Longtime readers of my blog have likely followed the exchange between myself and William Gibbons, a young earth creationist (with a PhD in “creation science apologetics”, no less). Mr. Gibbons only posts a reply once every few months, and he left his latest reply in a comment that doesn’t show the context of the previous replies. So I thought I would move it up here to its own post, along with links to the previous posts and comments on the subject so those who are interested can follow the exchange chronologically. Here are the previous posts, in order. You will see Gibbons’ replies interspersed in the comments, and my reply to his comments usually in the next post.
Here is Gibbons’ latest reply. Nothing has been changed, it is pasted exactly as it was left. I’m not going to post my reply at this point, as it will take some time to wade through all the nonsense, but expect a full reply in its own post in the next couple days. The full comment is below the fold:
Hello Mr. Brayton,
My apologise for the long delay in replying to our last exchange as business, book projects and travel have kept me rather busy. Here is the latest. I will respond to Jim Foley’s human evolution post as soon as.
William J. Gibbons
Response to Ed Brayton
Evolution: the theory that all modern life forms on earth are derived from one or a few common ancestors via descent with modification.
That is the theory I am defending and it is all I am interested in defending. I concede to you that the universe was created by some sort of supernatural entity (which in fact I do believe). I will even concede to you that it is entirely possible that the first self-replicating life form on the earth was placed here by some non-terrestrial source (we simply do not know yet, so it’s entirely possible). But that has no bearing on the truth or falsehood of the theory of common descent.
WG) Fine. But WHAT supernatural entity? Why not God? If you believe in a created universe, then why not a creator God? If empirical science has thus far ruled against the first living organisms evolving from non-living chemicals, then where did life come from? A Supreme Being or extraterrestrials?
EB) A more specific estimate, from the UC Museum of Paleontology, would be 543-490 million years ago. But 600 million isn’t even close. 600 million takes us way back to the beginning of the Vendian. One of the problems here, of course, is that the length of the “Cambrian explosion” keeps growing as we find older and older fossil beds that fill in the details. Creationists once could claim that all these life forms sprung up in a mere 10 milion years, but then with more finds that 10 million years became 20 million, 30 million, and keeps on growing. We now have a rapidly growing fossil record for the Vendian that pushes back the origin of complex multicellular life back to 600 million years. So the “explosion” aspect of it all is pretty much gone. What we seem to have instead is a long radiation of life characterized in particular by the evolution of hard parts, particularly shells, which are much more likely to be preserved as fossils.
WG) The Vendian fossils include, algae, worms, lichen giant protozoans, soft-bodied arthropods and so on. If we can find beautifully preserved fossils of these creatures, then millions of years of slow, evolutionary development leading up to hard bodied trilobites and armored fishes would be found. But the fossils we see in the PreCambrian, the Vendian and the Cambrian layers are unique and very different from one another, and with not a trace of any evolutionary ancestors. If evolution were a slow, gradual process spanning billions of years, then we would see simply millions of transitional forms that would have live and died, from the microscopic fossils to hard bodied/armored fossils. Also, the Chenjiang fossils include fossils include different forms of alge, metazoans, chondrophorines, sponges, chancelloriids, sea anemones, priapulid worms, hyoliths, inarticulate brachiopods, annelid-like animals, lobopodians, trilobites non-trilobitic arthropods, hemichordates, etc. But again, these are all distinct, complete and unique creatures with no transitional ancestors.
EB) Are there paleontologists who accept evolution but do not think there were any transitional forms in the Cambrian? If so, please name one. I doubt you can.
WG) Paleontologists might claim that there are numerous transitional forms, but not one such claim has stood up under the scrutiny, not even Miller’s claims about Cambrian intermediates. When pressed to produce transitions, the response from paleontologists is that most transitional forms are lost in the classifications.
EB) There are many books written on the subject of how to classify these organisms (not as easy as one might think) and how they are related. Furthermore, you still aren’t addressing, or apparently even understanding, that the nature of fossilization means that we would not expect to find such perfectly graded sequences to be found because only a small portion of all of the species that lived at the time are likely fossilized, particularly if there are no hard parts. It takes very special conditions for soft-bodied animals to be fossilized, that’s why we only find such fossils in particular types of depositional environments.
WG) Once again, even if fossilization is a difficult process, we STILL find vast numbers of clearly linked transitional forms, even a few hundred, given the billions upon billions of creatures that have lived, died and been preserved as fossils. If the Precambrian strata contains beautifully preserved fossils of microscopic life, algae, and soft bodied invertebrates, then more complex transitions would be found – even just a few hundred out of the BILLIONS that would have lived and died would do. There is no misunderstanding here. If numerous examples of lichen, algae and soft-bodied creatures were fossilized in their millions, then why not the transitional forms linking them to more advanced hard-bodied creatures they allegedly gave rise to?
EB) I gave you a long passage from Miller’s essay pointing to intermediate forms within the Cambrian fauna. You have had no response to his claims whatsoever. What you are demanding is, of course, patently absurd.
WG) I ask for evidence and you give me an essay from Miller full of “just so” stories. Miller does not present one single fossil that has yet stood up to scrutiny as a solid transition. Not even Richard Dawkins is bold enough to make the same claims as Miller. All such claims are based on mere conjecture and not hard evidence.
EB) Nothing but an actual videotape of the transition taking place would satisfy you, and of course you know that this is not possible to have. Just to show how ridiculously exaggerated your demand is.
WG) Nothing but the EVIDENCE will satisfy me, and so far all we have seen is fossils that are complete, individual, and unique with no evolutionary relationship. The evidence for macroevolution within the fossil record is just not there no matter what you want to believe.
EB) Now given that we only have the fossilized remains of a few hundred species, why is it reasonable to demand that we also show you a few million or, for crying out loud, billion other species for which we do not have any fossilized remains?
WG) If a few hundred species existed in the fossil record, they would have number in their millions or even billions. If many more existed without leaving their fossilized remains, then how do you know they even existed at all? If evolution has been a constant process for at least 3.8 billion years, we would still see the fossil record absolutely jammed with transitional forms of all kinds. We have millions of fossils on display all over the world. Everything from microscopic life to the highly complex armored fish, etc. Surely we would have numerous transitional forms to show for the alleged 3.8 billion years or so of evolutionary progress is true.
Better yet, how about attempting to explain these life forms from a young earth creationist perspective. Give us your explanation for the Cambrian and precambrian fauna. Why is it that the oldest strata show nothing but bacterial life, then simple multicellular life like algae (stromatolites) in the rocks above that, then nothing but marine invertebrates like worms, and so forth all the way up the geologic column until we get to modern life? If all life on earth was created in a single week, why do we see the patterns we do in the fossil record?
WG) If you Reject the YEC explanation, then what would be the point? Especially since you have sold out to the imaginary “geologic ages” from age 17.
EB) In all of the Cambrian, there is not a single reptile, amphibian, mammal or bird, not even any insects, and only very primitive fish. And here again one must ask what is the creationist explanation for this? If all fish were created on the same day, why do we find only jawless fishes in the lowest strata? Why do we not see whales and dolphins until the most recent strata? Did God create this way to fool us into thinking that life evolved?
WG) I never said that we would find dolphins, etc in Cambrian rock. I merely quoted from evolutionary sources concerning modern phyla present in the Cambrian, even if there were inaccurate.
EB) The sole member of the phylum chordata – which means all forms of life that have a backbone – found in the Cambrian is a tiny little organism called Pikaia. Pikaia is not a vertebrate, but a very primitive little inch and a half long worm that appears to have a notochord, which later developed into the backbones common to all vertebrates today. That’s it.
WG) A primitive half-inch worm called a Pikaia “evolved” into all modern vertebrates? Of course, the evolutionary pattern of transitional development is clearly shown throughout the fossil record to support this little gem of proof? There is no question that there is an enormous gap between the Precambrian and the Cambrian, yet the latter is constantly being expanded in order to accommodate evolutionary suppositions. The Vendian (sometimes called the Ediacaran) fossils are multicelled, and instead of providing transitional links to the Cambrian fossils, are in fact very different, and are dated (according to evolutionary chronology) from 620 to 540 million years ago. One such fossil from this period is a 2.4 inch vertebrate revealing a muscle structure, and a fin on its back and head, and at a time when vertebrates had supposedly not yet evolved. This fossil was found with hundreds of jellyfish fossils, which had no hard body-parts, but were still beautifully preserved.
Let’s take a closer look at those trilobites. Trilobites lived on the earth for some 300 million years, from the lower cambrian to the late permian, and they were found all over the world in enormous variety. There are more than 1500 known genera of trilobites identified in the fossil record, with several thousand species within those genera. Now, if all those trilobites were created on the same day of creation and only lived for a few thousand years, as Gibbons must believe, we would expect that they would remain the same in all of the strata they are found in, regardless of age. But in fact, there are very distinct patterns found in the fossil record of trilobites. They didn’t just all appear at once, they evolved over a very long period of time. For instance, in the early Cambrian, trilobites are by and large smooth-bodied creatures. In the Silurian/Devonian they began to develop bumps and spines of various size and length, likely to support their weight and keep them from sinking into soft sediments. The spines even got long enough that the thorax and the pygidium would be kept out of the ground entirely. They also likely functioned as a defense mechanism to keep predators away. This is a clear adaptation that was not present in early trilobites but developed in later trilobites. Likewise, the shape of the body changed significantly, determining how the creatures rolled up so that only the exoskeleton was exposed, protecting it from predation. Here is a long and detailed explanation of how trilobites evolved over the course of 300 million years. What is the creationist explanation for this? If they were all created on the same day and only existed for a few thousand years, why do we see such clear trends in diversification throughout the fossil record of trilobites? Was God just trying to fool us?
WG) Trilobites have always been trilobites. There are or were varieties of them as you have pointed out. Fairy stories dressed in scientific language is all we can expect, especially when they involve the imaginary geologic ages. All you are talking about is speciation or mere varieties of trilobites. Regardless of the different kinds, they are still all trilobites. We see the same vast diversity among sea creatures today. Three years ago the same argument used by a scientist on British television regarding salmon speciation during a debate with Ken Ham. Not one of the three evolutionary attack dogs on the BBC were able to give Ham one single piece of hard evidence to back up their Darwinian mythology. They were given all the time they wanted to attack Ham, but ended up making themselves look ridiculous with their shrill rebuttals.
EB) Actually, we are also finding much more complex creatures in the Precambrian, and that is entirely my point. With new finds, the time of this “explosion” has been pushed back tens of millions of years into the Precambrian, which changes dramatically the time allowed for such diversity to evolve. And no doubt there are many more we have yet to find that will fill in the blanks like pieces of a puzzle. You think we should find a perfect record of every single species that existed 600 million years ago, but that is not going to happen, ever. Their existence does not equal their fossilization. But you’re right that before the precambrian, we have found nothing but single-celled and algal life (stromatolites). Again, what is the creationist explanation for this? The bible doesn’t mention this life at all, or what day they were created. But we find But we find nothing but this simple life for over 3 billion years. Was God just warming up? Was he just practicing on creating different types of bacteria for the first 3 billion years, working his way up to something harder?
WG). If we are “pushing back ” the time frame then where does the Cambrian, which supposedly began 540 million years ago, begin and end? There are already hundreds of millions of fossils on display around the world. Given what you don’t know about the fossil record is very revealing, because evolution is simply not supported by the fossils we have. But plastic theories and imaginative story telling is all you need, isn’t it?
EB) Pakicetus is known from much more than just skull fragments. In fact, Thewissen’s webpage contains a photograph of all of the skeletal bones that have been found from Pakicetus (not a drawing, mind you, an actual photograph of the fossilized bones laid out in articulation to each other). We do in fact know how Pakicetus got around – he walked. Pakicetus, you see, was primarily a land mammal. The fact that it was found with other land mammals, then, is hardly a shock. It lived near the water, however, and spent a fair amount of time in the water. Pakicetus was the very beginning of the transition from land to water, but lived primarily on land. It is important to whale evolution primarily because it shows the relationship to artiodactyls rather than to mesonychids. And as Thewissen notes, the ear is actually the key diagnostic trait that indicates whale ancestry:
WG) If Pakicetus was simply a land mammal, then the term “whale” becomes meaningless. Two partially complete fossils do not make a whale – or even an ancestor of one.
Thewissen: Pakicetids did not look like whales at all, and resembled land mammals.
WG) Again, the term “whale” becomes meaningless if it lived most of the time on land.
EB) However, the skulls of pakicetids have an ear region that is highly unusual in shape, and only resembles that of modern and fossil whales. These features are diagnostic for cetaceans, they are found in all cetaceans, and in no other animals. These features are main why pakicetids are considered whales. In many other features, pakicetids are also similar to some whales, but those features are not shared by all whales. An example of the latter is the dentition. Pakiceid teeth look a lot like those of fossil whales, but are unlike those of modern whales. Pakicetids did not live in the sea. The rocks in which their fossils are preserved indicate that the bones were buried in a shallow stream, and that the climate was hot and dry. It is likely that pakicetids waded in these streams. Their bones are unusually thick, possibly an adaptation to make the animal heavier counteracting the buoyancy of the water.
WG) So the link made by evolutionists with Pakicetus to modern whales is based solely on its teeth and ear bones? We have established beyond all doubt that Pakicetus was a land mammal. Its fossil reconstruction shows that it was similar to modern wolves. It was found along with other fossils of terrestrial creatures. In other words, it was a land creature, not an aquatic or even a semi-aquatic one. Even if it did wade in shallow streams and rivers (even salt water lagoons) looking for food, we see this with modern scavengers all the time. But this doesn’t stop the fertile imagination of artist Carl Buell from completely misrepresenting the actual fossil found which clearly indicates that Pakicetus looked very much like a wolf. Mr. Buell’s reconstruction of the same fossil for National Geographic shows Pakicetus looking more elongated and streamlined, swimming like an otter and possessing webbed feet, when the actual fossil found did not even suggest that the animal could swim at all, never mind have webbed feet!
EB) Achaeocetes are classified as all of the early whales during the eocene period, from 55 to 37 million years ago. The earliest are the Pakicetids, followed by the Ambulocetids. To say that Archaeocetes are found in earlly Eocene strata and therefore Amulocetids could not be ancestral to them is to say nothing at all because Ambulocetids ARE Archaeocetes. See Thewissen’s cetacean chart here.
WG) Yes, I looked at the chart and even enjoyed the whole website. Once again, the impressive artwork of Carl Buell shows and Ambulocetid ambushing an early horse crocodile fashion, even though we have no idea that this is how it lived or hunted. Furthermore, the only fossils available only have fragments of jawbone. The upper mandible, skull and ear bone structure are missing. Thewissen’s website states:
Three genera of whales make up the family Ambulocetidae: Ambulocetus, Gandakasia, and Himalayacetus. Gandakasia and Himalayacetus are only known from a single lower jaw fragment each, and cannot be compared in detail with Ambulocetus.
WG) How telling. The three genera of assumed fossil whale ancestors that make up the family of Ambulocetidae are known only from single a single lower jaws fragment each? So we know absolutely nothing about their mode of locomotion, their living habits, their skull or ear structure – but they are touted as the evolutionary ancestors of modern whales? None of these features in – or rather the lack thereof – is evidence of an evolutionary relationship. Most of the presumed “relationships” built on the basis of anatomical similarities between animals are completely untrustworthy and can only be accepted on faith, not solid facts.
EB) Gibbons also ignores all of the other fossil evidence, comprised of far more than just a few fragments here and there. In fact, we have a nearly complete post-cranial skeleton of Ambulocetus and it shows precisely the transition that he demands be seen. Ambulocetus is clearly beginning the adaptation to marine life and this can be Ambulocetus is clearly beginning the adaptation to marine life and this can be seen in a variety of traits.
WG) Carl Buell, that most imaginative of evolutionary artists compared to the actual fossil found. Ambulocetus natans (a walking and swimming whale) is again shown as a blunt nosed, streamlined creature swimming along with webbed toes. This is completely different from the actual fossil found which tells us that it was a purely terrestrial animal with four strong legs, claws on its fore paws and hooves on its hind feet. Anatomically speaking it was obviously a terrestrial creature and it’s hearing mechanism was that of a terrestrial animal. But Mr. Buell again portrays the animal swimming along with webbed feet when in fact there is not a single shred of evidence, real or imagined, that even suggests that the creature could swim at all. And rubbish like this is presented as “scientific fact.”
EB) Ambulocetids (50 mya or so and found only in Pakistan and India) are followed by the Remingtonocetids (49-43 mya and found throughout South Asia), the Protocetids (48-35 mya and found all over the world in the oceans), the Basilosaurids and Dorudontids (41-35 mya and also found globally) and so on through to all of the types of modern whales. Throughout this series of fossil species, you can see the gradual adaptation and diversification in all of the key diagnostic traits of whales – dentition, the ear canal, the loss of hind limbs, the development of the tail fluke, the placement of the nostrils to the blowhole, and so forth. And lo and behold, they just happen to be found in exactly the right anatomical and temporal order that evolution would predict. What is the creationist explanation for this? Well, there is none. But maybe God was just playing games with us, or working his way up to a real whale.
WG) The Remingtonocetids were no bigger than a river otter with a long, elongated snout. Their skull structure, eyes, ears and long well developed limbs were vastly different from both the primitive and modern whales, yet once again they are presented as an evolutionary ancestor. So far we have gone from Pakicetus from 50 m.y.a. that looked like a wolf, to Ambulocetids at 49 m.y.a. that were able to move powerfully on land with absolutely no aquatic adaptions as suggested by imaginary artists reconstructions. Then we have Remingtonocedits that are completely different from either their alleged ancestors or modern whales themselves. Let’s not mention again that the three genera of whales make up the “family” Ambulocetidae: Ambulocetus, Gandakasia, and Himalayacetus. Gandakasia and Himalayacetus are only known from a single lower jaw fragment each.
WG) From Remingtonocedits we have nothing for another 10 million years until we run into Basilosaurus and the dorudontids at around 41 m.y.a. Yet these are true but extinct whales. Their hearing and echolocation are vastly different from terrestrial mammals and even the Remingtonocedits. Terrestrial mammals trap sounds in the outside world in the outer ear, amplify them with the bones in the middle ear, and turn them into signals in the inner ear. Marine mammals do not possess an outer ear. They hear sounds by means of vibration-sensitive receptors in their lower jaws, which are then transmitted to the inner ears via special fat pads. Pakicetus and Ambulocetus natans both had the hearing apparatus of land mammals. Remingtonocedits we are told, had similar hearing ability to the modern whale. But the supposed evolutionary transition of its hearing ability to the vibration sensitive receptors in the lower jaws of the Basilosaurids a mere 10 millions years later is a complete mystery. Only by evoking the evolutionary magic wand can we link these animals, which are completely distinct one from the other, in an imaginary lineage leading to modern whales. There is not a single transitional fossil that shows how these creatures lost their pelvis bones, shed their fur to develop a thick coating of blubber, developed their sophisticated echo-location system and deep diving ability. The so-called “vestigial” rear limbs of Basilosaurus are now known to have been claspers to assist with copulation. Nasal drift, of course, is another mystery. Indeed, if whales, like every other living creature have been evolving for tens of millions of years, then there are remarkably few transitions- aside from the imaginary lineage you have presented. Where are the millions upon millions of transitions that would have existed, showing the step-by-step gradual evolutionary process? Where are the adults, the juveniles that would have jammed every level of this transition from Pakicetus revealing every level of evolutionary development rather than a handful of questionable examples? Thanks to Ashby L. Camp for his assistance in this field.
EB) Again, this just shows a complete lack of understanding of mutation and genetics. I gave him a perfectly good example of mutation leading to “new information in the genome” with the nylon-eating bacteria. A frame shift mutation reorders the DNA resulting in the production of an entirely new enzyme which allows a flavobacterium to digest nylon. Here we have an entirely new trait that did not exist before, we can identify the actual mutation that did it, and we know for a fact that it could not have existed a mere 70 years ago. His response is, well, rather amusing:
WG) And your response simply glosses over the fact that much of this research, which concluded that no new information is involved in this, was actually done by evolutionists. The AiG published research done by the evolutionists themselves.
EB) Yes, this is the answer that AIG has offered. But it’s not well thought out. In fact, it’s quite absurd. Plasmids are units of extraneous DNA found inside a cell, particularly in bacteria. It replicates within the cell independent of the chromosomal DNA. Plasmids often contain genes that help the bacteria survive, and some types of plasmids can insert themselves into the chromosomal DNA of the bacteria, so plasmids become part of the genome of the bacteria itself. In this case, they are right that the frame shift mutation took place in a plasmid contained in this particular type of bacteria. But how on earth does this change anything? It’s still a frame shift mutation that results in the evolution of a new trait. In fact, the very existence of plasmids is a great example of how new information can be inserted into a genome through lateral gene transfer from one organism to another. This is an utterly illogical argument because whether the mutation took place in a plasmid or in the chromosomal DNA, a new trait was created by the mutation. That has absolutely nothing to do with whether the trait “already existed” and to claim it does is just so much handwaving. The trait could not have existed before because nylon didn’t exist before. The enzyme in question has been tested against more than 100 other possible existing substrates and it metabolizes none of them. It is It is useful only for digesting nylon, but nylon didn’t exist before 1935. If the bacteria had the DNA coding for an enzyme that didn’t have any useful function, mutations would have rendered it completely useless long ago. Thus, we can be absolutely certain that this is a new trait. And more importantly, we can identify the specific mutation that created it by comparing the genome of the nylon-eating organism with the genome of the non-nylon-eating variety of the same flavobacterium. This is just a bunch of hand waving. The response is substantively irrelevant to the argument.
WG) Here is a reply from my friend, Peter G. Beach (M.S. Microbiology, Oregon State University).
1) There are several ways for novel proteins to appear in any bacterium, so ignore the terminology about plasmids or frame shifts no matter the mode, the fact remains the original information was lost.
2) That a mutant gene may not be fatal is also well known, therefore no one can tell you that creationists believe that all mutations are fatal.
3) When we say a mutation is not fatal we mean that the organism is weakened, .I.E it looses its ability to metabolize the normal energy source (sugars),
4) The question is, are the resulting novel proteins causing the Flavobacterium to evolve? Notice they still call it a Flavobacterium. So, no by the authors own admission, they think they still have a Flavobacterium with a weakened enzyme system (2% effective) for an available food source.
6) Lamark would have loved this, an organism that recognizes a new food source and evolves to take advantage of that windfall. And his story would include that it only took seventy years for it to do that. The evolutionists should latch on to this and run with it. I hope they put Lamark on the banner. OK, I’m laughing at them. Lamark is a laughing stock. This is so old school.
7) What happens when the bacterium is no longer supplies nylon? Well they will die. And what will happen to the other Flavobacterium species in the pond? Well they will live on just fine. Survival of the fittest, the original, genetically complete organism.
8) Bacterial freaks are abundant in the environment. They survive by taking advantage of available food sources. Most bacteria have more than one way of skinning the cat. They are like mongrels, very adaptable.
9) In general, the bacterial species must have about 60 to 99% of their genome in common. Similarly, if 40 to 80% of a bacterial genome is in common, it would be considered in the same genus (Flavobacterium). This allows for lots of DNA junk, and retention of critical similarities. Within this framework you can see that a frame shift of less than 1% of the bacterial genome hardly qualifies it as a new species much less genus or “kind”.
10) Arm waving and story telling is not enough.
11) In short, absolutely no new information has been produced here, regardless of some claims made to the contrary.
EB) In his prior reply, Gibbons had called my friend Genie Scott a “virulent atheist” and said, “The very fact that Dr. Scott has a portrait of Charles Darwin hanging on the wall behind her desk says it all.” He didn’t bother to say what it said, only that it said it all. This is just empty rhetoric and I treated it with all the respect it is due, which is none.
WG) Almost all of Darwin’s ideas have been thoroughly taken apart by empirical science. Scott is concerned with keeping organic evolution in public schools at any cost, no matter what evidence from science (real science) that challenges the theory. What is she afraid of?
Charles Darwin in the 20th Century
EB) I agree, that is certainly utter bilge. You know why? Because Darwin didn’t live in the 20th century. If you’ve read textbooks that claim that Darwin was the most important biologist in the 20th century”, you have come across someone as utterly clueless as yourself.
WG). And this was EXACTLY my point, which of course, you missed as you continue to wallow in the slime of sarcasm. We all know that Darwin (1802-1889) DID NOT live in the 20th century, but I have read a couple of books that infer that he did, which were obviously incorrect. I grew up in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and studied Darwin while you were still discovering hot dogs.
EB) Darwin came up with one of the half dozen most influential and important ideas in science. Evolution is the central unifying theory of a dozen separate fields of science. Only a handful of men in all of human history have had such a dramatic influence on our understanding of the world. Period. Darwin got a general degree, not one in theology. Cambridge didn’t offer degrees in specific subjects in 1831. He took an extra load in geology, however — so were we to say he “majored,” we’d have to say it was in geology. After he took his degree (with honors, by the way), he stayed on for graduate lectures in geology. After having demonstrated particular acumen in lectures and in discussion, one of the two greatest geologists in the world at the time, Dr. Adam Sedgwick, asked Darwin to spend the summer with him tramping England to study geology and take samples. This would be akin to a post-doc fellowship being offered to a master’s candidate, on the basis of the candidate’s being absolutely brilliant. Sedgwick was one of the guys who pulled strings to get Darwin aboard the Beagle, by the way.
WG) Records show that he graduated from Cambridge in 1831 as a Bachelor of Theology. Attending a few lectures in geology and going on field trips does not make one a scientist. As for Sedgwick’s starry-eyed praise for his prodigy, he wrote a letter to Charles Darwin after reading his book. A portion of that letter reads:
“I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly, parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow, because I think them utterly false and grievously mischievous.” ( Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ed., Francis Darwin, 1885, Vol. ll, 247-250, letter arrived at Darwin’s residence in Ilkley in November or December of 1859).
EB) So, Darwin had perhaps the greatest scientific training possible in his day and age.
WG). My apologies Mr. Brayton. You DO possess a sense of humor after all. Darwin’s ideas were not new, and he even borrowed them from others. His grandfather Erasmus Darwin, obviously influenced Charles on the subject of evolution via his book Zoonomia (1794). Charles used almost every topic discussed in that book had publicized his own theories regarding the origin of life from a purely naturalistic perspective. Darwin also borrowed heavily from the Scottish Scientist James Hutton, who developed an identical theory to Charlie’s ideas 65 years before he published his book. Darwin is credited because he presented the first “plausible” biological explanation for evolution, or descent with modification, which you accept, in spite of the fact that empirical science has long discredited this idea. But we mustn’t let the facts get in the way must we?
Lord Kelvin & Charles Darwin
EB). And Lord Kelvin? Well, Darwin’s estimates of the age of the Earth were much more accurate than Lord Kelvin’s. And Darwin functioned solely off of what he observed in nature, saying the Earth had to be several millions of years old, certainly past 200 million years. Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the Earth at about 20 million years, based on his measurements of the temperature in deep coalmines, and his calculations that a body of molten iron like the Earth would cool at a consistent rate once it had been assembled. Of course, Lord Kelvin failed to account for the heating effect of nuclear isotopes. Rutherford wrote about delicately saying Lord Kelvin could not have known, in order to save face for Lord Kelvin — but that was years after Darwin’s death.
WG) Actually Lord Kelvin (William Thompson) did indeed later take into account the heating effects of nuclear isotopes and arrived at a maximum possible age of the earth of 100 million years. This was far too short for evolution of course. He was a child prodigy, entirely taught by his father and entered university at the age of 10. Let’s not mention the fact that he also held the science chair at Glasgow University for 54 years. Kelvin’s achievements were many and diverse. He formulated the dissipation of energy principle that is summarized in the second law of thermodynamics. His knowledge of engineering made it possible to lay the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. He invented a temperature scale, instruments for receiving cable signals, a mariner’s compass, and a deep-sea sounding apparatus. He made significant contributions to the theories of elasticity, magnetism, vortex motion, and electricity. His lectures fill three volumes and his articles seven. He was arguably the most important scientists in the Victorian era alongside Louis Pasteur and was raised to peerage for his work. He received over 21 honorary doctorates as well as many other honors. Intellectually, Darwin was a pigmy compared to Kelvin. In 1872 Darwin was even refused membership in the prestigious Zoological Section of the French Institute for which they gave the following reason:
” . . .the Origin of Species and still more the Descent of Man, is not science but a mass of assertions and absolutely gratuitous hypothesis, often evidently fallacious. This kind of publication and these theories are a bad example, which a body that respects itself cannot encourage.” (From Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Vol.111, pp.224).
WG) Your comment that Darwin made his calculations on the age of the earth based solely on his observations in nature has got to be the most ridiculous statement you have made thus far. But I needed a good laugh anyway.
A friend of Dr. Scott
EB) Well yes, she would be. She doesn’t have to be, of course. It’s not inevitable that she be a friend. But she is. What on earth is the point of this juvenile little sneer of yours, Mr. Gibbons?
WG) Look who’s talking. Your entire response to our latest exchange is littered with insults, name-calling and belittling remarks. You just can’t help yourself can you Mr. Brayton?
EB) Well, Genie has a genuine PhD in physical anthropology, as opposed to the fake and worthless PhD you possess in “creation science apologetics”. I dare say the last thing you want to be doing here is comparing credentials and educational achievements. For crying out loud, the “college” you got your degree from has a free Tripod web page. And they didn’t bother to teach you even the most basic things about evolutionary theory.
WG) Emmanuel College of Christian Studies and the sister school, Cambridge Graduate School are listed and approved by the Arkansas State Board of Higher (post secondary) Education. Further accreditation has been conferred by the Southern Cross Association of Schools and Colleges, which is presided over by James J. Schofield Johnson, J.D. D.A.sc. Shall I give you his email? All faculty members have higher degrees or doctorates from mainstream universities in the USA if you ever bother to check. There is nothing “fake” or “worthless” about these schools or their degree programs (at least not quite as worthless as your attitude) in spite of your own glaring bias. I imagine that Emmanuel and Cambridge are the subject of your pointless jibes because they are Christian schools where the faculty dare to take a stand against your plastic beliefs.
EB). You don’t even know what allopatric speciation is, yet you’re sure evolution is false.
WG) Please Mr. Brayton, I was studying allopatric speciation when you were learning to use a knife and fork. Species isolation? The isolation and development of populations leading to gene subsets? Information loss through genetic drift, which leads to rapid speciation and split off from parent species? Allopatric speciation and sympatric speciation are actually quite common, and while they explain the rapid diversification or the (microevolution) of many species, they do not explain the MACROevolution of living organisms because it leads us back to a loss or random re-ordering off genetic information and NOT a gain. YOU claim to understand this process and yet still confuse the issue with Macroevolution. So who is “misunderstanding” evolutionary genetics?
EB) And you want to claim someone else is afraid of “real knowledge”? I’m sorry, but you’ve pretty much gone off the irony charts here.
WG) Your claim that this process leads to “descent with modification” is not scientific but philosophical. Again, not one evolutionary biologist has yet shown through experimentation – either in the lab or in the wild – that new information is being produced to fuel macroevolution. All experimentation thus far has shown only a loss of genetic information or a random reshuffling of genetic information. That’s it. But we had better not let the facts interfere with the theory shall we?
Answering the Brayton Groupies
Gibbons makes the common mistake of completely mischaracterizing the nature of biological evolution. It is this error that has caused him to misinterpret “evolution” as a grand unified theory for the history of the universe, and indeed for any process described by science.
WG). Wrong. I never made any such statements or assertions.
The universe is full of change, and itself has been subject to change. But the universal expansion in space and local condensation into galaxies and stars by gravity are not examples of the universe “evolving” the way species evolve.
WG) There is no evidence to support macroevolution and you cannot prove otherwise.
The common error is to assume that biological evolution is a simple one-step continuous change.
WG) Then what is “descent with modification” if we do not share a common heritage?
The other error is that evolution a series of saltations in which God creates new species from scratch every few million years.
WG) I know of no YEC who believes this.
Both mistakes are due to ignoring the statistical nature of a population of individuals, and from therefore ignoring the presence of variation in populations.
WG) Speciation, speciation, and yet more speciation. Microevolution is not macroevolution. And no, one does not fuel the other. And you claim that creationists are “ignorant of evolution? You clearly do not understand the arguments yourself, let alone the theory!
Biological evolution, as I said in other comments here, is what Mayr (and Lewontin) called “variational” rather than “transformational” evolution.
WG) More speciation.
Evolution is both vertical (selection of favored varieties in response to environmental pressure in a given region to yield adaptation) and horizontal (the differential branching of populations from migration into different regions with different selective pressures that generate species with different adaptations).
WG) Natural Selection fueling Speciation with a loss or ramdom reshuffling of genetic information.
Evolution involves both the creation of variation in each generation and the sorting out of variation by natural selection.
WG) Yet more Speciation.
The engine of all evolutionary change is therefore the variation within each population. That you are not genetically identical to your parents, thanks to recombination, is the raw material of evolutionary change.
WG) This is diversification within species as a result from the limits of genetic inheritance. As I had stated in an earlier post, each new generation has a slightly more disordered genetic constitution than the previous one, and this is common throughout all living organisms. Again the “raw material” you mention still does not create the new information required to allow MACRO-evolution to occur. There is not a single verifiable case where NEW INFORMATION has been created to allow for macroevolution. Everything you have stated thus far involves a loss of genetic information or a random reshuffling of information. I challenge you to give me one single verifiable case – even a second-hand account – where microbiologists have established a natural mechanism that adds new information to the genome of any living creature.
Eventually populations diverge so much that stop breeding with one another, usually at first because they won’t, but after a while because they can’t.
WG) I will give you an example. The bullfrog in Florida, Tennessee and Wisconsin are ecotypes. They look the same but the Florida frog will not mate with the Wisconsin frog. We now know why. Their seasons for reproduction are variations on a theme. The Florida frog reproduces in the spring, which occurs several months earlier than the Wisconsin frog. We know they are of the same species because they both procreate with the Tennessee frogs, which reproduce in spring that is intermediate. But they still produce only frogs. It’s A to A, not A to B, which you claim happens via speciation.
The expansion of the universe, the condensation of gases in space by gravitational attraction, chemical reaction processes, and all other physical changes, are all examples of “transformational” evolution. The two are not the same, and creationists are mistaken to conflate them in an attempt to look for holes in Darwinian biology by applying it to phemonena it isn’t intended to explain.
WG) There is no proof that life evolved from non-living chemicals in spite of over 100 years of carefully controlled experimentation. I mentioned nothing about confusing cosmic evolution with organic evolution. I merely stated that if we are talking about a self-creating universe starting with the Big Bang, then one inevitably would have led to the other through billions of years of purely natural processes without a divine hand being involved.
Ongoing work in some fields, however, is showing that the basic Darwinian principle of selection on variation can be applied to many populations consisting of individuals with slight differences among them, including corporations in a market, and RNA molecules and other autocatalytic systems in a test tube. Darwin doesn’t explain the origin of life, and we probably will never completely be able to describe the process, but we can apply Darwinian principles to the problem of the origin of life in a rational way.
WG) So, Darwin DOESN’T explain the origin of life? You are honest enough to suggest that we may never be able to explain a purely naturalistic beginning of life on earth. And yet you ridicule Intelligent Design? And how exactly are you able to accept “Darwinian principles” if it does not address problem of the origin of life? If the biologists themselves have shown the sheer impossibility of life evolving from non-living chemicals, then your Darwinian philosophy is useless in addressing the question of life evolving from non-life, not to mention “descent with modification” which has never been proven anyway.
Raging Bee) Wow, you really have a lot of patience to refute such grindingly silly “arguments.” I merely got to the “Your friend is part of the establishment conspiracy against me” and the “evil ACLU” bits and realized this guy was completely out of touch with reality. Which is, I suspect, how his kind operate:
WG) Any organization that defends (for free!) a repugnant group like NAMBLA should be questioned. We are talking about a group of homosexual pedophiles who have as their ultimate objective, the removal of all obstacles that would allow them to sodomize little boys with impunity. They even instruct their members how to seduce Kids. Do YOU support NAMBLA’s agenda Raging Bee?
Charles Winder) This guy should take a few basic biology courses, if only to avoid embarassment. But then again, ignorance is apparently the best sort of data in support of creationism.
WG) I suggest that you use Spell Check in order to correctly spell “embarrassment” before pointing fingers, just so you don’t come over as “ignorant.”
Ginger Yellow) A discussion. As long as there is a “debate”, no matter how repetitive, asinine, or absurd, they have something to hang their political agenda on. Unfortunately, in the US at least, scientists can’t just do the appropriate thing and ignore the IDiots until until they do some research or propose a real theory. The way the media and politics work in the US means that scientists can’t just abandon the field – crackpots get a platform in the US, and there are astonishing numbers of people who believe them not just on this issue.
WG) How telling. Anyone who rejects Darwin’s outdated ideas are “crackpots.” Why then do the majority of American reject organic evolution and a Godless cosmos? Are they all just plain ignorant, or are most Americans smart enough to see through your secular philosophy? Indeed, Mr. Brayton himself believes in a created universe, which implies intelligence, and thus by your own definition is a “crackpot” too.
RAJ) I suspect that that is one of the intentions of the IDiots–to divert scientists from doing science. There are only so many hours in the day, and if time is diverted to responding to IDiots, that time is not available for them to be doing science.
WG). For someone who belongs to a minority group that loudly demand “tolerance’ and “acceptance” for your lifestyle, your pretty short on them yourself Mr. Jordan. But perhaps your idea of “tolerance” is limited only to those who share your views. Most proponents of ID are in fact qualified scientists who hold higher degrees and doctorates from major universities around the world and have careers in their respected fields. All they seek an open discussion on the question of origins in the public education system. Such a biased statement only serves to underscore your own blinkered attitude. Again, like “Ginger Yellow” you have labeled Mr. Brayton an “IDiot” too, considering that he believes in a created universe, which of course implies a creator