biological variability in the wild (Variation Under Nature). The two chapters serve as a good summary of what was known at the time, but it's slow going as the material does not seem to advance Darwin's thesis very well. In these chapters Darwin is, among other things, introducing the reader to the idea that what we observe today as distinct species, and the labels we give them, are rather arbitrary. What we are seeing is a snapshot at a particular point in time, but over eons of time the designs of the species are fluid. The boundaries shift and new species emerge as the picture gradually changes. The reading is a bit tedious, but as these first two chapters close Darwin pivots, and makes his first important move.

Darwin ends Chapter 2 with a section entitled Summary, but here he introduces a new, important idea. Yes, he summarizes what he has been discussing, but he provides a new, powerful interpretation:

In genera having more than the average number of species in any country, the species of these genera have more than the average number of varieties. In large genera the species are apt to be closely, but unequally, allied together, forming little clusters round other species. Species very closely allied to other species apparently have restricted ranges. In all these respects the species of large genera present a strong analogy with varieties. And we can clearly understand these analogies, if species once existed as varieties, and thus originated; whereas, these analogies are utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations.

Earlier in the chapter Darwin had made a few comments in passing about creationism, but nothing too significant. But here Darwin introduces the reader to the power behind his long argument. The pattern will repeat many times: long tedious passages followed by the powerful conclusion that nature's evidence falsifies divine creation.

Don't worry if you don't completely follow the observations Darwin discusses in the above quote. Here's what you need to understand. The take home message for evolutionists is that, as usual, there are no viable explanations other than evolution's. The observations may not be fully understood under evolution, but under creation or design the story becomes downright impossible. As Ernst Mayr wrote:

The greatest triumph of Darwinism is that the theory of natural selection, for 80 years after 1859 a minority opinion, is now the prevailing explanation of evolutionary change. It must be admitted, however, that it has achieved this position less by the amount of irrefutable proofs it has been able to present than by the default of all the opposing theories.

Indeed, but the default of those opposing theories is not a scientific conclusion. It was evolutionary metaphysics that dictated the outcome. This is the take home message for everyone else. Darwin's reasoning, such as in the passage above, is metaphysical.

The idea that the patterns Darwin was discussing are "utterly inexplicable if species are independent creations" is not from science. Nor did it come from creationists of the day. Nor was it merely a casual observation, made in passing. Then and today, these are the arguments that make evolution a fact. There is no proof that evolution is a fact that does not entail metaphysics. As Stephen Jay Gould observed:

Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution—paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce. No one understood this better than Darwin. Ernst Mayr has shown how Darwin, in defending evolution, consistently turned to organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least sense.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

28 comments:

  1. "Indeed, but the default of those opposing theories is not a scientific conclusion. It was evolutionary metaphysics that dictated the outcome."

    Repeatedly you insist that the theory of evolution is built on nothing but the default assumption that there can be no divine creator. This is the sticking point where you simply fall down.

    The theory of evolution is not built on this default assumption. It is built on the enormous amount of scientific evidence which supports it. And dismissing all this evidence with a wave of your hand and saying scientists 'interpret all the evidence assuming evolution is true from the start' simply won't wash. A hypothesis never becomes a theory until it has passed a reasonable standard of evidence. Which the theory of evolution did a long time ago.

    Moreover, you also ignore the fact that ID does not provide any sort of reasonable explanation for these 'organic parts and geographic distributions that make the least sense'. Why on Earth would any sensible designer create the laryngeal nerve in the giraffe the way it is, or install our retinas backwards, or any of the many, many other examples of 'bad design'? It flies in the face of what we can see as sensible, efficient, and good design.

    You are not advancing any reasons why an almighty designer WOULD design creatures with so many 'flaws'. And the fact that there are so many examples of what we would consider 'bad design' is in fact rather suggestive (though not conclusive) evidence against a designer. At least, a designer who was sensible, rational and halfway intelligent.

    All you are doing is clinging to the fact that such a designer has nevertheless not been shown to be impossible. Which, for what it is worth, is true. But we have no reason to think such a designer does exist, and active reasons to think one does not!

    All in all, the odds of such a designer are not good.

    And yet you still want to insist that one is possible no matter how unlikely. What exactly is your purpose in emphasizing this point? Why don't you create a blogsite to continually emphasize the point that science hasn't ruled out unicorns or fairies or goblins, and insist that at every turn science bears in mind the possibility of their existence and allows that they MIGHT be real?

    Could it be that religion in fact drives YOU?

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  2. Ritchie:

    "Repeatedly you insist that the theory of evolution is built on nothing but the default assumption that there can be no divine creator."

    No, that's what you repeatedly insist. It's a strawman and its getting old.

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  3. Ritch:
    Once again you miss the whole boat - the size of the Queen Mary.

    "Repeatedly you insist that the theory of evolution is built on nothing but the default assumption that there can be no divine creator. This is the sticking point where you simply fall down."

    And repeatedly YOU fail to grasp that this whole blog is full of "mountains of overwhelming evidence" that Darwin and his disciples got it wrong.

    Here you have thrown a sweeping conlcusion based on one small part of what Hunter is saying!

    This is consistent with the whole of Darwinian theorists.
    Huge claims over meagre and often false evidence.
    Proof? "Ida" - I rest my case.

    "The theory of evolution is not built on this default assumption. It is built on the enormous amount of scientific evidence which supports it."

    Where is this enormous amount of scientific evidence?
    Allow me to clue you in - it is 95% in some OTHER Darwinian scientist's labs.

    I explain: The greater percentage of Darwinians think that some other Darwinian has conclusive evidence, and that other Darwinian thinks the same, and on and on... - yet none of them have anything conclusive at all! Nothing at all that goes beyond evidence for micro-evolution.

    Pretty amazing situation - just like AGW - (anthropogenic global warming) - a humongous global hoax (all designed to deceive the world into accepting a one world government btw).

    So here is your challenge - go find the lab experiments that *empirically* demonstrate the Darwinian view.

    Good luck - there are none. Case closed.

    On the contrary, all the lab experiments show just the contrary to Darwinism!! As Behe points out in EOE.

    Thus - Darwinism isn't science - its speculation, titanic extrapolations, conjecture and wild claims produced by materialist wishful thinking and the proverbial quest for "fortune and glory".

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  4. Cornelius -

    "No, that's what you repeatedly insist. It's a strawman and its getting old."

    On that last point I'll agree.

    In your opinion, is the theory of evolution built on anything other than the default assumption that there can be no designer?

    Yes or no?

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  5. Hitch -

    "So here is your challenge - go find the lab experiments that *empirically* demonstrate the Darwinian view."

    There is an entire scientific journal specifically dedicated to new research on evolution:

    http://www.evolutionsociety.org/

    Go knock yourself out! It, like any true peer-reviewed scientiic journal, is chock-a-block full of experiments and case studies. Pick one. Go nuts. Read some. Who knows, you might actually LEARN something there.

    Or are you asking for one specific study which I feel answers your challenge? If so, I present Lenski's bacteria study. Evolution in action. Observed in meticulous detail and recorded in black and white.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn14094-bacteria-make-major-evolutionary-shift-in-the-lab.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment


    "Good luck - there are none. Case closed."

    Hmmm, what was it you were saying earlier about making huge claims over meagre and often false evidence?

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  6. From Behe's EOE:

    "Evolution from a common ancestor, via changes in DNA, is very well supported. It may or may not be random." (p.12)

    "Over the next few sections I'll show some of the newest evidence from studies of DNA that convinces most scientists, including myself, that one leg of Darwin's theory -- common descent -- is correct." (p.65)

    "Despite some remaining puzzles, there's no reason to doubt that Darwin had this point right, that all creatures on earth are biological relatives." (p.72)

    "Charles Darwin deserves a lot of credit. Although it had been proposed before him, he championed the idea of common descent and gathered a lot of evidence to support it. Despite some puzzles, much evidence from sequencing projects and other work points very str
    ongly to common ancestry."(p.83)

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  7. Ritchie
    Once again, as I suspected you would, you present articles that support nothing at all for macro-evolution - only for micro-evolution - which is, as always, conveniently extrapolated into macro - quite against the rules.

    You REALLY NEED to learn the difference.
    And btw, micro/macro is not a creationist invention.

    Furthermore you cannot gratuitously extrapolate micro into macro - as I knew you would and still will - no matter how unscientific, speculative and useless it is.

    As for Lenski's experiments, I'm afraid mr. biblo and ritch, that you select passages from E0E that seem to support macro evol yet you ignore completely the whole purpose of Behe's book - which I have in my library - which is to show just how limited Darwinian evol really is - and that with experimental data rather than the usual Darwinian speculations and conjecture.

    You also speak as though Behe has never addressed Lenski's results.

    On the contrary he has and he shows why it does not constitute anything like neo-Darwinian evol. at all!
    Perhaps you should educate yourself and read what your opposition actually says instead of taking quotes out of context and hoping I don't notice.

    Your responses (and bilbos) are sorry indeed. Were you hoping I've never read EoE or don't know what Behe is saying or has written on his blog regarding Lenski? Appears so.

    So one more time - where are the empirical lab experiments that demonstrate macro evolution in action??
    i.e. a taxonomic family crossing into a completely new one? Like frog to lizard or something "easy for evolution" like dog into bear.

    There are none, get over it.

    Now, here's where you Darwinians bring in the fossil record with lots of diagrams of neatly lined up skulls and such (anyone can line up skulls) plus the lame excuse "it happens over millions of years so we can't observe it".
    Indeed!? That, all by itself, constitutes an admission that there is no empirical evidence for macro!

    The sooner you admit this the better it will go for healing your acute cognitive dissonance.

    You delve into so much sophism and escapist "science" all while completely ignoring the whole aspect of prescriptive information and the necessity of ID required by.

    Nor do you even seem to grasp that Dr. Hunter's evalutions on the great majority of Darwinian hypothses are correct - its all religious metaphysical hype you're not supposed to see through - and indeed, you don't.

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  8. Hitch,

    Behe sees Darwinism as compsed of three "legs."

    1. Common descent -- for which Behe thinks there is ample evidence.

    2. Natural selection -- which Behe also accepts.

    3. Random mutation -- the point Behe disputes.

    Since Dr. Hunter quoted some of Darwin's evidence for common descent, I thought I would point out what the leading scientist in the ID movement thought of it.

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  9. Ritchie:

    =======
    In your opinion, is the theory of evolution built on anything other than the default assumption that there can be no designer?

    Yes or no?
    =======

    Your wording is not the greatest, so to be clear, the answer is "yes", but a better way to put it is: Evolution is motivated and mandated by metaphysical and religious premises. That would be *theism*, not the *atheism* you continually raise as a strawman. Atheism has nothing to do with this.

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  10. Cornelius -

    "Evolution is motivated and mandated by metaphysical and religious premises."

    I see. And do you think you could sum up in just one or two sentences precisely what these metaphysical and religious premises are?

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  11. Hitch -

    "Once again, as I suspected you would, you present articles that support nothing at all for macro-evolution - only for micro-evolution - which is, as always, conveniently extrapolated into macro - quite against the rules."

    A woeful Creationist fallacy. There is no relevant scientific difference between microevoltuion and macroevolution. That is to say, the former relates to evolved changes within a species, and the latter to evolved changes which create new species. But they both happen in the same way and for the same reasons.

    The way you (like Creationists) use the term, it is as though the two are significantly different processes. They are not. The thing about macroevolution and microevolution is that they refer to the same process, but on different scales - microevultion generally doesn't necessarily take that long, macroevolution generally does.

    Which is why macroevolution is so difficult to demonstrate and observe - it generally takes a very long time!

    "Furthermore you cannot gratuitously extrapolate micro into macro - as I knew you would and still will"

    Why not, exactly?

    "You also speak as though Behe has never addressed Lenski's results."

    Not at all. But Behe does not have the last word on the subject. Behe's refutations have been met with strong criticism of their own. To my knowledge, he has made no objection which has not been refuted itself.

    "Perhaps you should educate yourself and read what your opposition actually says instead of taking quotes out of context and hoping I don't notice."

    To what, exactly, are you referring here?

    "Like frog to lizard or something "easy for evolution" like dog into bear."

    Frog to lizard? Dog to bear? Do you even know how evolution is meant to work? No modern species simply turns into any other modern species. Humans are not descended from chimpanzees - humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor! Don't you even know this about evolution? It's not complicated stuff. It's incredibly basic...

    And if you want me to cite evidence of macroevolution, then I chose the fossil record charting mankind's evolution from our common ancestor with chimpanzees. How do you dismiss all of that?

    "Now, here's where you Darwinians bring in the fossil record with lots of diagrams of neatly lined up skulls and such (anyone can line up skulls) plus the lame excuse "it happens over millions of years so we can't observe it".
    Indeed!? That, all by itself, constitutes an admission that there is no empirical evidence for macro!"

    This whole paragragh makes no sense! 'It happens over millions of years' is not a lame excuse. It is a fact. And it does not constitute no evidence for macro. Your ability to shut your eyes to evidence and demand it isn't really there is truly a thing to behold, but it doesn't make you right, unfortunately for you.

    "its all religious metaphysical hype you're not supposed to see through"

    If you can even define religious metaphysics, then can you please explain to me in one or two brief sentences exactly what religious metaphysical prerequisites underpin the theory of evolution. Because at the moment it just sounds like you've found big words to throw around without understanding what they actually mean.

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  12. Ah dear Ritchie, you are so wrong.
    Part one (since this is too long)

    James Shapiro at Fermilab recently responding to the following statement which is the same as yours:
    "...There is no relevant scientific difference between microevoltuion and macroevolution. That is to say, the former relates to evolved changes within a species, and the latter to evolved changes which create new species. But they both happen in the same way and for the same reasons."

    Shapiro respectfully, but forcefully, disagreed. Macroevolution is not simply microevolution plus time. "Macroevolution," he argued, "refers to when we have a major change in the nature of the organism. When a chordate changes into a vertebrate, that’s macroevolution. When one kind of plant changes into a flowering plant and the genome doubles at the same time, that’s what I would consider a macroevolutionary change."

    By contrast, Shapiro continued, "when a butterfly changes the pigment on its wings so it doesn’t get predated when it’s sitting on a city wall, that’s microevolution. That’s a small change. So I think the two changes can be distinguished from each other."

    "These are sudden events," he concluded. "They can’t occur over many cell generations or many organism generations. They must occur within a single generation. Big changes can happen suddenly. How that all works, we don’t know yet. But we have to recognize that it must work suddenly and try and figure out what are the control processes and how does the complexity of the living cell allow these things to happen."

    So much for your erroneous view on that one.
    Creationist fallacy indeed! Shame on you.

    Then you say, ""Furthermore you cannot gratuitously extrapolate micro into macro - as I knew you would and still will"

    Why not, exactly?"

    Do you have any understanding of the scientific method? Apparently not.

    You cannot assume huge extrapolation into the past on biological events is valid. ThatMs not science, thats guessing.

    Evolution is not a simple mathematical regression formula!!!
    You cannot extrapolate gratuitously like that in any science without first demonstrating that it is valid to do so - and in this case it isn't.

    You, like all Darwinist, assume, presume and speculate than dare call that "evidence" - it isn't evidence, its mere speculation.

    We already know the limits of micro which are highly restrained as Behe clearly points out using empirical field and lab data.

    You'll never get millions of completely different taxonomic families with Lenski style micro changes - and if anything, that is exactly what his experiments demonstrate!

    Sad that your metaphysical need for materialist explanations bars you from admitting it.

    You ramble on with the same old Darwinist tripe - "No modern species simply turns into any other modern species. Humans are not descended from chimpanzees - humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor! ... bla bla"
    Besides being a mere repeat of micro = macro over time but even that is pure speculation without a grain of real evidence on the one hand and the statement is simply false on the other.

    Indeed, world renown paleontologist Richard Leakey, told The Associated Press:
    "Whether the bishop likes it or not, Turkana Boy is a distant relation of his...The bishop is descended from the apes and these fossils tell how he evolved."

    continued...

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  13. suite...
    Evolutionary paleontologist of Harvard University, George Gaylord Simpson, summed it up quite succinctly:
    "On this subject, by the way, there has been way too much pussyfooting. Apologists emphasize that man cannot be the descendant of any living ape—a statement that is obvious to the verge of imbecility—and go on to state or imply that man is not really descended from an ape or monkey at all, but from an earlier common ancestor. In fact, that earlier ancestor would certainly be called an ape or monkey in popular speech by anyone who saw it. Since the terms ape and monkey are defined by popular usage, man’s ancestors were apes or monkeys (or successively both). It is pusillanimous if not dishonest for an informed investigator to say otherwise" -(1964, p. 12, emp. in orig).

    You continue: "And if you want me to cite evidence of macroevolution, then I chose the fossil record charting mankind's evolution from our common ancestor with chimpanzees. How do you dismiss all of that?"

    Dismiss? You surpass yourself!
    No one simply dismisses the fossil record except for Darwinists ever returning to the old "well the fossil record is incomplete" excuses!

    Unfortunately for Darwinists it is well known that the record is the poorest of all evidences of Darwinian macro evolution.

    And the FYI the fossils do not support any ape to human evolution at all.
    You're way out of date here.
    You might want to catch up. I suggest you read the article on "Orangutans, not chimpanzees, are the closest living relatives to humans" over at the NG site.

    Darwinists are so incredibly dishonest - they do not have a clue on what was the supposed human ancestor - and that after over a century of searching - yet still persist in preaching the same old sermon to a congregation tired of hearing it while and never seeing any valid evidence for it!!

    Then you continue with your foot-in-mouth tactic:
    "This whole paragragh makes no sense! 'It happens over millions of years' is not a lame excuse. It is a fact. And it does not constitute no evidence for macro. Your ability to shut your eyes to evidence and demand it isn't really there is truly a thing to behold, but it doesn't make you right, ...bla bla...."

    Well thank you for giving me back what I gave you.

    It happens over millions of years = no one has ever observed it occuring! Precisely.
    No one was there to see whether, over time, a small furry mouse deer-like animal actually did evolve into a great seagoing whale or an ape turned into a man!

    Its all conjecture and speculation.
    And obviously you know little of the bio explosions that have caused Darwinist such nightmares and still do!

    You, as all Darwinist debaters, always try to focus and the minor to prove the major. You're always avoiding combined discussions of the evidence from information and chemistry while rambling endlessly in circles over alleged links and ancestors - none of which can ever be empirically demonstrated and of course none have!!

    But this is never a problem for Darweens - just change the subject, double talk on this or that then wheel back to the circular reasonings so common in all the Darwinist literature. And then to add insult to injury you pretend no metaphysical bias is assumed in Darwinism!

    Moreover your ability to blind your mind to all contrary evidence is a wonder of neurology.
    You have barely a scrap of real understanding on this but you sure think you do!
    In this response you've switched from lamely trying to suffice with weak and ill-informed answers to ad hom and vain accusation which, in reality, applies to yourself most properly!

    I'll let Dr, Hunter respond to your problem with metaphysics - this whole blog has been discussing that very thing since day one and yet here you are, your mind on hold, asking how Darwinism is founded in metaphysics!!

    Amazing!

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  14. As much as I enjoyed being called a Darwinian by Hitch, I feel the need to point to Behe's response to Lenski's research:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNK3U696N278Z93O

    But just so Hitch will still suspect me of being a Darwinian, I'll point out that ID theory makes the same sort of extrapolation that Darwinians make. Based on what we know of intelligent designers today, we extrapolate to the past and explain causes on the same basis.

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  15. And since we're pretty sure that the same mutational processes that exist today also existed for the last 3 billion years, that puts Darwinians in a stronger position than IDists, who have no independent, empirical evidence of a designer.

    There! Now Hitch miust be absolutely certain that I am a Darwinian! :)

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  16. Hitch -

    Wow, that's quite the rant there. It almost makes you sound like you have a valid point. Alas, no.

    Firstly, I really don't think the quote from Shapiro is saying what you think it's saying. You talk as though you think he is saying the two are fundamentally different concepts which operate on fundamentally different principles. But he is not. Nothing you cited in your quote contradicts my own definition of macro and microevolution - macroevolution is just microevolution on a bigger scale.

    It is interesting you begin your quote with the words 'Shapiro respectfully, but forcefully, disagreed' - but he did not disagree with what I was saying. He was disagreeing with the assertion that macroevolution was a concept dreamt up by Creationists - which is not what I am saying at all. This is an unfortunate consequence of your simply copying the whole paragraph from uncommondescent.com without checking whether it still all makes sense.

    I am NOT saying the term is made up by Creationists. But I AM saying it is mis-used by them. Mis-used to create the impression that evidence for microevolution is no evidence for macroevolution. This is false, since the only difference between the two is one of scale (which, if you actually read the quote you yourself cited, is what Shapiro is saying...).

    Ooops. Own goal there, methinks.

    On extrapolation - see Bilbo's response. I don't think I'll add anything to that at the moment.

    "We already know the limits of micro which are highly restrained as Behe clearly points out using empirical field and lab data."

    It makes me laugh that you can take anything Behe says on the subject of evolution seriously at all. His conclusions in this field are regularly demonstrated to be false, and his own scientific credibilty totally fell apart the moment he turned to ID over evolution, and yet you still seem to think anything he says on the subject is gospel (and I mean that word literally).

    "You'll never get millions of completely different taxonomic families with Lenski style micro changes"

    Yes you will. Every large macroevolutionary change started out as a small microevultionary one. That is the whole point.

    Let me give you a hypothesitcal example. One of the characteristics distinguishing reptiles from amphibians is practically water-proof skin as opposed to extremely thin, absorbant skin which must be kept wet. Do you imagine this large taxonomic differece happened overnight, or in a single generation? No, it most likely started out as certain amphibians developing ever-so-slightly tougher and thicker skin. Not a big change at all, just enough so that if you examined it you would say, 'there's an amphibian with ever-so-slightly tougher skin than usual'. Now imagine that skin becoming slightly tougher and tougher over thousands of generations until it becomes water-proof.

    What is a significant macroevolutionary distinguishing characteristic started out as a minor, microevolutionary development.

    This is how it works in principle. I cannot see a single reason to suppose lots of small minor changes could NOT build up into a big, major change. Perhaps you would like to suggest one?

    And before you cry 'Speculation! Unevidenced!' then I present ring species as living demonstrations of this principle -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEtnyx0Yo9I

    I know it's a whole 8 minutes and you possibly don't have the attention span for explanations longer than 'Goddidit', but please try to pay attention. It's a very important video for you to watch.

    (to be continued...)

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  17. (continued)

    As for your quotes by Richard Leakey and George Gaylord Simpson, again, you are the one in the wrong. I said humans did not evolve from CHIMPANZEES, which is a specific name for two species of ape (Common Chimpanzee and Bonobo) who happen to be our closest living relatives. The word 'ape' refers to a family of primates. I did not say humans did not evolve from apes, I said they didn't evolve from chimpanzees. The quote you chose to cite suggets you really cannot tell the difference.

    "Unfortunately for Darwinists it is well known that the record is the poorest of all evidences of Darwinian macro evolution."

    It is certainloy true that it is incomplete. And probably always will be. But that does not means its evidence is to be dismissed whenever you find something you don't like.

    "And the FYI the fossils do not support any ape to human evolution at all.
    You're way out of date here.
    You might want to catch up. I suggest you read the article on "Orangutans, not chimpanzees, are the closest living relatives to humans" over at the NG site."

    What? The claim that is being disputed is whether our closest relatives are chimpanzees (as conventional wisdom has it) or orangutans (as the new claim would have it). Yet you are saying neither is true! Why on Earth do you think this backs up your claim that humans did not evolve from apes at all?

    Neither is it true that the fossil evidence does not support ape-to-human evolution. Australopithecines, including australopithecus afarensis (of which the famous Lucy is one) are between 4 and 3 million years old, homo habilis between 2.5 and 1.5 million years old , homo rudolfensis at around the same time (or slightly earlier), homo ergaster between 2 and 1.5 million years old, and homo erectus from 2 to 0.5 million years old. There are many other species to slot in too, including homo heidelbergensis and homo neanderthalensis, all showing a progression of ape features to human ones.

    Your ignorance on this topic is not a basis for declaring there is 'no evidence'.

    "Darwinists are so incredibly dishonest - they do not have a clue on what was the supposed human ancestor - and that after over a century of searching"

    Oh, we have clues. But no, we do not have a complete, certain profile of the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees. This is not a problem, however.

    Scientists could prove that two people were, for example, brothers, and that does not mean they know anything at all about their parents. But that does not cast doubt on our knowledge that the two men really are brothers. We know we are cousins of chimpanzees, but the fact that we do not have a precise profile of that common ancestor does not undermine the fact that there must logically have been one.

    "It happens over millions of years = no one has ever observed it occuring! Precisely."

    It means your demands for observational/experimental lab evidence for macroevolution are unreasonable! It cannot be observed/recreated in a lab because it takes millions of years!! In other words, your accusation that macroevolution is 'unevidenced' is absurd. You are demanding evidence which cannot be given. And that does not mean that macroevolution is not a fact - it just means it happens too slowly to observe. Get over it.

    And I think the rest is all just angry ranting. I can't really filter another point worth debating out of that childish diatribe...

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  18. Ritchie,

    I hate to defend Behe, since this will just confuse Hitch about what label to pin on me, but I posted about the exchange between Behe and Thornton here".

    I could be mistaken, but it looks like Behe is winning the debate. If so, then this could mean real problems for neo-Darwinism.

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  19. Bilbo -

    If you are hoping that I am a professional biologist qualified to comment on Behe's comments here, then I'll have to admit I am not. My blanket distrust on what Behe has to say about anything related to evolution is based on his tattered professional reputation, his transparent personal bias and several holes I can personally see in his reasoning in matters related to, but not directly addressing, the issue you bring up in your link. Were he actually ever to raise a good point I would not be equipped to spot it.

    Do you think you could give me a scaled down version with pictures and no scary words...? :)

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  20. Hi Ritchie,

    From one layman to another, here's what it looks like to me: Thornton's team showed that even though protein B evolved from homologous protein A, B would be unable to evolve back into A, even if it was selected for, since it would need to pass through too many non-beneficial mutations to get there. Behe said, "Aha! That proves my point, that if there are too many non-beneficial mutational steps, it won't happen. And if we're having problems just evolving one homologous protein into another, what makes anyone think evolving multi-protein molecular machines is plausible?"
    Thornton replied, "Even if B can't evolve into A, it could evolve into a protein just like it, say A1."

    That may be the case, but that still means that B can't evolve into A. So now, in order to show that something has evolved by neo-Darwinian processes, it will take more than just showing that there were pre-existing homologous proteins, unless one just wants to beg the question. And for even more complex molecular machines, the burden of proof becomes a very heavy o
    one. Or so it looks to me. But I would like to hear from more qualifid people. But so far, I don't of any criticisms to Behe's last reply to Thornton. Or at least, none that seem to blunt his point.

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  21. Bilbo -

    Hmmm...

    Well, a couple of things strike me. Firstly, isn't this just establishing that evolution does not go backwards? I thought that had already been established. Surely animals never become simpler? If the whole idea of evolution is that small mutational 'tweaks' are made to the existing genetic code of an animal, it will get progressively more complex, not less.

    That does not mean that features cannot disappear or become useless in a creature, however. There are many species of cave-dwelling animals such as fish and salamanders, for example, which have completely lost the use of their eyes. But that does not mean the eyes themselves have degenerated. The gene sequence for making eyes is more complex than in relatives who have functional eyes, not less.

    Look at it this way, in normal, sighted fish and salamanders, those who develop mutations which interfere with the gene sequence for functional eyesight are immediately at an evolutionary disadvantage by being blind. But in the lightless caves, this is not a particular disadvantage because there is no light to see by anyway. So the gene sequence for eyes may develop all sort of mutations, any one of which would knock out the functionality of the eyes, and not place the creature at a disadvantage. But the eye sequence would still be getting more complex, not less, even though the species was losing the use of a feature.

    Here is a slightly fuller account:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2008/07/hitchens-luskii.html

    Secondly it is certainly widely known that if there are too-many non-beneficial mutational steps, evolution will not be able to tred that path. The theory of evolution has always been clear on that point. In the development of any feature, each tiny progressional step must be an improvement (or at the very least, advantageously neutral) to the last.

    If protein A became more complex and turned into protein B, what is the problem with it evolving into even-more-complex protein C, then D, until it became a multi-protein molecular machine? The fact that such progressions can't literally reverse themselves, and re-stating that each improvement needs to be more advantageous than the predecessor don't seem to be relevent arguments against it. So what exactly is Behe's point here?

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  22. Bilbo - you're a funny little fellow, but not nearly as brave or smart as your namesake - nor as smart as you believe yourself to be.

    You obviously did not think your answers through before posting.

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  23. Ritchie:
    Its sad to see that you comprehend so little of your own preferred hypothesis.

    "It almost makes you sound like you have a valid point. Alas, no."

    I perceive that you haven't understood much of your own theory's incredible flexibilty - "it explains everything and so explains nothing".
    Very bad sign and hardly science.

    Contrary to your responses to facts and telling me the ubiquitous old Darwinist bullshit ploy, "you don't understand evolution", I'm afraid I understand far more on Darwinian theory than you probably ever will.

    Hoyle got Darwinians pinned down right in his "Math of Evolution", whether you like it or not - acute cognitive dissonance all the way down the line.

    You appear to know nothing of the consequences of genetic entropy, nothing of the nature of prescriptive information, meta information, biosemiotics, statistical mechanics, etc..

    Clue: These all demonstrate the inanity of the Darwinian view and necessitate (not merely hint at) the conclusion that intelligence is required for informational biomolecules.

    Dr. Hunter has pointed out many times here and elsewhere, his observation that it is almost useless trying to debate with Darwinian fundamentalists most of the time. You've proven this once again.

    Nevertheless I will suggest you go educate yourself in at least the following literature:
    John Sandford's -Genetic Entropy
    S. Meyer's -Signature in the Cell
    David Berlinski's -The Devil's Delusion
    Stuart W. Pullen's -Intelligent Design or Evolution? Why the Origin of Life and the Evolution of Molecular Knowledge Imply Design - available on line at google books
    Behe's -EoE
    Hoyle's -Mathematics of Evolution ...

    And finally, read David Abel and Jack Trevors articles over at the Origin of Life web site lifeorigin.info
    Abel also has a blog that can be enlightening

    You've convinced me not to waste any further time than I already have here or in quoting these works and attempting explaining them to you to help. You evidently don't want to be helped because you think you know, and, like the great majority of Darwinists will stick to the materialist lame, inane theory right up until the last nail is put in its coffin.

    Finally:
    "Artificial life investigators and most applied biologists accepted this reality early on. Steering is required to achieve sophisticated function of any kind. Much of the life-origin research community, however, continues to “live in denial” of this fact." - from "Biosemiotic Research Trends"

    That pretty much sums up the entire Darwinian camp and you!
    To quote David Berlinski, "There is not a first class class intellect among them".
    He certainly hit the nail on the head astutely on that point.

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  24. Lol, Hitch. Thank you for that. That genuinely cheered me up and made me laugh.

    I'll admit the chances of you actually reading this response are probably rather low, but I suppose might as well reply.

    Could call evolution incredibly flexible, saying 'it explains everything and so explains nothing'. Hmmm, now let's think about this one for a moment... IF evolution is true, then we would see a very specific pattern in the fossil record, the genomes of all living things, in the distribution of species, etc. And these are pattern we do in fact see. True, there may be a few very rare and specific anomalies here and there but in general the patterns are far too obvious to deny.

    Evolution is not a theory which explains everything. It would collapse in a cloud of logic if these patterns were not present and obvious. Just because a theory has not been falsified, doesn't mean it is unfalsifiable.

    Let me compare it to a hypothesis which genuinely IS incredibly flexible and explains nothing by explainaing everything. Let me think... what hypothesis fits that description... ummm... Oh yes, I've got one. How about Intelligent Design!

    ID makes no predictions. It simply accounts for absolutely any piece of evidence you could possibly produce with one catch-all explanation - it was designed that way. This predicts nothing, therefore it explains nothing. It is not a theory. It is not science.

    But if that was the case, what on Earth would ID 'scientists' (ha ha) write about? Well, pretty obviously they cannot write about their own hypothesis and the evidence which supports it. Because there is none. So they have to spend the whole time criticising competing theories in the hope that their ideas seem more credible by default. As Cornelius Hunter demonstrates, proponents of the theory of evolution also have a few choice words for Creationism/ID, but the difference is that the theory of evolution is not based on those opinions, and is made up of more than criticism of rival theories. ID is not.

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  25. "Contrary to your responses to facts and telling me the ubiquitous old Darwinist bullshit ploy, "you don't understand evolution"

    Lol. Your posts contain no 'facts'. And you are proving my accusations for me.

    "I'm afraid I understand far more on Darwinian theory than you probably ever will."

    Ha ha ha. You crack me up.

    "Clue: These all demonstrate the inanity of the Darwinian view and necessitate (not merely hint at) the conclusion that intelligence is required for informational biomolecules."

    Such is self-evidenctly not true. If it were, the scientists involved would be winning awards galore for their contributions to science (not to mention theology, philosophy, etc.).

    You see, the thing about conspiracy theories is that people intrench themselves in their own conviction that they are correct, plug in to other people with the same views to reinforce that delusion, and then interpret any contrary evidence accordingly.

    This pattern fits holocaust deniers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, people who think the governemtn are suppressing UFO evidence, and of course, ID proponents. You listen to no-one else except those who approve of and espouse ID, as evidenced by your recommended reading list. The fact that there is hardly an active, practising scientist among them seems to pass you by completely. Why should I read them over the hundreds of publishing, active scientists who are vastly more experienced and professionally credible than they are?

    Which makes your quote about those who aspouse evolution that "There is not a first class class intellect among them" particularly amusing. The VAST majority of our top scientists accept evolution. The VAST majority of our top philosophers are atheists (or deists at best). A negligable fraction of academics see the fingerprints of God in their work, yet these are the people you consider to be the only ones worth listening to.

    "You evidently don't want to be helped because you think you know, and, like the great majority of Darwinists will stick to the materialist lame, inane theory right up until the last nail is put in its coffin."

    Another amusingly hypocritical accusation. If you were an impartial and objective student of the ID/evolution debate, you would be interested in what the majority of the scientific community has to say. But you aren't at all. You dismiss everyone except the absolutely minute fraction that support the views you want to hear.

    In short, your scientific views are based on your religious beliefs, and rather transparently at that.

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  26. Hi Ritchie,

    You wrote: "Firstly, isn't this just establishing that evolution does not go backwards? I thought that had already been established. Surely animals never become simpler?"

    Apparently there's something called Dollo's law, that states that evolution can't work backwards. But I don't think it's been taken completely seriously. Thornton's team was trying to demonstrate it at the molecular level -- down to a single protein. I'm not sure, but I think the ancestor protein (A) may have been more complex than its descendant (B), since A could bind to more hormones than B could.

    But here's the problem: let's say we didn't know which was the ancestor and which the descendant. The two are obviously homologous. We might think that B is the ancestor, because it appears to be simpler than A. But if Thornton's team is right, then B couldn't evolve into A by neo-Darwinian processes (RM + NS + genetic drift). And this is just from one homologous protein to another.

    Yes, if there is a step-wise process to evolve more complex molecular machines from simpler ones, than neo-Darwinian processes can do it. But is there? Or are we just assuming there are? Thornton's team has shown that unless we just beg the question of the truth of neo-Darwinism, the answer may be No.

    Hitch: "Bilbo - you're a funny little fellow, but not nearly as brave or smart as your namesake - nor as smart as you believe yourself to be."

    True, but you must admit he's a difficult role-model to live up to.

    "You obviously did not think your answers through before posting."

    Maybe not, but I tried.

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  27. Bilbo -

    I'm sorry I've been dragging my feet replying. To be honest I'm still looking over all the data you're presenting.

    Though I will make just one point:

    "Yes, if there is a step-wise process to evolve more complex molecular machines from simpler ones, than neo-Darwinian processes can do it. But is there? Or are we just assuming there are? Thornton's team has shown that unless we just beg the question of the truth of neo-Darwinism, the answer may be No."

    This might be begging the question (if it is indeed the case), but then again, we should not assume the answer is that it is not possible until it can be shown that it is possible. The matter should simply remain unknown, surely?

    It is a point that needs establishing (though we may be the ones lost here), but we should not assume something is impossible just because it hasn't been shown to be possible, right?

    Oh and don't mind Hitch. He has enough chips on his shoulder to keep an army marching for a week.

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  28. Ritchie

    ===========
    do you think you could sum up in just one or two sentences precisely what these metaphysical and religious premises are?
    ===========

    Go here for starters:

    http://darwins-god.blogspot.com/2009/12/joe-felsenstein-de-novo-genes-trumped.html

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