The Loom

Evidence and exasperation

In the comments, Doug gets exasperated with some recent posts of mine:

“Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution? The brain shrinks in some form of pygmy homo erectus. Thats evolution! Ancient genes survive millions of years unchanged. That’s evolution?! Women have orgasms. That’s evolution! Although not all women have orgasms and they still manage to reproduce hmm luckily with the right spin…That’s evolution! We live in a civil society with people working for cooperative goals. That’s evolution! Unfortunately some people murder and rape. Just an unfortunate side-effect, but that’s evolution.

“Not only is everything evidence for evolution but evolution explains everything! No its not circular reasoning its Evolution! Thank goodness we don’t need to resort to God to explain the world around. Now we have Evolution! Its the all-encompassing answer to the ultimate question (I always thought it was 42). The evolutionist has reached the omniscient nirvana. maybe we should start meeting at the biology lab on Sunday mornings. We can sing some Evolution Hymns. Do they exist? Don’t worry they’ll evolve. I’ll just start selectively pressing some keys on the organ and type a few letters while blindfolded. Okay I’m getting a little carried away…chalk it up to evolution.” [sic]

I find that in situations like this, it helps to step back for a moment from evolution and look at the other major scientific theories of the past couple centuries that explain a lot about the natural world. You could translate Doug’s complaints about evolution into complaints about any of them.

Take the theory of plate tectonics. According to this theory, the Earth is covered in plates of crust. Each plate grows along one margin with molten rock that rises from the Earth’s interior. The margin on the other side of the plate is cold and sinks down into the interior, where it is remelted and mixed up with the rock down there. Continents ride on top of these plates. In some cases they crash into each other, such as India and Asia, forming mountains. In other cases, a new rift splits a plate apart, pushing continents away, as with Africa and South America.

From the 1920s to 1960s, geologists put together this theory as a way to explain patterns on the Earth. They couldn’t actually see the continents crash into each other like bumper cars, because the process takes millions of years. Instead, they had to develop hypotheses that they could then test by looking at the Earth. For example, they calculated the age of rocks around mid-ocean ridges. The rocks closer to the ridges were younger than the ones further away. Years of studies both in the field and in the lab have strengthened the theory, but they’ve also led scientists to expand it from its original form. The original theory didn’t account for what was driving hot rock up from the interior in the first place, for example. Yet new ideas for these sorts of things do not invalidate the realization that the continents move.

Now imagine a blog about plate tectonics (I wish there was one). The blog is dedicated to new research into how all the dizzying variety of landscapes on the planet, from jagged cliffs to undersea volcanoes, are produced by the Earth’s geological engine. It could even have a few posts about how plate tectonics helps explain some things you might never expect geology to explain, such as why it is that some animals in Africa and South America are surprisingly similar. Answer: their common ancestors lived at a time when the two continents were still joined together.

Imagine the sort of exasperated comments such a blog would get:

“Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for plate tectonics? Continents split apart. That’s plate tectonics! Continents crash into each other. That’s plate tectonics?! Plates sink under other plates. That’s plate tectonics. Although some plates actually slide past each other. That’s plate tectonics. Not only is everything evidence for plate tectonics, but plate tectonics explains everything! No it’s not circular reasoning, it’s plate tectonics! Thank goodness we don’t need to resort to God to explain the world. Now we have plate tectonics!”

Any theory that would explain the Earth’s landscape has to be able to account for a huge variety of features. The same goes for any theory that would explain the Earth’s biological diversity. Just consider fish. There are fish with eyes and fish without. Most fish only swim, but some fish can fly and some can crawl on dry land. A theory that could only shed light on one kind of fish wouldn’t be much of a theory at all.

The theory of evolution explains this variety, but not in an arbitrary way. Fish descend from a common ancestor, and along the way they have been modified, primarily through natural selection, into different forms. Flying fish do not have wings made out of balsa wood. Their wings are actually modified fins. The fins that some fish use to crawl on land are also clearly modified from the fins other fish use to swim. Fish without eyes still retain the genes required to form eyes, but they have been modified so that the eyes never fully develop. If these fish really did evolve from a common ancestor, you’d expect that their DNA would reflect this common kinship. And it does. If these fish really did evolve from a common ancestor, you’d expect that the fossil record would be consistent with their descent. And it is.

As a result, the specific examples that Doug brings up are not circular, but rather are particular cases of well-studied patterns in evolution.

Dwarfing is not an idea that someone came up with when Homo floresiensis was discovered. It’s been documented in many animals. Is there a compelling explanation for how full-sized elephants come to islands and then become the size of cows other than evolution? Let’s hear it.

The genes Doug refers to are the ones found in jellyfish and humans. As animals, we descend from a common ancestor. We have lots of genes in common with jellyfish—genes for building cells, proteins, and DNA, for example. Now it turns out that some body-building genes are also conserved in humans and jellyfish. But these genes are not carbon copies of one another. They have been modified in each lineage, just as you’d expect if life did indeed evolve.

Doug’s example of female orgasms raises another important point: an overarching theory about the history of life or the Earth does not automatically give you all the answers about that history. How did the Andes Mountains form? If a geologist simply says, plate tectonics, that’s not a very satisfying answer. Yes, plate tectonics were involved, but how? It turns out that the best explanation geologists have is a staggeringly complex interplay of continental collision, flowing rivers, and climate change. But the issue is still very much in debate. Orgasms are also an open question, as are the precise evolutionary origins of many things in nature. Natural selection may well turn out not to have much to do with human female orgasms. We’ll see.

If a scientific theory can explain an aspect of the natural world, withstand scrutiny, and lead to important new insights into how the world works, we really shouldn’t hold its success against it. No one’s asking for evolution hymns—certainly no more than they’re asking for gravity hymns or hymns to the periodic table of the elements.

Comments

  1. #1 Christopher Letzelter
    June 23, 2005

    “Most fish only swim, but some fish can fly and some can crawl on dry land.”
    Not to be an @ss here, but I can just see some critic: “Ah-HA! Flying fish don’t fly, they GLIDE! Carl’s wrong!”
    Anyway, you know how Creationists/IDer’s will explain dwarfism – god did it, and we curious humans don’t need to know why.
    Thanks for the blog, I always enjoy the discussions.
    Chris

  2. #2 PacRim Jim
    June 23, 2005

    When discussing evolution, people seem to confuse passive adaptation to local environments with directed, purposeful “improvement.” In other words, they anthropomorphize change.

  3. #3 Peter
    June 23, 2005

    Marvellous post! As always, thank you for yet another wonderful and patient explanation of the scientific process…

    An articulate and excellently written post like yours is well worth the time and effort it probably took to write in the name of all the iquisitive young minds we should battle for lest the achievements of modernity meet the same fate as the ancient library of Alexandria.

  4. #4 Mark Nutter
    June 23, 2005

    Well put, Carl!

    Objective reality has two characteristics that false theories lack: not only is it self-consistent, but it is well-integrated, i.e. individual facts don’t exist in isolation from one another, but each has implications that relate to other facts in a complex (but consistent) network of truth. That’s what makes science possible and what lets us distinguish fact from fancy. When you get a theory that matches reality, one of the signs you’ve got it right is that everything does fall into place.

    Contrast that with theories that try to force observations to fit into certain preconceived ideas. Want the universe to be less than 10,000 years old? No problem, we’ll just say that the speed of light was a lot higher in the past than it is now–except that increasing the speed of light means an exponential increase in the energy output of nuclear reactions, due to e=mc^2, and thus the Sun becomes too hot to support life on earth, unless you decrease the mass, which would cause the planets to fly off into space, unless you increase the gravitational constant, which would collapse the atmosphere, etc, etc. Everything’s interconnected. Get the theory wrong, and there’s no end to the cascade of special cases. Get it right, and everything should fall into place.

  5. #5 Carl Manaster
    June 23, 2005

    Turn it around:

    Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for God? The brain shrinks in some form of pygmy homo erectus. Thats God! Ancient genes survive millions of years unchanged. That’s God?! Women have orgasms. That’s the devil [;-)]! Although not all women have orgasms and they still manage to reproduce hmm luckily with the right spin…That’s God! We live in a civil society with people working for cooperative goals. That’s God! Unfortunately some people murder and rape. Just an unfortunate side-effect, but that’s God.

  6. #6 doug
    June 23, 2005

    First I must say it was pretty exciting to see that my quip of a post inspired a new blog topic.

    The plate tectonics analogy falls a bit short of my point. If scientists extended plate tectonics to explain weather patterns and the tides it would come closer to becoming an overextended theory. It would really reach evolutionary proportions if it was extended even further, introducing tectonic psychology, and explained the differing personalities of Californians, who live on an active fault line and Texans who don’t. I’m not condemning the theory of evolution because of its success. I’m condemning its success based on its malleability and ambiguity. When an idea carries so much perceived explanatory power yet remains so flexible that it can be twisted and adapetd to conform to seemingly contradictory evidence, there is a problem.

    The problem with Evolution is that it is never defined. Rather, it is defined (or its definition assumed) based on the context of the thought. One may make a statement like: We can see evolution in action when bacteria evolves resistence to antibiotics. In the first instance of “evolution” its definition is assumed to be – common descent with modification, such that all organisms can be traced back to a common anscestor. The second instance, the word “evolves” refers to a population emerging based on “natural selection” favoring an attribute for survival. The assumption that underlies this equivocation is that given enough time the second will add up to the first. This is an erroneous assumption as selection can only choose from already existing choices and therefore has no power to explain the origin of the choices.

    In the example of “fish without eyes.” The fish were originally part of a population with eyes. Through some environmental condition, they gained a survival advantage when their eyes did not completely develop. The result is a population of fish without eyes. You can extend examples like this for zillions of years and you’ll never explain where the eyes came from in the first place.

    Investigating the theories on the origin of eyes, its remarakable what little ground has been made. Darwin suggested that perhaps a light-sensitive cell through some gradual change developed within a dimple and then got some goo over it creating a lens and poof an eye!
    Eyes, Part One… Posted by Carl Zimmer Apparently one can write volumes on the subject adding little more to the argument (especially if you’re as verbose as Richard Dawkins). The main addition seems to be control genes (ie.Pax-6) which merely signal where the eye should go. Control genes have become the magic wands of evolution. Wave your magic hox gene and poof a leg appears. Of course anyone with a discerning mind knows that when a magician turns a handkercheif into a pigeon (or an antennae into a leg) the pigeon was already there. The entire hypothesis is a brick wall using the a priori commitment to evolution (common descent) as mortar.

  7. #7 Jeff
    June 23, 2005

    “The plate tectonics analogy falls a bit short of my point. If scientists extended plate tectonics to explain weather patterns and the tides it would come closer to becoming an overextended theory.”

    Your argument would be valid if you were pointing to examples of attempting to have evolution explain weather patterns and the tides. But all of the examples you actually state are about evolution being used to explain biological phenomena. It is no more surprising that an overarching biological theory could be applied to a (very) wide array of biological events than it is that an overarching geological theory could be applied to a (very) wide array of geological events.

  8. #8 Jim Wynne
    June 23, 2005

    doug wrote, “The problem with Evolution is that it is never defined. Rather, it is defined (or its definition assumed) based on the context of the thought. One may make a statement like: We can see evolution in action when bacteria evolves resistence to antibiotics. In the first instance of “evolution” its definition is assumed to be – common descent with modification, such that all organisms can be traced back to a common anscestor. The second instance, the word “evolves” refers to a population emerging based on “natural selection” favoring an attribute for survival. The assumption that underlies this equivocation is that given enough time the second will add up to the first. This is an erroneous assumption as selection can only choose from already existing choices and therefore has no power to explain the origin of the choices.”

    There’s so much wrong with that paragraph that it’s hard to know where to begin, but just for starters, how about mutations for “…the origin of choices.”? Doug, as is the case with most evolution deniers, is either being deliberately deceitful or is intellectually lazy, and hasn’t done the reading.

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    June 23, 2005

    “The problem with Evolution is that it is never defined.”

    Um, no. The problem is that you (and creationists as a whole) pretend it isn’t defined. Scientists don’t change the definitioni from “descent with modification” to “natural selection” and back again. Natural selection is simply one mechanism of evolution.

  10. #10 Christopher
    June 23, 2005

    Actually you can explain weather patterns with plate tectonics. Africa and the Middle East dried out and became the deserts they are today because the Indian subcontenent slamed into Asia uplifiting the Himilayas and disrupting the flow patterns and altering rainfall distribution. Similarly Australia has slowly dried out as it has gradually drifted northward. And Antartica is a frozen waste because the mixing of warm tropical waters with cool polar waters was inhibited when South America split off.

  11. #11 Ron Zeno
    June 23, 2005

    My guess is that at the very least, doug doesn’t understand what evolution is, nor what science is.

    He admits he doesn’t know the definition of evolution, or that a definition even exists. Not a good position from which to argue against evolution, but a common enough position unfortunately. He then brings up the tired old argument from ignorance of how “its remarakable what little ground has been made” in the study of the evolution of eyes.

    I think his point, “Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution?” shows a deep misunderstanding of what science is, especially what scientific evidence is, what an explanatory model is, and the relationship between the two.

  12. #12 Gladys Nightspurt
    June 23, 2005

    Tom Lehrer wrote an awesome ode to the Periodic Table of the Elements.

    Maybe not a hymn … but it’s darn catchy.

    In any event: great post, Carl. I’ve tried explaining these things to creationists with very little success. Now I’ll just link to this page and tell ‘em to read it and weep.

  13. #13 Gregor
    June 23, 2005

    Doug

    “In the example of “fish without eyes.” The fish were originally part of a population with eyes. Through some environmental condition, they gained a survival advantage when their eyes did not completely develop. The result is a population of fish without eyes. You can extend examples like this for zillions of years and you’ll never explain where the eyes came from in the first place.”

    Really, Doug?

    Let’s translate Doug’s statement for the rubes: “You can extend examples like this for zillions of years and you’ll never convince me that God didn’t design fish eyes.”

    Welcome to the world of honesty, Doug.

  14. #14 Steve Russell
    June 23, 2005

    Christopher beat me to the punch with his Himalayan uplift comment. One might add that with the drier and cooler climate attributable to that uplift, the African rain forests shrank and the open savannahs expanded, creating new problems and opportunities for the existing critturs. The timing of the geological and climatic changes SEEMS to fit well with evolutionary changes to African species–including, possibly, changes in the ape/hominid lineage.

    I certainly wouldn’t claim that this possible causal connection has now been “proven,” or that it explains “everything” about human evolution, but the fossil record, climate record, and geological record, along with computer weather modeling, all seem to fit, so we may have found at least one piece of the puzzle.

    Note that some of these predictions were made BEFORE we had gained the detailed information that is now available, and that much of it was furnished by researchers in disciplines with NO immediate evolutionary or biological ax to grind.

    Had this multidisciplinary effort not coalesced in a way that seemed to make sense, then some of these related hypotheses would have been weakened and, obviously, some of the workers would have had to go back to the drawing board.

    Nor do scientists take the position that the Hox genes “explain” everything. While these genes are important, long-conserved elements in an immensely complicated cascade of developmental events needed to “build” eyes or legs in the “correct” positions, there is no single gene that equates with “eye” or “leg.” Thus, there was no one single incredible “long odds” mutation that needed to occur to bring all the elements of a fully-evolved eye or limb together.

    These genes may very well NOT have conferred functioning eyes or limbs on the ur-bilaterian ancestor of fly and horse. The thinking now seems to be that genes like these may have originally figured into the specification of some of the early specialized cell types for multicellular life–for example, photoreceptor cells (not “fully” evolved eyes) or muscle cells (not “fully” evolved limbs).

    (And, for that matter, the early photoreceptor cells and proteins may not even have been used for envisioning the environment, but may have instead played a role in fine-tuning the ancestor’s behavior to the circadian rhythms (day-night cycle).)

    The Hox and similar cell-fate and positioning genes again did not spring forth fully formed, but may themselves have evolved out of earlier inter-cellular signalling precursors of colonial animals. And those precursors may have evolved out of genes involved in intra-cellular signalling networks.

    So once again–and I know it won’t be for the last time!–none of this had to come together perfectly or all at once in some full “irreducably complex” manifestation. Each step built on the prior steps in small ways. Each gene or protein played a comprehensible role in some living creature at some point in time. “Complex” multi-celled animals arose sometime between a half-billion and a billion years ago, and that emergence was in turn dependent upon an earlier THREE-PLUS billion years of cellular evolution. This is an almost unfathomable time depth which anti-evolutionists simply can’t seem to wrap their minds around (well, probably no one can, really, but scientists are at least honest with themselves about it).

  15. #15 Bobbo
    June 23, 2005

    There is a blog about plate techtonics (or at least it has a section devoted to plate techtonics) at http://careo.elearning.ubc.ca/weblogs/rockblog/

  16. #16 Aaron
    June 23, 2005

    “No one’s asking for evolution hymns?certainly no more than they’re asking for gravity hymns…”

    Gin a body meet a body
    Flyin’ through the air,
    Gin a body hit a body,
    Will it fly? and where?

    “…or hymns to the periodic table of the elements.”

    There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium…

    I suppose it’s true that nobody asked:)

  17. #17 GBrundage
    June 23, 2005

    Interesting quip on plate techtonics. The resultant geology of plate techtonics does, of course, go a long way in explaining weather patterns.

  18. #18 Juke Moran
    June 23, 2005

    Gladys Nightspurt for best alias ever and Tom Lehrer mention – thank you.
    -
    Tangentially somewhat, there’s a commonality much of the scientific community has with much of the creationist/ID community. And it’s completely invisible.
    Both want control of the evolutionary process to be in some paternal, anthropocentric hand. Neither wants evolution to continue as it was back when we gained all the advantages evolution conferred – the very intelligence we’ve turned on the process to make it plain, our social complexity, our adaptive quickness, our immune systems.
    Neither side wants that process to continue, with adversity and mortality selecting the gene combinations that continue. Science continually justifies the most bizarre interventions into living creatures and systems by the resulting benefit of saved lives. Creationists follow a dogma that places mankind entirely above and outside the evolutionary flow.
    Both want evolution controlled, and both want it controlled by reason and plan. One from the wizard behind the curtain, the other from the wizards in front of it.
    That’s not to suggest we allow plague and predation to sweep the land. For one thing that letting, by intention, would be itself control.
    Balance, living within the world, not against and on top of it – we could try that again, this way clearly isn’t working too well. Imbalanced living has led us to the edge of extinction. All the things we point to as proof of our superiority are imperiled by our success, by our being too successful.
    The almost vicious polarity on this issue masks a rejection of balanced living, and the humility it entails, by both sides. There’s no reverence for life that isn’t human. In that, though neither side will admit it, they have a lot in common.

  19. #19 Pierce R. Butler
    June 23, 2005

    Why have the French and the Germans fought four major wars against each other over the last two centuries? It all goes back to their History!
    Why have the French-speaking & German-speaking peoples of Switzerland cooperated successfully for the last two centuries? Well, you have to consider their History…
    Why are the French & the Germans now cooperating in EU politics against the British, when usually the B & the F have allied against the Gs, except when the B & the Gs united against the F? You still claim History is behind it???

    Hey, if you’re going to claim this History stuff fits into all those contradictory situations, that shows me that the whole concept of History is a fraud & a delusion, and I’m not even going to agree that such a Thing exists!

  20. #20 Engineer-Poet
    June 23, 2005

    Since talk has turned to geology….

    Workin’ at the outcrop, hundred ten in the shade
    Tryin’ to figure out how all those rocks got laid
    I’m lookin’ at the bedding it’s as plain as can be
    It’s full of little fossils from the Tertiary
    Now and then you find a layer of basalt
    Take your … and find a different strike-slip fault

    (refrain)

    Dooda rock rock baby (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby! (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby and you’ll be-ee a red-hot lava tonight.

    Muds and shale and silts and well they don’t all look the same
    Find volcanics if you want to play the dating game
    I’ll map out every overturn and anticline
    To see if maybe you should dig a well or a mine
    All the metamorphics they be doin’ the twist
    Geology is sometimes just a pile of schist

    (refrain)

    If you run across a big volcanic cone
    You’re standing on a hotspot or subduction zone
    Oh this old Earth is changing at a rapid rate
    California will continue when we pass the plate
    Sometimes it’s hard to realize that sooner or lay-tah
    To dust we shall return and get made into strata

    (refrain)

    (bridge)

    Dooda rock rock baby (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby! (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby and you’ll….

    Continents are dancin’ to a rockin’ beat
    Mountain tops are jumpin’, they can feel the heat
    The quakes are shakin’ up the lithospheric crust
    And all the rocks are shiftin’ like they’re fit to bust
    Well someday they’ll be sediments and settle dow-own
    And then get stoned in the underground

    Dooda rock rock baby (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby! (dooda rock rock)
    Dooda rock rock baby and you’ll be-ee…
    A Red-Hot Lava Tonight.

    (Words copyright 1989 by Dr. Jane Robinson, errors mine, transcribed without permission.)

  21. #21 Don S
    June 23, 2005

    I would really love to hear an Ode to the Periodic Table of the Elements. Anyone?

  22. #22 Carl Manaster
    June 24, 2005

    Here you are, Don, completing what Aaron started:

    http://chemlab.pc.maricopa.edu/periodic/lyrics.html

    There’s antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium
    And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
    And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
    Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium
    And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium
    And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium (inhale)
    And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

    There’s yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium
    And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium
    And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
    And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.

    Isn’t that interesting?
    I knew you would.
    I hope you’re all taking notes, because there’s gonna be a short quiz next period.

    There’s holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium
    And phosphorous and francium and fluorine and terbium
    And manganese and mercury, molybdinum, magnesium,
    Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium
    And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
    Paladium, promethium, potassium, polonium, and
    Tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, (inhale)
    And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

    There’s sulfur, californium and fermium, berkelium
    And also mendelevium, einsteinium and nobelium
    And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium
    And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper,
    Tungsten, tin and sodium.

    These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
    And there may be many others but they haven’t been discovered.

    Follow the link to hear it sung.

  23. #23 Linkmeister
    June 24, 2005

    As a point of interest, the other day All Things Considered actually quoted some of the Lehrer Ode to the elements, without attribution until later in the week when one of their listeners wrote to call them on it. Now, it could be that the lack of attribution was deliberate.

  24. #24 Peter Ellis
    June 24, 2005

    Is there a compelling explanation for how full-sized elephants come to islands and then become the size of cows other than evolution? Let’s hear it.

    Overly hot spin cycle?

    More seriously, that sentence is a bit of a hostage to the ID folks as it doesn’t make clear the time scales involved – it looks almost like the individual elephants shrank.

  25. #25 NelC
    June 24, 2005

    Man, a plate tectonics hymn! That rocks!!!

    Sorry, somebody had to say it…..

  26. #26 ts
    June 24, 2005

    Great article, though clearly wasted on Doug. God works in mysterious ways, so any demystification must be denied.

  27. #27 NelC
    June 24, 2005

    “Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution?”

    Isn’t that how evidence works? The more evidence you collect, the more it converges to a solution? Would you say to Columbo, “Isn’t it amazing that all your evidence points to this suspect?”

  28. #28 vairitas
    June 24, 2005

    and if you doubt that this is possible, how is it there are pygmies+dwarves?

  29. #29 Ediacaran
    June 24, 2005

    Thanks, Carl, it’s a good post that explains the situation so clearly that creationists are sure to NOT understand it. Keep in mind that Doug thinks ICR and Answers in Genesis are reliable sources, so don’t waste too much effort on him – you can’t reason someone out of a position when they didn’t use reason to get there in the first place.

    For example, in an earlier thread, Doug writes:These are the exact type of changes observed. This is the evidence presented for evolution but as you can see its exactly what the creation model predicts. The Bible itself, in Genesis, tells of Jacob who was tending another man’s sheep. The population contained black, white and mixed sheep. In the deal Jacob was allowed to keep the mixed sheep for his own flock. He did a little genetic manipulation by ensuring that the best and biggest white and black sheep mated so that his mixed flock would be grand. Thus in the earliest book of the Bible we have an example of a change in gene frequency.

    This is hilarious. If you read the passage, you’ll see that the bible is positing that putting striped patterns (using peeled tree branches) in front of mating animals caused the offspring to be speckled and spotted. What Doug refers to as Jacob performing “genetic manipulation” is biblical superstition that apparently is considered science by Young-Earth creationists. When I’ve pointed out this visual-pattern-affecting-genes biblical error in previous discussions, my creationist opponents typically retreated to miraculous intervention to “explain” it. Of course, someone who considers Answers in Genesis or ICR to be reliable needs all the genetic miracles they can get, considering the classic creationist blunders of Sarfati’s chicken claim and Gish’s bullfrog claim.

    Doug also refers to the creation “model” – as if creationists could agree on one cohesive hypothesis – and its supposed predictions. This alleged creation “model” must encompass the Earth being round and flat (like a pizza) for the Flat-Earth creationists (Charles and Marjorie Johnson, etc.), a spheroidal Earth resting motionless and being orbited by the rest of the universe to satisfy the Geocentric creationists (Gerardus Buow, Marshall and Sandra Hall, etc.), an Earth about 6,000-12,000 years old for Young-Earth creationists (Carl Baugh, Duane “Bullfrog” Gish, Morris, Hovind, Sarfati, etc.), and an Earth 4 1/2 billion years old for the Old-Earth creationists (Hugh Ross, Phil Johnson, William Dembski). That’s quite a model – of contradictory creationist claims, on even this small topic. It doesn’t even cover the loonier creationist cryptozoology, including Baugh’s fire-breathing dragons sleeping at the bottom of the sea, or the multiple locations claimed for Noah’s Ark.

    Doug, be sure to let us know when creationist “geneticists” have duplicated Jacob’s “genetic manipulation” by changing animal genetics by having them mate in front of striped patterns, and published it in a peer-reviewed science journal (of good reputation – not anything like Sermonti’s pseudoscience journal).

  30. #30 SciNerd
    June 24, 2005

    Evolution is a loaded word. I feel that the emotions and debate behind the word EVOLUTION fogs the scientific theory and supporting evidence that evolutionists stand behind. I propose that we develop a new term, such as was done with “intelligent design” replacing “creationism”. Any suggestions?

  31. #31 kharris
    June 24, 2005

    Doug was writing without the benefit of your response. Your response clears up the orgasm business pretty handily…

    The earth move. Plate tectonics.

  32. #32 Torbjorn Larsson
    June 24, 2005

    “The main addition seems to be control genes (ie.Pax-6) which merely signal where the eye should go.” Not really, as you will see if you read the post. Different eyes have evolved independently a couple of times. Just as different body plans have developed out of some pretty general genetic machinery, if I understand it correctly.

    “Evolution is a loaded word.” Only if you make it so. The undertext was long gone before creationism put it back. You should take your concern to them, perhaps they will stop arguing against fact? ;-)

    On the other hand, your use of ‘evolutionists’ is loaded and wrong. Wikipedia says: “Evolutionism is any one of a number of theories… An evolutionist is a proponent of evolutionism.”

    So it is not specific enough and also “Scientists object to the terms evolutionism and evolutionist because the -ism and -ist suffixes accentuate belief rather than fact. Conversely, creationists use those same two terms partly because the terms accentuate belief, and partly perhaps because they provide a way to package their opposition into one group, …”

    But then it _is used by scholars outside physical and life sciences “these terms are used to refer to theories about the development of cultures and civilisations.”

  33. #33 Joe
    June 24, 2005

    Doug. You are an idiot. Please remove yourself from the gene pool. Now THAT’S evolution!

  34. #34 apthorp
    June 24, 2005

    While ID is deserving of whatever mocking can be dished out (well, for civility perhaps it should be witty) there is a certain aspect of the philosophy of science that is universally hard, even for the scientifically trained. Scientific theories aren’t “True”: they are are conceptual structures, self consistent (for particular definitions of terms), consistent with observation, and modified when found to be inconsistent on either count. Terms like “evolution” define a mechanism for the, ah, evolution of a system over time.

    If one assumed the term “Evolution” is meaningful in itself, instead of as a label then the circularity argument follows through definitional tautaology. This is the sort of confusion that puts the sophomore into endless sophomoric debates. Sophomores may get over it. But, terms that have intrinsic meaning are closely assocated with the notion of intrinsic, context free Truth, which are often spelled “God”. With all of these Truths in hand we can add some conceptual terms like Inteligent and Design to explain to those who don’t like the obvious terminology. Acomodationist cultural relativism at its worst, but there you are.

    Perhaps the real problem is in the fact that ‘capital “T” Truth’ seems to be close to Lackoff’s embodied concepts. It is simply hard to compare a sophisticated absract conceptual structure, no matter how useful with language attached to hard wired associations.

    If this does indeed have anything to do with the problem, the Zen approach of cracking the ID thought pattern through exhibition of “same thing but make no sense” stories is unlikely to work because there is no conceptual edifice to crack. The only hope is patient and painstaking construction of any edifice at all. Or, simply mocking them works too.

  35. #35 Torbjorn Larsson
    June 24, 2005

    Sorry, Joe, I can not resist:

    It is the rest of us who can remove creationists by being superior so they are selected out.

    But, wait a minute! They do not care about known facts, they talk a lot of … (insert your preferred description here), they do not make much sense, and they are not afraid of authority (well, God and Genesis, but not _real_ authority).

    So they will probably get the girls… Did someone say that evolution was guided by intelligence? I think not! :-)

  36. #36 doug
    June 24, 2005

    Its astounding the way virtually everyone posting here has resorted to personal attack. Perhaps you were offended by my original post. Perhaps that’s a sign your holding your science a bit too close to your heart rather than your mind (although which neuron or patch of neurons constitutes “the mind”).

    No one has proposed a definition of “Evolution.” One popular definition is: a change in gene frequency over time. This definition is popular because it is provable and demonstrable. Unfortunately its also ridiculously incomplete and simple. Everytime a baby is born, of any species, the gene frequency changes. Over longer time one might find evidence that the stature of the population has decreased. One finds evidence of pygmie elephants and dwarfed humans but all you’ve really uncovered are more elephants and more humans. When fish lose their eyes they are still fish. Why is this so hard to understand.

    A second possible definition of evolution is: The hypothesis that ALL biological systems have ascended from a common ancestor through genetic changes such as mutation. I chose the word ascended rather than descended because I believe it is more appropriate and descriptive when implying that a single celled “something” gradually evolved through many intermediates into a dolphin or horned beetle.

    Some may object to parts of this definiton. Some might want to include more than “mutation” after the “such as.” Currently – after reading books by Dawkins, Gould, Zimmer, Lewtonin and articles or book excerpts by countless others – mutation seems the only way of producing “new” genetic information. Organisms may pick up genetic information that is “new to them” but that doesn’t make it new. When you dress your quickly growing son in his brothers hand-me-downs, he may object saying “I want new clothes.” You’ll counter cleverly with, “Its new to you,” but you and he both know that answer is unsatisfying.

    Of the 2 definitions only the second is in dispute. There may be those who dispute the first definition but they would be wrong. Contrary to one of the more ridiculous posts I do not need to propose a creation model that encompasses all of the beliefs of every one not subscribing to evolution (definition 2). And just for the record the myth that Christians believe or believed in a flat-earth was began by Washington Irving (and some french guy whose name escapes me). There may be some misguided folks on the fringe that want to make a case for it but the misstatement only survives to be used by evolutionists in an attempt to discredit creationists since it is easier than debating based on facts that support evolution. This practice goes all the way back to Thomas Huxley.

    I’ve made the distinction on earlier posts between what I call “up” and “down” evolution. This is not the same as Micro and Macro as they are ambiguous terms. Down evolution includes the examples discussed on this sight. Homo Florensis is a small homo erectus that descended from “regular” population of the same. Fish without eyes descended from a population of fish with eyes. Bacteria have gained resistance to anti-biotics by losing enzyme activity or losing a regulatory protein, etc. These are all cases of natural selection acting upon already existing genetic information. None of these changes can be extended to support Definition 2 of evolution. None of these cases show how genetic information originated, they all demonstrate the opposite.

    As I’ve said before I cannot provide an example of “Up” evolution. I’m not even saying they don’t exist I’ve just never come across an example. To be specific I’m not talking about “beneficial mutations.” All the examples above, if caused by mutation, might be cited as beneficial. The qualifying examples must include new genetic information and novel function.

    It would have been more appropriate for Carl Zimmer to begin a new blog entry on this topic with links to the numerous examples that qualify but to this request he and everyone else was silent. I would hope that future entries be directed at this perceived shortcoming of evolution rather than personal attacks against me. They don’t hurt my feelings they’re actually entertaining. My wife wonders why I’m not bothered by the attack and ridicule. I told her that it only means the attackers have nothing intelligent to offer.

  37. #37 Mike Nilsen
    June 24, 2005

    There *is* a blog on Plate Tectonics, but they only post once every 100,000 years or so.

    Sorry.

  38. #38 dmyers
    June 24, 2005

    Well, after reading this mess, I have to write in support of Doug.

    I’m a non-biologist working in information-science-related topics, and I consider the issues Doug raises similar to those referred to, in my domain, as framing problems or, sometimes, as the problem of induction. This general problem references how we get truly new and innovative forms from (merely) the combination of old and conventional forms. Consideration of this problem has prompted some philosophers (Fodor, for instance) to argue that there are, in fact, no truly new and innovative concepts; rather, all concepts (whether superficially considered innovative or not) are innate.

    To press this position into the current discussion, the argument would be that all possible biological forms in some sense already exist and, thus, that all evolution is of the “Down” sort rather than of the “Up” sort.

    In order to argue against this position, it seems you must engage some definition of emergence (far) beyond our current understanding of the phenomenon. There is, in information science and particularly in AI studies, the belief that emergent properties of complex systems will rescue us from currently stagnant AI algorithms. But, while the belief is strong, the evidence in support of that belief remains largely circumstantial.

    For this reason, I find the problem posed by Doug more interesting than I do the solution by analogy offered in response.

  39. #39 Ron Zeno
    June 24, 2005

    Hi doug! Perhaps you can address the comments that aren’t personal attacks, but instead very patiently and carefully explained that you just don’t know what you are talking about? You don’t appear to know what evolution is. You don’t appear to know what science is. It gets very old very fast. If you expect arguments from ignorance to be treated with respect, I suggest posting where somewhere where logic is not respected.

  40. #40 it's simple IF you ignore the complexity
    June 24, 2005

    Oh but there *is* a song about the periodic table of the elements (circa 1955)

    The great Tom Lehrer – now set to flash animation!
    http://www.privatehand.com/flash/elements.html

    and I think “The New Math” is something of a hymn :-)

  41. #41 Kevin
    June 24, 2005

    Doug: ‘As I’ve said before I cannot provide an example of “Up” evolution. I’m not even saying they don’t exist I’ve just never come across an example. To be specific I’m not talking about “beneficial mutations.” All the examples above, if caused by mutation, might be cited as beneficial. The qualifying examples must include new genetic information and novel function.’

    I guess you haven’t looked very hard:
    http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/DI/Parts-is-Parts.html
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB102.html

  42. #42 doug
    June 24, 2005

    You don’t appear to know what evolution is.

    Please take an extra 2 minutes in your response to point out the flaw in the 2nd definition I’ve proposed – “The hypothesis that ALL biological systems have ascended from a common ancestor through genetic changes such as mutation.”

    You don’t appear to know what science is.

    I know that when a hypothesis is so broad and maleable it can find support in completely contradictory examples it ceases to be science and must be called dogma. How might the hypothesis of evolution (as defined above) be refuted? When evidence arises that appears to contradict the theory, the interpretation of the evidence is spun with an evolutionary bias to make certain it adheres to the theory. All that spinning may have made you dizzy.

  43. #43 Engineer-Poet
    June 24, 2005

    Doug was heard to cry
    “Evolution don’t go up!”
    He wasn’t looking.

  44. #44 doug
    June 24, 2005

    http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/DI/Parts-is-Parts.html
    This is a classic example put forth by Miller in refutation of Behe but it has been addressed by Behe himself. For the rest of the story go here.

    The reference to Talkorigins.com doesn’t actually contain any examples, it merely says they exist.

    Engineer-Poet’s haiku will only direct you to bacterial resistance to antibiotics which don’t meet the requirements because the resistance comes from mutation causing a loss of data/function, regardless of any benefit provided.

  45. #45 Engineer-Poet
    June 24, 2005

    I’ll highlight the parts of the above-cited abstract that Doug didn’t read, failed to understand or cannot admit exist:

    “Fusidic acid resistance resulting from mutations in elongation factor G (EF-G) of Staphylococcus aureus is associated with fitness costs during growth in vivo and in vitro. In both environments, these costs can be partly or fully compensated by the acquisition of secondary intragenic mutations. Among clinical isolates of S. aureus, fusidic acid-resistant strains have been identified that carry multiple mutations in EF-G at positions similar to those shown experimentally to cause resistance and fitness compensation.”

    And you wonder why we call you stupid, or liars, or both.  It’s the simple truth.

  46. #46 Engineer-Poet
    June 24, 2005

    Steve Dutch has this to say to people like Doug:

    If you hear something that conflicts with what you think you know, and you don’t bother to check it out, you shouldn’t feel stupid. You are stupid.

    People who have it placed right in front of their noses, read it, and still don’t get it deserve some kind of superlative, though.

  47. #47 doug
    June 24, 2005

    So a mutation occurs in Staphylococcus Aureus that eliminates the expression of the fmt gene thereby making it resistant to an antibiotic. The side effect is a dramatic loss of relative fitness and a significant growth impairment.

    After all of this some of the “costs” may be compensated by acquiring genetic information from another source. Just in case that isn’t clear the information already existed, it was acquired from another source.

    Next you’ll probably wave a poor decrepit child afflicted with sickle cell anemia in my face. You’ll say look at this wonderful example of evolution in progress. Then you’ll call me stupid for being so blind to the obvious.

    The main point is the very few examples that are forthcoming are not clear cut. They require pages of defense and are yet debated, not between creationists and evolutionists, but between evolutionists themselves. Does this make sense? If evolution is legitamate shouldn’t there be countless examples? Is it really intelligent to say “Well we can’t actually show you any really strong candidates but if we had a billion years in the laboratory, we’re very confident that we can make the case.”

  48. #48 Jon H
    June 24, 2005

    doug writes: “No one has proposed a definition of “Evolution.” One popular definition is: a change in gene frequency over time. This definition is popular because it is provable and demonstrable. Unfortunately its also ridiculously incomplete and simple.”

    It’s simple in the same way a Turing machine is simple. A Turing machine is a theoretical construct of computing which consists of a ‘read/write head’ and a tape which can store binary values. All it can do is read a value, write a value, or move the tape back and forth.

    A Turing machine is a very simple construct, yet it can do anything today’s vastly complicated, powerful computers can do.

    A Turing machine could be used to render a Pixar movie. A Turing machine could be used to simulate weather systems. A Turing machine could run today’s latest video games. A Turing machine could convert music into MP3 files. A Turing machine could run a web server.

    It would do these things really, really, really slowly, but it could do them, despite being several million times simpler than today’s PCs and mainframes.

    The point I’m getting at is that simple steps can be combined to produce arbitrarily complex results.

  49. #49 Christopher
    June 25, 2005

    “So a mutation occurs in Staphylococcus Aureus that eliminates the expression of the fmt gene thereby making it resistant to an antibiotic. The side effect is a dramatic loss of relative fitness and a significant growth impairment.”

    No you’re wrong! Its a dramatic gain of fitness releative to normal Staph Aureus within the environment of the antibiotic.

    Evolution is not about progress, it does not allways produce a mutation which is benificial under all circumstances. I’ll repeat that: Evolution is not about progress. Evolution is and only is adaptation to a local environment. Everything elese you think that evolution is, is either a mechanisim or a special case of evolution.

    It does not matter if sickle cell results in a dibilitating condition, all that matters is that the mutation enables the recipiant the ability to survive long enough in a malarial environment so that he/she can reproduce with more success relitive to those without the mutation. Like it or not we Humans with all our fancy self awareness are just animals and our sole purpose is to survive long enough to reproduce.

  50. #50 Christopher
    June 25, 2005

    For clarity, I should add:

    …relitive to those without the mutation in the same environment.

  51. #51 Engineer-Poet
    June 25, 2005

    Doug blathers:

    So a mutation occurs in Staphylococcus Aureus that eliminates the expression of the fmt gene thereby making it resistant to an antibiotic. The side effect is a dramatic loss of relative fitness and a significant growth impairment.

    Badly mis-read to completely wrong on all points:

    1. The FMT gene is essential to the bacterium; that’s why fusidic acid kills the wild strain.
    2. The initial mutation to EF-G confers resistance to fusidic acid, which is a large advantage in that environment.
    3. Later mutations, observed both in clinical settings and in the lab, remedy the impact of the initial mutation on growth rate without losing the resistance to fusidic acid.

    The result is a bacterium just as fit as the wild strain, but it’s immune to fusidic acid too.  This is not one but two mutations which caused gains in function… in just one bacterium tested against one substance.

    This phenomenon is so widespread as to be completely unremarkable among biologists, from the talk I hear (I’m not a biologist).

    Are you ready to admit that you are wrong yet?

  52. #52 Ediacaran
    June 25, 2005

    Doug writes: “I know that when a hypothesis is so broad and maleable it can find support in completely contradictory examples it ceases to be science and must be called dogma.”

    Young-Earth creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Geocentric creationism, Flat-Earth creationism …

  53. #53 doug
    June 25, 2005

    Young-Earth creationism, Old-Earth creationism, Geocentric creationism, Flat-Earth creationism …

    These are all different models based on different assumptions. By your reasoning you too need a Theory of Evolution that encompasses comet seeded abiogenesis, alien seeded abiogenesis, Raelian programed evolution, theistic evolution and of course purely naturalistic abiogenesis ex nihilo. Your theory must encompass both the single universe and the infinite universe theories. The great thing about Evolution it can probably bend to make fit every single one of the above mentioned. The point is these different models all begin with different assumptions to explain the areas impossible to know. This set of assumptions becomes the glasses through which one views their world, call it their worldview or call it their religion. Science can only tell the story to a point but it is always subject to its initial assumptions be they large or small. In the study of gravity, one basically assumes that the observed laws of gravity will still be there today, an assumption subject to very little error. But an assumption that can change as Einstein would tell you. Evolution is subject to huge and many assumptions. It proposes to explain what can not be directly observed. For example not long ago the proposed introductory date for eukaryotic cells was pushed back 1 billion years. This blasts away many assumptions about the rise of organisms vastly more complex than their prokaryotic predesseors. When one is attempting to explain 4.6 billion years for the earth or 15 billion years for the universe based on the obsevations of the last 200 years you can bet the assumptions stack up as high as the evidence and the interpretation of the evidence is entirely based on one’s assumptions, which is a product of one’s world view.

    And since you seem to have little else to offer but the constant interjection of the mythical Flat-earth ridicule I will respond.

    Jeffrey Burton Russell, Professor of History, Emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara wrote a book on this very subject. The simple truth is that since the 3rd century BC the world has been regarded as spherical. This belief didn’t change with the onset of Christianity.
    Where did the myth come from? Well if you heard it like I did, something to do with Christopher Columbus risking sailing right off the edge of the earth to prove the world was round, then you got it from Washington Irving’s account of Christopher Columbus written in 1828.
    The idea was also put forward very soon after in 1834 by Antoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), an academic of strong antireligious prejudices. His desire was to misrepresent the church fathers and their medieval successors as believing in a flat earth, in his On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers.
    The myth continued to be propogated by anti-christians in an effort to portray Christians as stupid and to make science and Christianity appear at odds with eachother.
    Not much has changed.
    For a more complete treatment visit:
    http://id-www.ucsb.edu/fscf/library/RUSSELL/FlatEarth.html

  54. #54 doug
    June 25, 2005

    Your Staphylococcus Aureus doesn’t seem convincing. It seems obvious that the FMT gene is not absolutely essential or the entire population would die before there was a chance to mutate. In fact it also seems likely that the ability to survive the fusidic acid is selected from genes that exist prior to its introduction. This would only show natural selection not evolution. But I digress as all articles I come across come at a hefty price and the abstracts are quite…umm what’s the word, ah yes, abstract.

    Luckily there must be countless, billions of other examples piled up that you might suggest to keep me interested. Okay maybe only millions. Thousands? hundreds? ten?

  55. #55 Engineer-Poet
    June 25, 2005

    Your Staphylococcus Aureus doesn’t seem convincing.

    You mean you refuse to consider the evidence which has proven it as far as all professional biologists are concerned, not to mention physicians, agronomists….

    It seems obvious that the FMT gene is not absolutely essential or the entire population would die before there was a chance to mutate.

    It seems obvious to people who’ve spent the least amount of time studying the issue (like, ten minutes) that there is a dose-response relationship for the antibiotic action.  Medication in a body does not travel to all infection sites equally, so a dose which kills some bacteria will reach others in sufficient strength only to slow them down.  Resistant mutations which arise in these stressed populations will be selected for if the fitness cost of the resistance is less than the damage caused by the antibiotic; the greater the concentration of antibiotic, the greater the advantage of the resistant mutants.

    This is why one should always take the full course of a prescribed antibiotic:  the drug needs to be allowed to reach its full concentration so that partially-resistant types are killed rather than being allowed to proliferate afterward.  That’s how resistant bacteria arise.  (Of course, you will probably ignore this because you don’t believe in evolution.  I’d argue that it would be fitting for you to die of some bug that laughs at antibiotics due to your own refusal to take your medicine properly, save that you would likely pass it on to others and endanger innocents.)

    In fact it also seems likely that the ability to survive the fusidic acid is selected from genes that exist prior to its introduction.

    The S. Aureus genome has been sequenced.  Show me where genes for fusidic acid resistance exist in the wild type.  Repeat for penicillin, erythromycin, methycillin, and other antibiotics for which we’ve observed resistance.  You need to cover ALL of them, because it’s your argument that such genes do not evolve.

    Luckily there must be countless, billions of other examples piled up that you might suggest to keep me interested.

    That’s the Beggar’s Argument.  You’ve made assertions, such as genes pre-existing; the burden of proof is on you.  Go back them up with facts.

  56. #56 Christopher
    June 25, 2005

    “It seems obvious that the FMT gene is not absolutely essential or the entire population would die before there was a chance to mutate”

    The mustation to the gene which encodes elongation factor G (EF-G), happens long before the Staph ever see the antibiotic.

  57. #57 Christopher
    June 25, 2005

    So Doug cannot spin things play word games or claim that I’m contradicting what Engineer-Poet said between the time I hit reply and the time I got around to writing said reply, I’ll add this:

    Engineer-Poet is entirerly correct about the dose-response relationship for the antibiotic action and the acquisition of resistance but so am I in that the mutation doesnot nesicarily have to be acquired insitu. It could be aquired in a random mutation that neither harms nor helps the bacterium under normal conditions. It all depends on the specific nature of the mutation.

  58. #58 Engineer-Poet
    June 25, 2005

    True, Christopher, but the initial mutation for fusidic acid tolerance has a substantial fitness cost.  Unless the environment had fusidic acid, such mutants would be selected against very strongly and would probably not have enough time to develop one of the secondary mutations which offset the penalty.

  59. #59 Ron Zeno
    June 25, 2005

    My patience with doug is at an end. So it’s not a total loss, here are a couple of sources on the basics being discussed here that doug doesn’t understand in the least:

    http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/ncisla/muse/models/

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

    http://www.infidels.org/news/atheism/logic.html

  60. #60 Doug Rebok
    June 26, 2005

    I think a problem of both Ron and engineer poet is they take this whole debate too personally. You don’t know me. I’m sure you don’t care about me. If we sat down next to each other at the coffee house and our identities were revealed, would you sock me in the mouth? No i’m sure you’d, at the very least, treat me with complete indifference. The fact that you’re participating in the debate shows it interests you and hopefully that you enjoy it. Do you honestly care if my mind is changed? You likely believe that my mind cannot be changed but that is not the case. My faith in Jesus doesn’t rest on this issue. The logical basis for my faith began with: the indisputable life of Jesus and the overwhelming evidence for His ressurection; the historical reliability of the Bible and; the remarkable record of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible. My faith came just as my foundation was getting started. As I’ve studied more, and drawn closer to Jesus we’ve forged a relationship based on much more than the factual foundation. I pray that you’ll devote a small amount of your time to investigating for yourself. I promise you it will be well worth it. Lee Stroebel has written a couple of good books to help you get moving. I’d suggest The Case For Christ for starters, as it had a profound effect on my life.

    I assure you I understand what science is. I also understand its limitations. I understand the theory of evolution. My decision to be skeptical does not come from ignorance. I stood on your side of the fence for 10 or 15 years. I read a couple books that hinted there may be some doubt. At first I thought it was as ridiculous as you do. I read some basic books on evolution but didn’t find adequate answers to the criticism. I then began reading more and more from both sides. I find it remarkable that the argument I’ve made on this site, the same argument made by almost all skeptics of evolution, cannot be easily squashed. Why aren’t there pages devoted to listing and describing the countless examples of evolution that everyone claims exist. You don’t need to send me to Talkorigins I’ve seen all it has to offer on the subject and it is quite evasive yet it still claims the evidence is vast. There is no question evolutionists would welcome an end to the debate (except maybe Dawkins and Ken Miller who might then be out of work). I’ve even tried to make it easy on you leaving out the argument of irreducible complexity. As hard of time as you’re having in delivering the simple examples I’m requesting imagine your difficulty in putting together a large number of mutations simultaneously to produce an irreducibly complex system.

    Just as a final note, I’ve said before that I believe resorting to personal attacks only demonstrates the weakness of your argument. Remember the bully in school? People didn’t run away from him because of his brains. The funny thing is given the amount of time I’ve put into studying this subject, I think its pretty dumb to put so much faith in a hypothesis with so many shortcomings. I’m just too polite and noble to use those debating tactics.

  61. #61 scott
    June 26, 2005

    Why are so many people feeding the troll?

  62. #62 Jim Lippard
    June 26, 2005

    Doug, if you find Strobel to be persuasive, then I can’t give you much credit for a critical investigation of the Bible, let alone an understanding of science.

    See, e.g., http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jeff_lowder/strobel.html

    and

    http://edwardtbabinski.us/skepticism/stroble.html (yeah, Strobel’s name is misspelled in the URL).

  63. #63 Engineer-Poet
    June 26, 2005

    I assure you I understand what science is. I also understand its limitations. I understand the theory of evolution. My decision to be skeptical does not come from ignorance.

    Is that so?

    If you are not talking through your hat, you should have no difficulty describing an experiment to prove what you have asserted above regarding the genetics of S. Aureus (which I notice you have not supported with any cites yet).

    You should also have no difficulty whatsoever describing an experiment designed to test the evolutionary hypothesis of antibiotic resistance.

    I’ll save what I have to say about your theology until after you’ve had a chance to respond to the above two challenges.  (For the record, I expect you to evade, dissemble, and do anything but show a true understanding of science or a willingness to deal in straight talk.  Go ahead, prove me wrong… and know in advance that you’re a proxy for all self-styled “Christians”.)

  64. #64 a maine yankee
    June 26, 2005

    Maybe Doug should read:

    Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God? by Morton Smith.

  65. #65 Charlie Wagner
    June 26, 2005

    Carl,
    Like the theory of evolution, the theory of plate tectonics is really made up of two components. One component is the process, and the other is the mechanism. In both cases, the process has been confirmed. Living organisms have changed over time and those that are extant today are different from those that lived in the past.
    There are also significant similarities in the morphological and molecular structure of all organisms demonstrating a profound relatedness. No reasonable person denies this.
    In plate tectonics, the process has also been confirmed. The earth is made up of huge plates that move slowly and this movement has caused the sea floor to spread and the continents to change their relative positions. No reasonable person denies this.
    But in both cases, the mechanism is in question and has not been clearly established. Those who promote “evolution” are really defending a well supported process and a less well supported mechanism. The same is true in plate tectonics. While we can state with certainty that it occurs, details of the mechanism are still under debate.
    So, would you be correct to pose the question to a geologist “do you believe in plate tectonics?” He would probably reply “I believe that it has occurred, but I’m unsure of the exact mechanism.” The same is true for evolution. The question “do you believe in evolution”? depends on whether you’re talking about the process of evolution or the mechanism. I believe that the process has occurred but I question the currently popular mechanism.
    Intelligent design is perfectly compatible with evolution because it is a mechanism, not a process. It is one of many possible explanations of how evolution has proceeded. No one mechanism has been clearly established as the correct mechanism. Certainly, Darwin’s explanation (and the modern synthesis) require a huge leap of faith that connects the trivial changes in gene frequency that occur under natural selection with the emergence of highly organized, complex processes, systems and adaptations.
    I have noticed a distinct trend in recent times to de-emphasize the role of natural selection in evolution and concentrate more on the notion of common descent. That’s a good trend and I welcome it. Common descent is readily supported by a large body of molecular and physiological data and I would find few arguments against the idea that all organisms share a common origin.
    On the other hand, the advocacy of the theory of mutation and natural selection as the mechanism of evolution remains what it always has been, a just-so story fabricated by Darwin and disseminated by his successors. It lacks any kind of empirical (read “scientific”) support and should be recognized as the fairy tale that it is.

    “in the bitter contests of values and political rhetoric that characterize our times, 90% of the uproar is noise and 10% is what the scientists call “signal” or solid, substantive information that will reward study and interpretation. If we could eliminate much of the noise, we might find that actual, meaningful disagreements are on a scale we can manage.” -Jeff Limerick

  66. #66 Arun Gupta
    June 26, 2005

    Doug wrote:

    “Next you’ll probably wave a poor decrepit child afflicted with sickle cell anemia in my face. You’ll say look at this wonderful example of evolution in progress.”

    No. I think this must definitely be attributed to the work of a Beneficient Designer.

  67. #67 Torbjorn Larsson
    June 26, 2005

    “Its astounding the way virtually everyone posting here has resorted to personal attack.” There is 1 personal attack – and it was rather funny. :-)

    “I’ve made the distinction on earlier posts between what I call “up” and “down” evolution.” It would be surprising if they are useful, since after all “Evolution is not about progress”.

    “I pray that you’ll devote a small amount of your time to investigating for yourself.” Promotion of religion is way OT.

    “Why are so many people feeding the troll?” Because creationism is dangerous; it is used to kick fact and science out of schools.

    “But in both cases, the mechanism is in question and has not been clearly established.” This is wrong; and only a crackpot would go against established facts.

  68. #68 Engineer-Poet
    June 26, 2005

    … and if there is anything in which ol’ Doug can be said to have expertise, it’s psychoceramics. ;-)

  69. #69 don davis
    June 26, 2005

    “Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for plate tectonics?”

    in john mcphee’s book, “basin & range,” he describes
    travelling with some mainstream geologists who make
    just this complaint. they argue that referring all
    geological conundrums to tectonics has become the
    lazy geologist’s substitute for thinking.

    – don davis, boston, usa

    -

  70. #70 mynym
    June 26, 2005

    (Of course, you will probably ignore this because you don’t believe in evolution. I’d argue that it would be fitting for you to die of some bug that laughs at antibiotics due to your own refusal to take your medicine properly, save that you would likely pass it on to others and endanger innocents.)

    I suppose the key words there are, “…don’t believe in evolution(!!!)…” while the priests that are concerned with such belief enough to wish death on those who disagree with them simply maintain their pollution of language and then blame all apostates that fail to believe in their mythological narratives of Naturalism.

    Note the proto-Nazism of it. All they need to do is to compare opponents to a disease and medicalize the disagreement and that would be about it. Those who believe in the memes of Darwinism have often come to the conclusion that it is fitting that those that are not fit die and so on. E.g.,

    Our whole cultural life for decades has been more or less under the influence of biological thinking, as it was begun particularly around the middle of the last century, by the teachings of Darwin, Mendel, and Galton and afterwards has been advanced by the studies of Ploetz, Schallmeyer, Correns, de Vries, Tschermak, Baur, Riidin, Fischer,Lenz, and others. Though it took decades before the courage was found, on the basis of the initial findings ofthe natural sciences, to carry on a systematic study of heredity, the progress of the teaching and its application to man could not be delayed any more.

    (Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in
    Germany’s Crimes Against the Jewish People
    By Max Weinreich
    (New York:The Yiddish Scientific Institute, 1946) :33)

    The same conclusion was come to in the eugenics movement and all their peer reviewed science that was reviewed by some peers, who took a peer at it. It is the same with the modern Darwinian sociobiologists and the like. The medical experts await the shift to medicalizing politics and they are the experts, after all. “It’s all scientific or somethin’!”

    But anyway, despite Darwinian attempts to associate ignorant narratives about origins with gravity or sound science it is still a pollution of language to maintain a term like “evolution” that has been used to mean anything from planets coming into existence to: “Hey, when there are some moths with dark and light wings and the moths with light wings are killed, then there are more moths with dark wings! And would you look at that, the same sort of thing happens when you kill some organisms with antibiotics…because then there are more of the other ones, or somethin’…”

    E.g. of the expansive claim to all knowledge:

    Evolution is the framework that makes sense of the whole natural world from the formation of atoms, galaxies, stars and planets, to the AIDS virus, giant redwood trees and our own health and well-being…
    Dorothy was lucky because the Wizard of Oz was wise. The wizards of the Kansas State Board of Education look foolish in comparison.

    Dr. Maxine Singer President of the Carnegie Institution of Washington (Washington Post, August 18, 1999)

    Evolutionary theorizers are like mud puddles, their narratives will adapt and form to whatever empirical evidence is found no matter what it is and then they will argue, “Would you look at that, our evolution is proven again!” They also seem fond of merely classifying a critical argument and then arguing that it has been dealt with by their own classification.

    Carl says of the mountains and variety of evidence,

    The theory of evolution explains this variety, but not in an arbitrary way. Fish descend from a common ancestor, and along the way they have been modified, primarily through natural selection, into different forms. Flying fish do not have wings made out of balsa wood.

    It seems that a person who “believes in evolution” has to stretch quite far for any sense of falsifiablity or testability in evolutionary claims, theorizing and narratives. I suppose if one found a fish with wings made out of balsa wood then the claims of Darwinists would be falsifiable by some empirical observation? The question is,what is a reasonable empirical observation that Darwinists would or have not expected to find? After all, they have placed everything under the sun as evidence for their type of pollution of language in the term “evolution.” It is little wonder that they then conclude that there are mountains of evidence, just mountains of it. I suppose if you come to the position of counting everything from moths to mountains as evidence, then there are mountains.

    Why is it not more defined? If the theory of evolution is “just like” the theory of gravity, then what equation represents natural selection and how has it been used to predict a trajectory of adaptations in a group of organisms that can be observed empirically and the mathematical form of the theory tested? Is the theory like the theory of gravity? It seems instead that there is no testable prediction for the expansive claims of Darwinism and everything under the sun is evidence for evolution, yet…perhaps: “If there were some fish with balsa wood for wings, then that would falsify what I’m saying! So this is scientific or somethin’.”

    Would such an odd empirical observation actually kill the form of knowledge believed in by those with the urge to merge? Ironically, it might not….although they sometimes pretend that there is some empirical observation that could be made that their pollution of language could not adapt and define itself to, there may be no such observation, e.g.:

    Riddiford and Penny want to show that natural selection is science. So they provide a challenge. They claim that an elephant could not evolve a complex “bird’s nest” structure on its back.
    An organism that would be consistent with creationism, but not with natural selection is as follows. It could be an elephant with a complex structure on its back that acted only as a nest for a fish-eating bird, or any other bird that gave no benefit to the elephant. There are countless exam ples of this type that would be ‘good design’ but are prohibited by natural selection. (Riddiford and Penny, 1984, p 25)

    The frustrating thing about natural selection is that its theorists can refuse to be ingenious at the necessary places. They take a structure known not to exist, then they say natural selection predicts it could not exist.

    This sudden lack of imagination is too convenient. Darwinism easily ‘explains’ the impossible bird’s nest. I suspect the explanation would go like this:

    Perhaps the alluring ornament increased reproductive success by attracting
    the opposite sex.
    Perhaps the ominous structure increased the elephant’s ability to compete with the same sex. Just one shake and the odoriferous source of chirping would scare off opponents.
    Perhaps the structure was initially preadapted for another function.
    Perhaps the accommodating structure served as an external place for the elephant to store food and water.
    Perhaps the convoluted structure served as a heat exchanger.
    Perhaps the unique structure benefited the group by providing a means of recognizing kin from outsiders.
    Perhaps the endearing structure resulted from a “green beard” effect.
    Perhaps the behavior of the bird was a benefit. The chirping of the bird would alert the elephant to approaching predators, and the continual ‘flitting about’ would lead the elephant to food and water across long distances. Perhaps this helpful bird is now quite extinct and has been replaced by one quite uncooperative.
    Perhaps the useless structure is now maintained in the elephant because it has side-effects (due to pleiotropy) that have become quite necessary.

    Riddiford and Penny’s challenge is easily answered with an evolutionary scenario. This is no trivial point. It is a major theme of this book. Most any circumstance can be accommodated by evolutionary scenarios.

    (The Biotic Message: Evolution Versus Message Theory
    By Walter ReMine)

    I suspect the narrative for fish with balsa wood for wings would go like this. “Once upon a time there was a population of fish that sometimes jumped on the surface of the water and also some little bits of wood floating on the water….”

    You are fooling yourself if you believe that those with the urge to merge cannot adapt their explanations to virtually any set of empirical facts.

  71. #71 mynym
    June 26, 2005

    I find that in situations like this, it helps to step back for a moment from evolution and look at the other major scientific theories of the past couple centuries that explain a lot about the natural world.

    In situations where a Darwinist is asked to deal with empirical facts in a systematic way that opens the door to actually falsfying claims they will want to shift to associating Darwinism with sound science. I wonder, perhaps one could almost write a mathematical equation for their memes and then code for it. Perhaps they are right that their mommy Nature does select for virtually everything. If so, it can probably be coded for.

    It should not be granted by anti-evolutionists that Darwinian narratives based on random mutation and natural selection is on the same epistemic level as “major scientific theories” known to be capable of describing what will or has happened in narrative form, repeatedly. If it is on that level of knowledge, then what testable predictions have been given in the language of mathematics that have been proven in groups of organisms time and again? Has natural selection been coded for in mathematics, with results known to be as sure and testable as that coded for based on gravity?

    It seems that the memes of Darwinists are more predictable than what Mother Nature will “select” through natural selections, naturally enough. It is their own ideas that adapt. So they keep skirting the issue by hiding in the skirts of mommy Nature through claims that all must adhere to Naturalism or associating their ideas with the systematic and quantifiable thought typical to science, even as the majority of their ideas lack the same rigor and testability.

    Perhaps they believe that Mother Nature selects their ideas for them? That would not be without precedent….there was an inverted notion of “biological thinking” instead of thinking about and through biology that some Darwinists of the past adhered to.

  72. #72 Jaime Headden
    June 27, 2005

    Doug commented that there was no definition of Evolution. He didn’t look hard enough:

    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/evolution.htm?v=b

    That’s just the tip of the iceberg (I used google, and it’s on the first page).

  73. #73 James
    June 27, 2005

    Doug didn’t say there was no definition of evolution. He said the definition changes within the context of a statement. Its true, in following this debate (and I don’t mean this specific blog), that a definition is rarely agreed upon by both sides. Even if the evolutionist sees this as unnescessary, the creationist or Id’er (and anyone whose been on a debate team I might add) will contend that before anything else, terms must be defined. Evolutionists fail to see a difference between a definition such as “change in gene frequency over time” and a more Darwinian definition that states clearly that all organisms descended from a common ancestor. Creationists do recognize a difference. Since creationists have no quarrel with observed changes such as the peppered moth or the fish with shriveled eyes it does seem necessary to be clear on the definition or one would have to label both sides evolutionists and it would make for a very confusing debate.

    At the risk of being thrown into the “stupid” club, here is a paper that addresses the antibiotic resistance issue from a creationist perspective. It is by a PHD Microbiologist but his degree is from Kansas State so take your shots.
    http://www.creationresearch.org/crsq/articles/41/41_4/bact_resist.htm

    I also don’t understand why Doug’s request for some alternative examples should be so difficult to provide. Its obvious he is not a scientist but I think the silence on this point helps his case.

  74. #74 Paul C.
    June 27, 2005

    Doug says:

    The logical basis for my faith began with: the indisputable life of Jesus and the overwhelming evidence for His ressurection; the historical reliability of the Bible and; the remarkable record of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible.

    That someone can be so utterly certain of the above points – entirely without evidence – and then be completely unable to accept evolution (which has more evidence than you could absorb in a lifetime) is absolutely mind-boggling, and speaks volumes about Doug’s logical faculties.

  75. #75 doug
    June 27, 2005

    Entirely without evidence? I realize this is way off the topic of this Blog but you sort of asked and its quite important.

    There are over 24000 early manuscripts of the new testament. These match to a degree of 99.8% with no serious discrepenies. This is more reliable than The Complete Works of Shakespeare. The first copies of the books of the NT are dated at around 50 years following the crucifixion, some are thought to have been written only 30 years after the crucifixion. As books of antiquity are judged, the NT is the most acurately preserved historical record bar none. Based on historical figures, events, and geography recorded in the Book of Luke and Acts, Luke, the person, is considered one of the greatest historians ever, by secular historians not just Christians.

    The fact that the testimonies came while there were still many eye witnesses and that the all of the apostles (except John), and many other eyewitness followers, died violent deaths for refusing to deny their faith vastly strengthens the credibility of the life of Jesus Christ.

    As for the Old testament, the meticulous procedure required by Jewish scribes ensured that what we have today is accurate. The truth of this statement was again revealed with the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which match other antique manuscripts virtually word for word.

    Archaeolgical finds continue to back up the record of both the OT and the NT to the point the Bible is considered, by far, the most reliable book of antiquity. Those that challenge the reliablitiy of the Bible do so for purely subjective reasons. If other books of aniquity were held to the standards of the Bible, NO ancient history could remain.

    A discussion of prophecy might take 1000 pages, and I don’t think poor Carl would appreciate that on his blog. Briefly I’d suggest investigating the OT’s predictions regarding the destruction of: Tyre, Sidon, Petra, Ninevah, and Babylon. Then check out the correlation between the Bible’s predictions and the historical record of Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, the Greek and Roman Empires, the Catholic Church. Next contemplate the improbablility that a nation might lose its homeland, yet remain connected for nearly 2000 years before regaining its national home. That Israel exists is ludicrously improbable but it was predicted in the Bible. Finally, consider the Messianic prophecies. They begin just after the fall in Genesis and number over 300. Jesus fulfilled every single one! While it would be hard to quantify the probablity of some, there is no denying that, taken as a whole, the probablity is incomprehensible (60 of the 300, might be calculated at around 1:10e157 that’s a whole lot of zeros the universe is thought to have only 10e70 atoms). The claims against this evidence aren’t that He didn’t fulfil these prophecies, they are that the prophecies were penned as a historical record meant to appear as prophecy but this is impossible since the OT can be dated, at the latest, to 250 BC when the greek translation was produced. The other argument is that Jesus set out to purposely fulfill them. This argument also falls short as many of them would not be in his power to control. It also defies logic considering His earthly demise.

    This is just the tip of the iceburg, for all of these subjects, and reasons for faith in general. If you make an objective investigation you’ll arrive at the same conclusion as I. It is a lot harder to come to the opposite conclusion and only shows a predetermined intention.

  76. #76 CC
    June 27, 2005

    “If you make an objective investigation you’ll arrive at the same conclusion as I. It is a lot harder to come to the opposite conclusion and only shows a predetermined intention.”

    I’m sorry but this is just insulting. I have made an objective investigation and have come to the complete opposite conclusion as you. And I did have a predetermined intention as you claim. But that intention was to find what you found. After 30 some odd years of careful intensive research I had to face the fact that my cherished believe had no more validity than any other ancient myth. Your statement speaks volumes for your very biased view. Been there… done that… grew up!

  77. #77 neo-anti-luddite
    June 27, 2005

    So let me see if I’ve got this straight, doug: You claim to know what science is, yet you also stand by your claim that it’s “amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for evolution”?

    Remind me again what you think a scientific theory is?

  78. #78 Paul C.
    June 27, 2005

    Doug – I don’t doubt that the NT was written relatively near to the time of the death of Jesus, and that it has been meticulously copied many times since. But that doesn’t prove that any of the supernatural content is genuine.

    For example, a cult leader could get himself martyred quite easily – and it’s highly likely that many of his followers could write glowing praise of his exploits before happily following their leader into martyrdom. That might leave future generations with a similar record as we have from the bible – but that wouldn’t make it true. To accept such events as true, I’d need to see a darn sight more than the written words of a few supposed eye witnesses.

    It really isn’t difficult to embellish the truth when writing supposedly ‘factual’ documents, especially if you have a strong emotional or ideological investment in the subject matter.

    Nobody objects to you believing in the bible if you want to. But to believe that the NT is literally true, but that the evidence for evolution is weak seems to demonstrate that you’re not applying the same standards of evidence to both ideas.

  79. #79 Jaime Headden
    June 27, 2005

    Dough wrote:
    There are over 24000 early manuscripts of the new testament. These match to a degree of 99.8% with no serious discrepenies.

    Not to get into a serious philosophical debate about this, but for some reason there is no Roman source for a “Jesus,” only a Jeshua (which in Latin becomes Jesus) who seemed to have done the whole Temple upsetting about 30 years after Jesus’ purported death. No record of a capital execution of Pilatus’ during his curatorship also appears to exist, but I am sure this is a conspiracy.

    *shrug*

  80. #80 Kirsten
    June 28, 2005

    “I assure you I understand what science is. I also understand its limitations. I understand the theory of evolution. My decision to be skeptical does not come from ignorance. I stood on your side of the fence for 10 or 15 years. I read a couple books that hinted there may be some doubt. At first I thought it was as ridiculous as you do. I read some basic books on evolution but didn’t find adequate answers to the criticism. I then began reading more and more from both sides.”

    Jerry? Is that you? I swear that you were just posting recently on my forum. Jerry, if that was his name (btw is Doug really yours?), was spouting the exact same rhetoric. Either way, your reading does not seem to have informed you much about the way in which the scientific method works. It seems the Jerrys and Dougs of the world have formed a world view, which, as much as they deny it, is informed by circular reasoning that cannot allow them to logically consider the world around them.

    “I find it remarkable that the argument I’ve made on this site, the same argument made by almost all skeptics of evolution, cannot be easily squashed.”

    It’s really because certain people choose not to hear the evidence that has been repeatedly presented.

    “Why aren’t there pages devoted to listing and describing the countless examples of evolution that everyone claims exist. You don’t need to send me to Talkorigins I’ve seen all it has to offer on the subject and it is quite evasive yet it still claims the evidence is vast.”

    You mean the well referenced scientific evidence that they logically present in an organized manner is insufficient? I really don’t know what will ever make you happy. Any cases we present are instantly rejected based on inadequate scientific knowledge. Is it just that you can’t get a list by googling what bothers you. Go try checking out some of the science databases, and actually doing the legwork yourself to look for your necessary evidence. You asked for the evidence, we’ve been providing (not just here, but anytime we’re asked). You didn’t like what we showed you, so now it’s on you to look for yourself. Don’t make us your lapdogs.

    “There is no question evolutionists would welcome an end to the debate (except maybe Dawkins and Ken Miller who might then be out of work).”

    Sure, we would. Leave religion out of the school system, stop pretending that creationism is science, and we will ignore posts such as yours and Jerry’s.

    “The funny thing is given the amount of time I’ve put into studying this subject, I think its pretty dumb to put so much faith in a hypothesis with so many shortcomings.”

    The same could be said for your absolute faith in the Bible. But, that’s the difference between science and religion. Scientists don’t have faith in hypotheses, they use them to discover more about their world and existence. Science is a method, which over time has allowed a collection of rigorously tested and evaluated evidence to produce such theories as that of evolution.

    Religion is based on peoples’ faith. Without faith, religion could not exist. So, please, don’t attempt at insult with such an asinine statement.

  81. #81 Engineer-Poet
    June 28, 2005

    Doug!  Where’s your description of the two scientific experiments I asked you for?  You had 36 hours to write what would fit in two medium paragraphs, most of which would have been very similar.  What’s your problem?  Don’t understand science as well as you claimed?

    You think a bunch of religious apologetics is science?  That would explain a lot.

    (Of my predictions from Saturday night, it looks like ol’ Dougie has fulfilled two:  he evaded and failed to deal in straight talk.  He does not appeared to have dissembled beyond implicitly re-stating his previous claim that he understands what science is.)

  82. #82 Engineer-Poet
    June 28, 2005

    And mynym is even more hilarious.  Just look:  s/he begins a screed with a false claim that I compared Doug to a disease.  (S/he is apparently relying on soi-disant Christians having poor reading ability, inadequate intellect or a greater devotion to group solidarity than the truth, because the claim is contradicted by the text s/he quotes.)

    Hey, mynym!  Whatever happened to “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”?  Or did you throw that out when you decided that the natural history of the Earth is a fabrication, and if God can tell big lies, so can you?

    What did YOU put on your tray at the Christianity Cafeteria?  Oh, look, you’ve got three plates of the Double-Self-Righteousness Torte, but no vegetables or salad.  Quelle surprise.

    (If there was ever a reason for Christians to disown creationists and fundamentalists of all stripes, their blatant betrayal of basic Christian principles would do it.  There ought to be Christian pickets of fundie churches, Christian counter-demonstrations at Right-To-Life rallies holding up signs saying “Matt 6:05″.  But where such demonstrations occur, the Christians are conspicuous… by their absence.  This is one reason I wonder about the term “Christian”; the word obviously does not apply to people who actually follow the teachings of Christ.  Ironically, today’s definition better fits the Pharisees.)

  83. #83 doug
    June 28, 2005

    Well poet I don’t see any reason to jump through hoops for you. You make challenges of me yet you fail to answer my challenges. You claim the burdern of proof is mine as if you’re on trial for a crime. In a debate the burden of proof is on both sides. You enter the arena with the belief that “evolution” is a fact and you want me to prove you wrong. I bring the opinion that “evolution” is an unproven hypothesis and I ask you to prove it. We begin at equally weighted positions. This is regardless of what the majority believe as is stated over and over “science is not decided by the majority.” The next step is to agree on a very clear definiton of what we mean by “evolution.” There is much common ground between both sides and the debate is futile unless both sides understand where they differ.

    As for your silly hurdle, which was an obvious tactic of evasion to my challenge, I’m no biologist, but I’ll give it a quick shot…before reading it please raise your right hand and repeat out loud:

    I, engineer-poet, do hereby promise, to answer Doug’s challenge to provide several more strong examples of observed evolution. I promise these examples will include a “benefit” to the organism that is not the result of a loss of function or genetic information. I understand that any “evolution” that occurs: as a result of lost function or genetic information or simply a change in the frequency of already existing genetic information; is not an example of “evolution” as defined for this discussion because it is consistent and predicted by the “creation model.”

    Now for my experiment, I’m sure you’ll find fault with it, but please honor your above pledge and include the examples with your attack.

    First I guess we need to find an antibiotic that inhibits or eliminates the growth of a bacteria. I believe I’d obtain a thriving culture of bacteria and introduce it to its new home, a plate of agar. Once its settled in I’d hit it in various spots with various antibiotics. After a period of time I’d check back and make note of any growth inhibition around any of the antibiotics. The degree to which the growth was inhibited would show the effectiveness of the respective antibiotic. Presumably, after this, I can somehow examine the affected bacteria and determine on what bacterial function the antibiotic worked.

    Next I’d focus my testing on a specific antibiotic chosen from the above. Any antibiotic that did not show a 100% inhibition rate would automatically seem to show that the resistence already existed. If continuing tests focused on this antibiotic one would expect to produce a culture of bacteria that is entirely resistent.

    Let’s say that i found an antibiotic that showed 100% inhibition. I suppose then I’d start fresh with a new bacteria culture (of the same type) and the antibiotic. The key would be to provide favorable conditions to the bacteria so that it might reproduce faster than the antibiotic could kill it, hopefully enabling it to produce a mutation that seemed to render the antibiotic ineffective. If one arose the appropriate steps above could be carried out for further discovery.

    Of course, if the culture was reintroduced to the environment away from the antibiotic, one would expect it to be quickly overrun by its non mutated brethren, since its resistence, no doubt, came from a loss of function and relative fitness, not from some newly introduced function resulting from genetic information created by the mutation. This is based completely on the history of every case of antibiotic resistence to date.

  84. #84 Mel
    June 28, 2005

    Actually, plate tectonics DO influence weather and climate (which in turn can influence plate tectonics, so tectonics are part of the cycle rather than the ultimate cause of everything else) — and while tectonics don’t cause tides, they do influence ocean current patterns (and vice versa).

    Some geologists think that tectonics are the driving force behind pretty much all of geology; others are more conservative. I don’t think this means science is bad because scientists (especially geologists) don’t always agree — after all, religion isn’t bad because religious people frequently disagree about religion, even within the same religion (notice the abundance of Christian sects, for example).

    I’d try to tackle a tectonics blog, but I barely manage to post occasionally in my science blog, so not anytime soon, especially since I’m not a geophysicist. I agree it would be interesting, though.

  85. #85 Engineer-Poet
    June 29, 2005

    Ol’ Dougie said:

    Well poet I don’t see any reason to jump through hoops for you.

    Why not?  I found a specific example of an evolutionary phenomenon for you, and spent time going over points you obviously (make that “deliberately”) misunderstood.  All I asked you for was a description of an experimental protocol which could produce hard data to test your claims.

    You didn’t do that.  Instead of a protocol to test your assertions, you produced one to confirm them… whether they are valid or not.  This is not what a scientific experiment is designed to do.  Examples of flaws in your experiment:

    1. You wouldn’t start with colonies grown from single bacteria to rule out the possibility of certain resistant individuals in a large original population.
    2. You would not sequence the bacterial genome to find the genetic basis of the resistance.  (Just wouldn’t do if evidence showed that the bacterium had created information, would it?)
    3. You just assume that the resistant bacteria would be less fit than the wild type, rather than continuing the experiment to see if further evolutionary changes could offset any fitness impact from the changes related to antibiotic resistance.  (Like, you know, what’s already been observed?)

    It would not be overly difficult to design experiments to distinguish between change by loss of information and gain of information, but you didn’t do that.  (It’s not my business to do that; I’m an engineer, not a scientist… why am I finding such holes in your scheme, and ways to plug them?)  If you had an actual question about the issue rather than a dogma, you would be able to satisfy yourself from the work already done; among biologists, this question has been conclusively settled.  For someone who claims to understand what science is, you have a very poor grasp of science and its methods.

    You make challenges of me yet you fail to answer my challenges.

    I’ve answered challenges from you, with cites.  Before I go further I’m waiting for you to stop using logical fallacies and dishonest tactics.

    You implicitly asked for billions of other examples.  Even if they were provided in this forum (why should anyone cater to your whim when you won’t reciprocate in the smallest way?), you would probably (deliberately) misunderstand them as you have previous examples, and then you would claim to be bored.  (If you want examples, there is a lot of open scientific literature out there, and plenty of stuff for the layman.  I’m certain that you have read none of it; you have no interest in the subject beyond disbelieving its results.  What is evolutionary biology to you, a huge atheist conspiracy?)

    Your strategy is clear:  refuse to accept any amount of evidence as sufficient to refute your hypothesis (always demanding more), then say that you must be right because you are not convinced you are wrong.  The first is the Beggar’s Argument, the second is the argument from ignorance.

    What’s amazingly ironic is that you demand evidence of others while refusing to provide any yourself (your personal testimonial about the transformative power of scripture is not scientific evidence and has no relevance whatsoever to questions of biology).  This makes you a hypocrite.  (Surely you will have your reward…)

  86. #86 John Hill
    June 29, 2005

    Of course, if the culture was reintroduced to the environment away from the antibiotic, one would expect it to be quickly overrun by its non mutated brethren, since its resistence, no doubt, came from a loss of function and relative fitness, not from some newly introduced function resulting from genetic information created by the mutation. This is based completely on the history of every case of antibiotic resistence to date.

    You assert that organisms never overcome the fitness costs associated with beneficial mutations. Here however is a counterexample:

    “>http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cabi/ahr/2003/00000004/00000002/art00001

    Therefore, will you accept this as an example of new information?

  87. #87 doug
    June 29, 2005

    I asked for several examples not billions, but I would expect you to exagerate in an effort to once again dodge the question. Throughout the interaction you’ve done nothing but attack me personally rather than address the issue in an honest effort to prove your case. You claim the burden of proof is on me. This actually comes across as an admission that you can’t make your case. Why is it so difficult for you to simply paste a few links into an entry pointing to qualifying examples of “evolution.” The criteria is not ambiguous. This is not a question of whether I am a scientist. There are many scientists with more than adequate credentials who are asking for the same examples. This is a statement that evolution (common descent) is based on a naturalistic worldview and its associated assumptions.

    I believe Richard Lewontin expresses this idea well in the following statement.

    Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    I added the bold but you may view the full text here if you like, just so you know I’m not attempting to manipulate his intent.

    You’ve demonstrated the fact that you are unable to provide evidence for your materialist worldview. It is only logical to draw the conclusion that the gaps that are leftover are filled with assumptions. When one believes something to be true but can’t prove it they demonstrate great faith. Its only unfortunate that your faith has been so misplaced.

  88. #88 doug
    June 29, 2005

    Greetings John,
    The following article addresses your example, I’ve included the pertinent text below.
    Is Bacterial Resistance to Antibiotics
    an Appropriate Example of Evolutionary Change?

    Spontaneous resistance to fluoroquinolones (such as ciprofloxacin or norfloxacin) is also a frequent mutation in some bacteria. The primary target of the antibiotic is the enzyme, DNA gyrase, which is comprised of two proteins encoded by the genes, gyrA and gyrB (Hooper and Wolfson, 1993). Genetic analysis has found that resistance to this class of antibiotics can result from a point mutation in either of these genes (Barnard and Maxwell, 2001; Griggs et al., 1996; Heddle and Maxwell, 2002; Heisig et al., 1993, Willmott and Maxwell, 1993). These mutations of the gyrase subunits apparently cause a sufficient conformational change to the gyrase so that its affinity for the fluoroquinolones is reduced or lost (Figure 1). Again, despite their “beneficial” nature, these mutations provide no useful model that explains the origin of the gyrase’s affinity for the fluoroquinolones.

    It has not been argued that all mutations cause a loss of fitness. Fitness entered the discussion originally because engineer-poets example incuded a compensatory effect for fitness lost by the original mutaion. The compensation was a result of the acquisition of genes from another source which is to say, they already existed.

  89. #89 John Hill
    June 29, 2005

    Hi Doug,

    Pardon me for switching the goal posts. I’m not a biologist, so I’m not prepared to contest your point about that specific enzyme’s affinity for an antibiotic. I’ll try to get back to that, when I have time for more googling.

    Another question:

    It has not been argued that all mutations cause a loss of fitness. Fitness entered the discussion originally because engineer-poets example incuded a compensatory effect for fitness lost by the original mutaion. The compensation was a result of the acquisition of genes from another source which is to say, they already existed.

    What is your objection to information already existing? In the mechanism of gene duplication, the quantity of information increases because a redundant copy of a gene is inserted into the chromosome along with the original gene. The original gene, of course, already existed.

  90. #90 neo-anti-luddite
    June 29, 2005

    You know, doug, I’d be more willing to accept that you weren’t trying to “manipulate [Richard Lewontin's] intent” if you didn’t feel the need to leave off the last two sentences of that paragraph. The full paragraph reads:

    “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.”

    [emphasis in original]

    Your claim that “you’ve demonstrated the fact that you are unable to provide evidence for your materialist worldview” is quite a bit like trying to calim that mathematicians have been “unable to provide evidence for their logical system.” Call it pragmatism, boyo; if you really believe what the crap you’re spouting, next time you get an infection, you should pray instead of relying on something that was developed by sceintists who are “unable to provide evidence for their materialist worldview.” Somehow, I don’t think you will, so remind me again how that materialst worldview has no evidence supporting its utility?

    Sure, the scientific method has flaws and hasn’t produced nearly as much as it has claimed; so what? Exactly what has religion produced, besides war, famine, beautiful art and pervasive ignorance? What’s your alternate theory of origins that can explain the data we do have better than the theory of evolution? Because the whole “it was God’s will” thing, in light of the fact that it can literally accomodate any evidence (pehaps leading some future poster named guod to quip “Isn’t it amazing how everything seems to provide evidence for God?”), pretty much ends the discussion permanently.

    So tell me, doug, how does the Bible explain the wide variation in the salinity of the various fishes’ bodily fluids? Or the fact that humans and the other apes are the only mammals (besides guinea pigs) who can’t make their own vitamin C? Or the presence of vestigial structures in many animals? Or any of the literally millions of other points of data that the theory of evolution explains?

    You see, the reason that “everything seems to provide evidence for evolution” is because biologists have spent the last 150 years or so refining the theory so that it would fit all the available data as precisely as possible; I’d be more surprised if there were lots of things that didn’t provide evidence for evolution.

    So, doug, perhaps you can expalin to me why so very little of the empirically verifiable data seems to provide evidence for Biblical creation?

  91. #91 doug
    June 29, 2005

    I do not believe I manipulated the intent by not including the final two sentences. If anything they reveal the naturalistic bias even more. God has been replaced by billions of years with the fallacious belief that given enough “omnipotent time” anything is possible. The Fact is that:

    1. mutations are the only real source of new genetic information.
    2. A copy is only a copy it doesn’t become new information until it mutates to create novel function.
    3. Gene transfer does not give evidence of new information. It may be new to the recipient but the genes previously existed.

    According to the link provided by the fed up Ron above this is not in dispute

    The evidence has not given credibility to the belief – that the vast amount of genetic information could have arisen based on the mutations observed. This is regardless of how much time is available since the evolution we see is a destructive or neutral process from a genetic information perspective.

    My claim that “you’ve demonstrated the fact that you are unable to provide evidence for your materialist worldview” (directed primarily at engineer-poet) is nothing more than a reiteration of the fact, that when asked for examples, other than the single example he provided which was eliminated by #3 above, his response was to attack me personally and try to distract from the issue, rather than defend his position with a few more examples (which he claims are widespread). I view this as a demonstration of lack of evidence.

    The next time I have an infection and the doctor prescribes antibiotics I will thank Louis Pasteur. Pasteur was a cretaionist and opposed to Darwin’s hypothesis of evolution. Science in general was birthed from Christianity which provided strong reasoning for the laws of nature. A miracle is only considered a miracle if it defies the laws of nature. The fathers of modern science, who were largely Christian, recognized that because the universe could be studied with predictable results it demonstrated laws of nature and pointed to a Law Giver. Therefore, I guess based on your reasoning, you should stay home next time you get sick and hope your body evolves a mechanism to defeat the disease. Try laying in the sun, perhaps the additional UV rays will help your genes mutate a solution faster.

    The variation within different kinds of creatures is as large and important to the creation model as it is to evolution (common descent). The variation is a fact. The interpretation is based on the assumptions of the interpreter. You should familiarize yourself with the creation model before you attempt to discredit it.

    Vestigial organs and “junk” DNA are both arguments from lack of information. The fact that function has not been determined means we need to keep looking (ie. appendix, tonsils, thymus gland). The fact that scientists do keep looking demonstrates that they expect to find something. They must have a hunch that the organs aren’t really vestigial, that the DNA isn’t really junk.

    The statement that “everything provides evidence for evolution” is taken out of context. The point is that when evidence is contradictory to the evolutionary hypothesis, the hypothesis is bent and twisted to accomodate. When further review completely alters the original interpretation of evidence, the hypothesis of evolution is easily bent to accomodate the new interpretation. Evolution is a collection of “just-so” stories to explain the evidence. This makes it very easy to change the stories.

    For example the supposed date for the emergence of eukaryotes has been pushed back a billion years. That’s more than 1/4 of the supposed existence of life on the planet (which is estimated at around 3.8 bya). Evolutionists used to tell the story of how the complexity of the eukaryote was the reason it took so long to evolve from the prokaryote. Now the story has changed such that there must be some mechanism that allows the more rapid evolution of the complexity. But what does this do for the descendents of the eukaryote? Unless the dates are changed, every succeding story must be rewritten. Is this a cause for doubt of evolution? Well since its a belief system on a foundation of “just-so” stories its easliy rewritten to accommodate any new discoveries.

  92. #92 Steve Russell
    June 29, 2005

    So, according to Doug, his problem is that mutations don’t actually add “new” information to the genome. Well, actually, they do, in the since of generating novel sequences, but Doug gets around this by claiming that, for each new mutation which adds to the organism’s ability to meet the immediate demands of the environment, the organism’s (prior) ability to meet some (prior) demand of the (prior) environment is lost or degraded. Mutation is just re-shuffling of the genome, and each time the balloon pokes OUT over here, it’s because it’s poking IN somewhere else.

    Even if all this were true–as Doug has convinced himself for the one example discussed in detail–I don’t see how it meets the thrust of the gene duplication point that has been made above. If the organism can RETAIN its (prior) adaptation in the form of the original gene, and by happy accident now has a duplicate of that gene–which either provides a temporary benefit (allowing the organism to produce more of a helpful protein, say) or, at worst, no immediate detriment–which duplicate can accumulate further mutations, some of which, in at least some descendants of the organism, may confer a NEW benefit–all without compromising the OLD benefit which is still conferred by the original copy of the gene, how does this fail to meet Doug’s demand for novelty?

    For example, arthropods have one set of the HOX suite of genes; vertebrates have four. As this link suggests, some of our immune system genes are homologous with fly dorsal-ventral positioning genes:
    http://immunoblogging.blogspot.com/2005/06/toll-like-receptors-and-you.html.
    Does Doug not think that evolution of an immune system, by way of duplication and mutation of a spatial positioning gene, has added a new function to the biome’s bag of tricks?

  93. #93 Steve Russell
    June 29, 2005

    There’s also an interesting discussion of gene novelty here:
    http://science_boy.blogspot.com/2005/06/how-do-old-genomes-learn-new-tricks.html.

  94. #94 Jim Ryan
    June 29, 2005

    Nice try, y’all. But the problem with Doug’s reasoning is not that it’ easily disproved by evidence, but that, in his view, it’s not disprovable by evidence. Therefore, any evidence you bring to bear against his notions must, by definition, be labeled insufficient.

    I’ve seen creationists and ID’ers use this rope-a-dope approach in public forums again and again. (in the absence of a hypothesis that stands up to evidence, they have to). When they do come clean and admit their unwillingness to change viewpoints under any circumstances whatsoever, it’s a great timesaver for those who would argue against them. When they pretend otherwise, they’re just tireless, tiresome timewasters.

  95. #95 Steve Russell
    June 29, 2005

    Jim, I expect you’re exactly right as to Doug, though he’s welcome to prove himself the exception to the rule.

    The effort is not put in to get the hardcore to change their thinking, however, so much as to display that thinking for the genuinely curious and confused, young home-schooled kids exploring the internet, for one example…it’s always possible when they are linked to the evidence and then see the lengths to which some people will go to drill their heads into the sand, that good thinking will occur.

  96. #96 Engineer-Poet
    June 30, 2005

    doug wrote:

    You’ve demonstrated the fact that you are unable to provide evidence for your materialist worldview.

    Using crypto-creationist “intelligent design” shibboleths like “materialist worldview” as your mantra doesn’t exactly establish your bona fides.

    It is only logical to draw the conclusion that the gaps that are leftover are filled with assumptions. When one believes something to be true but can’t prove it they demonstrate great faith.

    It is only logical to draw the conclusion that the gaps are filled with the same sort of things as that which we have demonstrated.  For instance, it’s been demonstrated (through testing) that some lightning is electrical in nature; therefore, I believe that all lightning is electrical in nature, regardless of whether or not it has been tested.  I will continue to believe this until some strange kind of lightning crops up that doesn’t behave like what’s been tested before.

    I can’t prove that all this un-tested lightning is electrical.  For that matter, I can’t prove anything about lightning; all I can do is demonstrate that its characteristics are consistent with electrical phenomena but not anything else known to physics.

    What sort of demonstrations do YOU have to support your claims that evolution cannot generate information?

    <crickets chirping>

    I asked for several examples not billions

    Dougie ol’ sport, that was a direct quote.  Besides, you betrayed your innumeracy; there have been at most one million genetic microbiologists since the discovery of the structure of DNA, so for there to be billions of examples for your perusal they would have had to have published thousands of papers apiece.  This is clearly not possible.

    After your previous responses, I’m not going to bother giving you facts until you prove yourself willing to entertain them and able to understand them.  Both your will and ability are in serious doubt.  Example from your very next comment:

    The compensation was a result of the acquisition of genes from another source which is to say, they already existed.

    That was nowhere stated in the abstract I cited, nor is it implied by the phrase “single-step point mutations” in John Hill’s cite; quite the contrary.

    In the real world we call this Making Shit Up, also known as “lying”.  (Referring to the liars at http://www.creationresearch.org does not bolster your case; as they do no research, their very name is a lie.)

    Lying is an immoral act, and the people who do it are contemptible.  It’s especially contemptible from someone whose stance is that he’s a Christian and therefore morally superior to all the other people out there.

    Throughout the interaction you’ve done nothing but attack me personally rather than address the issue in an honest effort to prove your case.

    I’ll deal with you as a decent human being and an educable person when you prove yourself

    1. Able to separate truth from lies, and distance yourself from the latter, and
    2. Able and willing to understand the facts of the matters under discussion.

    As long as you maintain that your salvation depends on holding fast to a bunch of falsehoods about biology and natural history and preaching them to the public, you have satisfied neither condition.

  97. #97 Jim Ryan
    June 30, 2005

    That’s certainly legitimate. It’s always good to let people know that the ID and Creationist talking points are not unanswerable. Unfortunately, for the person unschooled in the complexities of science, it may look like so much “he said, she said”. Bear in mind also, that the creation/id meme doesn’t need intellectual validation to flourish, it only needs the appearance of intellectual legitimacy. This can be supplied by well-meaning people addressing its claims as if they were genuine scientific concerns instead of intractable statements of belief.

    My experience with characters who post such nonsense has led me to a ‘give no quarter’ view of things and convinced me that the best way to counter their ‘arguments’ is by exposing the fundamental dishonesty of their methods in a way that’s obvious to all. This is accomplished by never giving in to their bottomless demands for ‘more and better evidence’ until they agree to provide

    • specific,
    • falsifiable
    • and possible

    criteria for what would cause them to change their minds. They will wiggle, bloviate and attempt to change the subject. Keep pressing. And always, always be specific
    For example, If they tell you that the transitional fossils you cite aren’t true transitionals, press them on their knowledge of taxonomy and comparative anatomy; press them for precise, non-chimeric (this last part is crucial, as they’re fond of demanding pigs with wings and other impossibilities) anatomical features which which would convince them that a particular species is transitional.

    Finally, keep pressing them with “how does the creationist belief system (use that phrase) account for” [ some phenomena well-addressed by evoutionary theory] while gently inquiring into how their quibbles with evolutionary theory in any way prove creationism.

  98. #98 Jim Ryan
    June 30, 2005

    p.s.
    Above was a response to Steve, not E.P.

  99. #99 doug
    June 30, 2005

    My original statement.
    Luckily there must be countless, billions of other examples piled up that you might suggest to keep me interested. Okay maybe only millions. Thousands? hundreds? ten?

    It employs a writing technique of hyperbole…sort of. For the vastly complex biological diversity we see around us there must have been billions of incidences where new biological information originated (assuming common descent) but they certainly can not be presented as observed cases. But as you can see from the statement I’m really just looking for more than one but the more the better. If you read the entire comment I was really looking to just move on from the only example you’ve presented since we were (and still are) at a stalemate. Certainly a million genetic microbiologists or half that in 50 years of searching ought to have found 10. In the comment immediately preceding your claim that I demanded billions, I very clearly asked for several. Sure “several” can be ambiguous but I doubt if it has ever been implied to mean “billions”.

    Regarding the one example you did provide and my claim that the compensation of fitness lost came from an acquisition, this came from your own summary of the situation. Perhaps you missed it since you put it in bold!

    these costs can be partly or fully compensated by the acquisition of secondary intragenic mutations

    I brought this to your attention directly following your statement and your next post didn’t address it. You omitted the word “acquisition” but since that came from the original article, I belive your “pants are [now] on fire”.

    Evolutionary bulldogs like yourself are akin to a pathetic bald man who finds a single hair on his head. He comes running into the room screaming “I’m not bald! I’m not bald!” Its almost a shame to point out to him that its just a dog hair stuck to his greasy scalp.

  100. #100 doug
    June 30, 2005

    Just a disclaimer, that I mean no offense to bald men, someday I may join you. I’m not implying that bald men are pathetic. Only the one in this particular scenario whose placed so much importance in being able to claim he’s not bald.

    Also before someone points out that the large majority of microbiologists are not devoting their carreers to findng “proof of evolution,” I don’t doubt it. This partially defends my original point that the majority of microbiologists, and scientists in general, (and engineers and people in general) operate under the assumption that common descent is true. Still its reasonable to expect that in the frequently alluded to “mountains of evidence” there would be a couple obvious examples of new genetic structures.

  101. #101 Engineer-Poet
    June 30, 2005

    Dougie wrote:

    these costs can be partly or fully compensated by the acquisition of secondary intragenic mutations

    I brought this to your attention directly following your statement and your next post didn’t address it.

    I didn’t address it because there is nothing to address.

    The meaning is clear in the original; such mutations are not “acquired” as input from without, but as one “gets” arthritis or cancer.  (Bacterial plasmids are transferred in the way you imply, but point mutations are not; how would individual DNA bases be transferred between organisms?)  Your mis-reading is a deliberate commission of the fallacy of equivocation.

    Let’s see, you’ve checked dissembly off the list of things I expected you to do.  Can you get any more predictable?

  102. #102 Steve Russell
    June 30, 2005

    Doug, I can’t really understand how your focus on the word “acquisition” has disabled you from comprehending the word “intragenetic.” You are familiar, perhaps, with “intramural” sports and “extracurricular” activities? Sheesh.

    And I notice there was no response to the duplication/novelty discussions you were cited to. If you are in fact making the effort to at least entertain the possiblity of altering your views based on additional evidence, it is darn hard to detect from the other side of the computer screen. It looks a lot more like an intentional exercise in flailing around to find any possible excuse, however far-fetched, NOT to accord the data its obvious, logical force…

  103. #103 Torbjorn Larsson
    June 30, 2005

    Jim:
    A wise post; I will try to use your advise on “it may look like so much “he said, she said””.

    “… keep pressing them with “how does the creationist belief system (use that phrase) account for” …”

    I think EP tried to make doug define his belief system so it could be falsified as any scientific system must. If so, doug changed the subject.

  104. #104 Jim Ryan
    June 30, 2005

    Steve observed of Doug’s ‘reasoning’,

    It looks a lot more like an intentional exercise in flailing around to find any possible excuse, however far-fetched, NOT to accord the data its obvious, logical force…

    …and indeed it is.

  105. #105 Tom
    July 1, 2005

    James on June 27, 2005 03:43 AM writes…

    Doug didn’t say there was no definition of evolution. He said the definition changes within the context of a statement. Its true, in following this debate (and I don’t mean this specific blog), that a definition is rarely agreed upon by both sides.

    The problem is that creationists and IDers are looking for a simple 25 words or less definition for one of the most complex concepts in science. The oft-stated definitions of biological evolution as “descent with modification” or “change in allele frequency in a population over time” are simply shorthand titles for a much vaster body of understanding. In and of themselves, these phrases impart no more knowledge and understanding than the statements “God did it” or “the observed complexity in the universe requires the action of an intelligent designer.” The “Theory of Evolution” cannot be reduced to 25 words or less. However, this is the level at which most creationists choose to make their challenges.

    Theories in science are the explanations of myriad observations and pieces of evidence gathered through the process of hypothesis development and testing. What we refer to as “the Theory of Evolution” is actually a body of interrelated theories which would fill many volumes – depending on the depth of detail one wishes to explore. These theories explain (among other things):

    • the nature and extent of variability in populations of organisms;
    • the mechanisms which drive changes in the genome within individuals (mutation, gene duplication, gene transfer, etc), and within a species population (reproductive success);
    • how environmental stresses and competition for resources act on the natural variability of characteristics within populations resulting in certain individuals being more successful in reproduction (natural selection);
    • how the rate or intensity of environmental stresses can overwhelm a population leading to the extinction of species;
    • how sometimes the variation in populations results in individuals more attractive to members of the opposite sex, making their set of characteristics more likely to be passed on to future generations (sexual selection);
    • how fossils are preserved;
    • how geologic and climatologic events can split populations such that interbreeding can no longer occur and each sub-population begins its own, separate evolutionary path;

    Contributing to these theories are bodies of knowledge from many disciplines – tectonics, climatology, ecology, biochemistry, molecular chemistry, microbiology, genetics, paleontology, zoology, botany, forestry, oceanography, hydrology, astrophysics, geochemistry, sociobiology, physiology, and on and on, through finer and finer sub-classifications of scientific disciplines.

    A theory, to be effective, must address questions of what, when, where, and how. Only answers to these basic questions allow new, testable predictions to be made – the stuff of science. This is where concepts such as “Intelligent Design” fail completely. They do not explain anything and, rather than lead to further questions, cut off additional investigation altogether. Why continue to search for answers when it is concluded that some “unknowable intelligence” -God – did something (which no one can agree on), through some unknowable means, at some indefinite time in the past (which no one can agree on)? One thing that has been demonstrated over and over during the last four centuries is that the natural world operates according to specific natural principles (the “laws” of nature) which can be understood and used to predict, to test and to expand our knowledge of how nature works.

    Religion (in the broadest sense) still is important in helping determine societal values, building effective community, and for addressing the “Great Questions” that people have posed since the ability to question arose. Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? What happens when we die? What is the nature of good and evil? These are questions which science by its very nature cannot address, let alone answer. However, when it comes to explaining and predicting the physical world around us, religion has been shown to fall far short of the scientific method.

  106. #106 Tom
    July 1, 2005

    Doug wrote:

    There are over 24000 early manuscripts of the new testament. These match to a degree of 99.8% with no serious discrepenies. This is more reliable than The Complete Works of Shakespeare. The first copies of the books of the NT are dated at around 50 years following the crucifixion, some are thought to have been written only 30 years after the crucifixion. As books of antiquity are judged, the NT is the most acurately preserved historical record bar none. Based on historical figures, events, and geography recorded in the Book of Luke and Acts, Luke, the person, is considered one of the greatest historians ever, by secular historians not just Christians.

    And we don’t even know who Luke was, or even if that was his/her name.

    Some of Doug’s numbers may be a little off, according to the Biblical scholars of the Jesus Seminar. As stated in the introduction to The Five Gospels, “…we do not have original copies of any of the gospels. We do not possess autographs of any of the books of the entire Bible. The oldest surviving copies of the gospels date from about one hundred and seventy-five years after the death of Jesus, and no two copies are precisely alike.”

    Indeed, the books that make up what we currently call the New Testament were not chosen until the 4th Century C.E. following the Great Councils of Nicea. Many other scriptural texts existed, some of which were source documents for the current Canonical Gospels, but were not selected in this “political” process.

    The idea that early manuscripts of the New Testament agree to 99.8% is unsupportable. The earliest copies of these texts were written in any of several languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek). Translation into Latin, or into more modern forms of the original languages – or the simple act of copying – would introduce discrepencies (as anyone who has ever edited a major document knows). Fragments of the Gospels which pre-date the earliest complete copies show distinct differences from the later versions (see The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholar’s Version — by Robert J. Miller for specific examples).

    The Protestants, the Roman Catholics, the Coptics, and the Eastern Orthodox Christians each have a different Bible, with different books included, and differing translations. New translations based on early texts are being prepared all the time – resulting in very different ways of interpreting and understanding these writings.

    I recently undertook an exercise to see how many different ways the Biblical passage in Exodus 21:22 was presented in different Bible editions. In less than a dozen editions, I found four distinctly different translations, each imparting a very different point of view.

    So much for Biblical literalism and inerrency.

  107. #107 Engineer-Poet
    July 1, 2005

    I was wondering where Doug was getting his misinformation about biology (I was certain that he wasn’t smart enough to come up with such arguments on his own).  Steve Reuland spilled the beans – it’s from Philip Johnson, prime architect of the “Wedge strategy” for inserting theology into everything in public life, starting with biology.

    Oh, and Johnson’s not a biologist, nor even a scientist of any kind – he’s a professor of law.

  108. #108 Ediacaran
    July 1, 2005

    Doug resorts to proselytizing: I promise you it will be well worth it. Lee Stroebel has written a couple of good books to help you get moving. I’d suggest The Case For Christ for starters, as it had a profound effect on my life.

    Uh, Doug, in one of those books, Stroebel cites Clifford Wilson as an expert to support his ludicrous claims. Clifford Wilson is a close ally of self-proclaimed “Dr.” Carl Baugh, creationist televangelist – the creationist who claims that fire-breathing dragons are living “dormant” at the bottom of the sea until Armaggedon. Clifford Wilson ran one (at least) of the diploma mills from which Baugh claims to have a degree. See http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/paluxy/degrees.html for details.

    You need to examine Stroebel’s claims and his cited “authorities” with a little more skepticism. The charlatans that Stroebel appeals to aren’t credible. Test all things, and hold fast to that which is true – you’ll dump Stroebel and creationism if you do.

    Use reason for a change.

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