Pharyngula

Well, well, Wells: Jonathan Wells reacts

Jonathan Wells, the creationist who makes shoddy claims about developmental biology, has deigned to respond to my criticisms…but only indirectly, on another blog. It’s an interesting response, in that it once again reveals Wells’ misunderstandings of biology, and his sneaky way of inserting phony claims.

Here is Wells’ rebuttal.

The issue here is not all that complicated. Darwin thought that “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent” and concluded that early vertebrate embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.” Darwin considered this “by far the strongest single class of facts in favor of” his theory. (Origin of Species, Chapter XIV; September 10, 1860 letter to Asa Gray)

But early vertebrate embryos do not look alike. They become somewhat similar (though not as similar as Haeckel made them out to be) midway through development, then they diverge again. This is illustrated by the “developmental hourglass” drawing on page 31 of my Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Developmental biologists (including P.Z. Myers, to judge from his Panda’s Thumb review of my chapter) are well aware of this pattern, which has been described repeatedly in the developmental biology literature.

But an hourglass pattern does not provide the evidence Darwin needed for his theory. If “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent,” then a pattern of early differences followed by convergence followed by divergence makes no sense. Some modern Darwinists, instead of acknowledging the problem, simply attribute the early differences to evolution. In other words, they assume their theory is true and then use it to explain away anomalies in the very evidence that was supposed to provide the strongest support for it. Meanwhile, other Darwinists provide a smokescreen for this circular argument by calling their critics names…

Is that how science should be done?

So much slipshod nonsense! Let’s take this apart. First, I’ll show how Wells distorts Darwin. Then I’ll say a little about what the point of similarity in embryos is, as understood by Darwin and by modern developmental biology. Then I’ll explain a little more about the hourglass, although I think I covered it fairly well in that earlier effort. Finally, I’ll ask how intelligent design creationism should be done.

A little historical background

Wells is guilty of frequently imposing a discredited old philosophy on modern biologists, so first let me clarify exactly the two ideas he is confusing.

In the early part of the 19th century, particularly among a particular school of German philosophers, there was an idea that development represented the expression of a string of archetypes—that in human development, for example, we can talk about a “molluscan stage” and a “fish stage” and so forth, and that each species can be characterized by how high on the ladder of progress its development ascends. This idea got smacked down hard by the facts, but was revivified late in the century by Ernst Haeckel—who did not invent it, but was responsible for popularizing it with snazzy slogans and tying it to an evolutionary mechanism. Thanks to Haeckel, you’ll hear it called the Biogenetic Law, or Recapitulation Theory, or you’ll hear the phrase “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. It is the idea that during development, organisms re-enact their evolutionary history. They don’t. This theory required that organisms go through a long chain of similar developmental events that corresponded to the step by step changes in their evolution, an expectation that did not and does not fit the data, was already dismissed and replaced by an explanation from the premier embryologist of the day, and even when it was briefly popular, required much handwaving and special exceptions to accommodate widely known differences.

That premier embryologist who royally smacked down the idea of recapitulation was von Baer. He had a simple idea that explained reality better than a ladder of archetypes or development as a historical re-enactment, and he had good reason to do so: he disliked that school of German philosophy, never accepted evolution, and he was the fellow who first made the observation of similarities between vertebrate embryos. Von Baer’s principle was that development proceeded from the general to the specific. That is, embryos first sketched in the major features of their phylum—a notochord, a tail, pharyngeal structures, for instance—and that the reason for the resemblances is simply that early embryos represent pared down sketches of the animal, an outline or framework. Development then proceeds by filling in the outline, adding more and more specific details until the full set of derived characters are present. Von Baerian explanations of developmental similarities require only a single point of similarity, and that is based entirely on the presence of only key features of the phylum and the absence of derived features of the species. That, as I’ll show below, was the basis of Darwin’s use of embryology, and it is a better reflection of modern views. Recapitulation had its brief flurry of popularity, but it’s dead now, and has been for over a century.

Darwin’s views on embryology

So let’s consider Darwin. Biology has moved far beyond Darwin, but Wells wants to claim that this is an issue on which Darwin was wrong, so I think it’s worthwhile to show that the only person who has it wrong here is Wells. I warned you to be watchful whenever Wells starts chopping up quotes, and here again we have an example. Wells wants us to believe that Darwin was promoting Haeckelian recapitulation, that his “strongest single class of facts” in favor of common descent was that there was an early similarity (at the earliest stages!) between all vertebrates that progressively diverged. Unfortunately for Wells, not even Haeckel believed that. Darwin certainly didn’t. Here’s the appropriate section from the first edition of the Origin:

In two groups of animal, however much they may at present differ from each other in structure and habits, if they pass through the same or similar embryonic stages, we may feel assured that they have both descended from the same or nearly similar parents, and are therefore in that degree closely related. Thus, community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent. It will reveal this community of descent, however much the structure of the adult may have been modified and obscured; we have seen, for instance, that cirripedes can at once be recognised by their larvæ as belonging to the great class of crustaceans. As the embryonic state of each species and group of species partially shows us the structure of their less modified ancient progenitors, we can clearly see why ancient and extinct forms of life should resemble the embryos of their descendants,—our existing species.

There are some differences in what Wells quoted and what Darwin wrote here, but I’ll charitably assume it was because Wells is looking at a different edition (I didn’t feel like checking every edition to see where he got this). However, I think you can get the sense of what Darwin was talking about. Embryos and larvae are important sources of information in classifying species; taxonomists had noted for years before that access to larvae was a critical tool in resolving species relationships. What he was explaining is that even in highly derived adult forms, the more generalized earlier forms, before those obscuring later specializations have developed, expose deep similarities that are indicators of similarity in descent. Wells is a little dodgy here; does he want to deny that?

Note also the important modifiers, not preserved in Wells quoting, in that last sentence. The embryonic state partially shows the structure of less modified ancient progenitors. These modifiers are important tip-offs: Darwin wasn’t peddling Haeckelisms here, that’s von Baer! Von Baer was an opponent of any kind of recapitulation in development, and his proposal was that what we saw in development was a progression from the general to the specific and derived adult forms; not a series from one ancient form to another, but that development builds on a more generalized framework. What Darwin is saying is that development allows us to see that framework or body plan more clearly.

(One qualification, however. Von Baer would argue that embryos only resemble the embryos of progenitor species. Darwin is making the mistake of suggesting that embryos resemble the adults of progenitor species. This is not correct…but then, Darwin wasn’t perfect. Modern developmental biologists would not, I hope, make this error.)

There’s another clue that Darwin is discussing von Baerian developmental principles rather than Haeckelian recapitulation: the dates. The first edition of the Origin was published in 1859, and that letter to Asa Gray is from 1860. Recapitulation was first proposed by Muller in 1864, and Haeckel published his ideas on it in 1866. Isn’t it silly to blame Darwin for something someone else did years after Darwin published?

Darwin did revise the Origin multiple times. Perhaps he adopted Haeckel’s views later? Here’s the same section, from the 4th edition in 1866, where perhaps Darwin at least had an opportunity to be influenced by those Germans.

In two groups of animal, however much they may at present differ from each other in structure and habits, if they pass through the same or similar embryonic stages, we may feel assured that they have both descended from the same or nearly similar parents, and are therefore in that degree closely related. Thus, community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent; but dissimilarity in embryonic development does not prove discommunity of descent, for in one of two groups all the developmental stages may have been suppressed, or may have been so greatly modified as no longer to be recognised, through adaptations, during the earlier periods of growth, to new habits of life. Community of descent will, however, often be revealed, although the structure of the adult may have been greatly modified and thus obscured; we have seen, for instance, that cirripedes, though externally so like shellfish, can at once be recognised by their larvæ as belonging to the great class of crustaceans. As the embryonic state of each species and group of species shows us more or less completely the structure of their less modified ancient progenitors, we can see why ancient and extinct forms of life should resemble the embryos of our existing species, their descendants.

Note the italicized section. Rather than hardening in his views, Darwin expands them to mention that there can also be modification of developmental processes, even at earlier periods. This is true of modern biology as well, which sees no mechanism for barring genetic change in any stage of development, and recognizes variation where it occurs. As usual, Wells is warring with a straw man when he insists that “early vertebrate embryos do not look alike”; they certainly do, in a general sense, and that is exactly what Darwin is describing. Haeckel’s ‘laws’ were dead by the end of the 19th century, they are not accepted by any credible modern biologist, and most interestingly, Darwin doesn’t seem to have subscribed unquestioningly to them, either.

Similarities in embryos

So what was Darwin going on about with his talk of “community in embryonic structure”, and has it been shown to be wrong? It’s actually a very simple concept, and it is still valid.

Here’s what Darwin faced: life is very diverse, but he is arguing that it all can be traced back to a common root, that all the differences can naturally arise from something initially similar. Darwin is making the case that while you may find the differences overwhelming and the possibility of any unity of form improbable, all you have to do is look at embryos to see that they are based on similar plans.

For example, a bat is small, hairy, has prominent wings and big complicated ears, flies through the air and eats insects. A dolphin is large, smooth skinned and torpedo shaped, has greatly reduced limbs and no external ears, swims and eats fish. Folk classifications see no significant problem in grouping bats with birds and whales with fish, so obviously these are two extremely distinctive groups of animals. What reason do we have for assuming that they have any family relationship at all?

There is the evidence from anatomy and physiology—a good comparative anatomist can see all the mammal-specific details of their forms, and we can also find deep similarities that tie bats and dolphins more closely together than we can tie dolphins and fish, for instance: dolphins are endothermic and produce milk, as do bats but not fish. But what’s also very vivid and dramatic is to observe embryos of both species, and see that the commonalities in their body plans can leap out at you.

i-e1f8ef8df0aad21b267ac715eba0ce02-embryo_bat.jpg
i-8971b2af596ad6fcf54f5e7e2b5f08af-embryo_dolphin.jpg

What these images show is that when you catch them before they’ve developed those species-specific attributes like wings and flippers, when what you’ve got is simply the most basic elements of the body plan, the similarities are apparent. This is what Darwin is talking about; you have to explain why a torpedo shaped dolphin and a fuzzy flappy bat have this core of morphological similarity to one another. Darwin’s explanation is historical. These similarities reflect a common ancestry, and what’s more, they illustrate that it is not absurd to imagine diverse organisms arising from a single common plan.

That darned developmental hourglass

I’ve already summarized the evo-devo explanation for the developmental hourglass, so rather than rehashing that, I want to address two points.

First, Wells is playing a dishonest game. In Icons of Evolution, he basically accuses biologists of fraud, perpetuating a myth of Haeckelian recapitulation in our textbooks. He makes it sound as if our only rationale for reconciling evolution and development is to reuse these old, discredited 19th century ideas. He complains when textbooks use drawings derived from Haeckel’s old work, but he also complains if textbooks use photographs of embryos at the phylotypic stage. Now, though, when his accuracy is called into question, he suddenly explains that he was right in his characterization of embryology because the developmental hourglass is “described repeatedly in the developmental biology literature”.

Is he aware that the hourglass model and the recapitulation model are not the same thing? Isn’t it a little dishonest to, on one hand, complain that we are using a false and antiquated data set, and on the other, that we’re describing embryology accurately as a convergence on a common form followed by divergence? Wells flip-flops between those accusations at his convenience. Which is it, Mr Wells? Are biologists slavishly repeating discredited Haeckelian models, or are they repeatedly describing the decidedly non-Haeckelian hourglass model? I suspect it doesn’t matter how he answers; at his next talk before a credulous creationist crowd, he’ll again tell them that we are followers of the biogenetic law.

Secondly, Wells may quote Darwin, but he doesn’t understand him. How else can he claim that “an hourglass pattern does not provide the evidence Darwin needed for his theory”? Darwin does not say that his theory requires that all embryos are identical at the onset of development and progressively diverge. He does not say that earlier stages are perfectly insulated from evolutionary change. Quite the contrary, he argues that in some lineages, earlier stages can be greatly modified, obscuring similarities. He was also basing his interpretation of embryology on the work of von Baer, who was quite aware of the appearance of early variations in embryos, in for instance, the extra-embryonic membranes. Since Darwin knew of differences in the earliest stages, and knew that the similarities were not apparent except in the post-gastrula embryo, I can’t imagine that he would be at all discomfited at an explicit statement about the pattern of development, such as the developmental hourglass—he already knew about it!

Since all Darwin was saying is that there are similarities in embryonic organization between vertebrates at a stage in development, and that was all he needed to argue for similarity in basic structure and for the visible demonstration of a transformation of a single form into different adult types, Wells’ assertion does not follow.

Your turn, Intelligent Design creationists

Wells ends his complaint by asking, “Is that how science should be done?” It’s an acutely ironic question, since Wells’ books, both Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, are little more than extended slanders of modern biology and certainly fail to offer any alternative explanations of the phenomena he disputes. He has already admitted that developmental biologists document the pattern of morphological (and molecular, I would add) development, and have shown a convergence on a broadly similar form at the phylotypic stage. That’s a phenomenon that needs to be explained.

Evolutionary biologists have an explanation in terms of common ancestry and developmental constraints.

Where is the Intelligent Design creationists’ explanation?

And no, “the designer did it that way” is not an explanation. I would like to see a testable, coherent explanation for why dolphin and bat embryos should look so similar—one that can also lead to continuing investigations and that makes predictions about properties of embryos that are unique to the design hypothesis. Wells has never offered any. All he can do is wobble between outright denial that any similarities exist, untenable distortions of Darwin’s ideas and those of modern biologists, and rare admissions that yes, the similarities exist, followed by incorrect and nonsensical assertions that they don’t fit evolutionary theory.

No, that isn’t how science should be done. That’s why Intelligent Design creationism is not science.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Carlson
    November 7, 2006

    Nicely done, PZ. I can’t help but be struck by the fact that science is just so much more damn interesting than creationism is. Yet another reason why ID has not and will not be gaining any major footholds within the scientific community, I suppose.

  2. #2 Stanton
    November 7, 2006

    Of course, you do realize that this is the part that the Creationist then says “well, since you don’t agree with me, I now know that you’re going to burn in Hell with the rest of (the people who don’t think like me)”

  3. #3 Kagehi
    November 7, 2006

    Going to go off thread to comment on this Newsweek article:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15566391/site/newsweek/

    A Dissent: The Case Against Faith
    Religion does untold damage to our politics. An atheist’s lament.

    Hmm. Never mind, the title speaks for itself. 😉

  4. #4 Narc
    November 7, 2006

    Also note the emphasis on what Darwin said and what Darwin thought. Wells seems to think that Darwin was a prophet for scientists, and we take his opinions and observations as unquestioned and unexamined gospel. Classic projection.

  5. #5 llewelly
    November 7, 2006

    Thank you, PZ – this contains some good clarifications on the history of biology.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    November 7, 2006

    Of course, you do realize that this is the part that the Creationist then says “well, since you don’t agree with me, I now know that you’re going to burn in Hell with the rest of (the people who don’t think like me)”

    of course!

    I personally am counting on it. i think in an earlier thread I was given the job of organizing the endless “Mystery Science Theatre” horror fest when I get there.

    looking forward to it.

    ahh, hell… the only real way to escape from the fundiebots.

  7. #7 Andrew McClure
    November 7, 2006

    PZ, this is quite good. Would you consider adding a link to this to the end of the Panda’s Thumb / talk.something index of articles about PIGDID?

    Also note the emphasis on what Darwin said and what Darwin thought. Wells seems to think that Darwin was a prophet for scientists, and we take his opinions and observations as unquestioned and unexamined gospel. Classic projection.

    Not to mention the bizarre recurring idea the IDers seem to have that if they could just show Darwin’s original works to be full of errors, it would somehow crumble the foundation that the works 150 years later today depend on. They just don’t seem to get it, religious texts might work such that later works base their authority on compatibility with the previous ones, but science works by adopting the stuff from previous work that turns out to hold up and discarding the stuff that doesn’t…

    At the least, you’d think eventually they’d notice that “Darwinists” keep happily disowning Haeckel at the slightest provocation, yet continually holding up Darwin as an example of good science. Maybe there’s a reason for that? Maybe because one of these writers engaged in quality scholarship and scientific method and created a work that (though it might be primitive) stands up surprisingly well even today, whereas the other one didn’t and doesn’t? Naaah…

  8. #8 AustinAtheist
    November 7, 2006

    That blog is run by Douglass Groothuis! I knew I recognized that name. After digging through my file cabinet, I remembered. I Once wrote a critique of Pascal’s Wager and in my research came upon his weak attempt at a defense of hedging one’s theological bets. Here’s the citation if anyone’s interested.

    D. Groothuis. “Wagering Belief: Examining Two Objections to Pascal’s Wager.” Religious Studies, v. 30 (December 1994) p. 479-86.

    Anyone know how to pronounce his last name?

  9. #9 sparc
    November 7, 2006

    Anyone know how to pronounce his last name?

    According to his online biography:

    Douglas R. Groothuis (pronunciation: grote-hice)

    http://www.ivpress.com/groothuis/doug/biography.php

    Actually, he is the very same Grotehuis who published the McGrew stuff on his blog
    http://theconstructivecurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2006/10/my-denver-post-review-of-two-new-books.html#116239058938528218

    I really wonder why PZ is never getting tired of all this crap.

  10. #10 Mark Johnson
    November 7, 2006

    One of the best blog with topics as diverse as politics to science…

    My name is Mark Johnson, and I’ve been visiting your site for past few months

    I’m a recent UC Berkeley Political science grad and I along with some fellow Princeton alums have been working hard to launch our own internet startup called Rizzleweb.com.
    Rizzleweb is basically an online political community where people can log on and write performance reviews\comments for congressmen, senators, the president, and various other local and state officials across the country. I was hoping that if it would not be too much trouble you could place a link of our site on your blog. If this is not possible (which we completely understand), we still hope you will check out our site, and post some reviews.
    Your contribution will encourage us to put more effort in improving our website.
    Mark Johnson
    http://www.Rizzleweb.com
    markjohnson2020@hotmail.com

  11. #11 Brian X
    November 7, 2006

    Dave Carlson:

    It’s never as interesting to be told rather than to find out yourself. Especially when what you’re told lacks imagination and is rather wrong.

    Narc:

    Projection informs religious thinking and has at least as far back as the Middle Ages, if not before. (Medieval Catholics believed that Islam had a Holy Trinity of its own to mirror the Christian view, for example.) And even today, the Christian love of quotemining shows in creationist “scholarship” — they accept critical techniques that would be laughable even by the standards of their own forebears.

    AustinAtheist:

    I’m not up on my Dutch, but I think it’s something like /’xrothujs/.

  12. #12 Inoculated Mind
    November 7, 2006

    PZ,

    This is entirely unfair. It is time that you started whacking yourself upside the head, gotten addicted to Meth a la Haggard, or gotten a lobotomy to get rid of those pesky brain cells and level the playing field.

    Seriously, though, this was a good post. The Anti-evolutionists can only offer up poorly researched, question-begging and sloppy claims and responses. You, however, dice them all up intelligently, and put forward poignant points that they have to deal with. Keep up the good work. Even some folks at UD agree that you’re right.

  13. #13 Spoony Quine
    November 7, 2006

    ` This reminds me, I was just watching the Shermer/Wells video. I laughed at some of the things he said – especially the part where he said that birds couldn’t have evolved from theropods because they had hair-like feathers and tiny arms! (Luckily someone said that was ‘massively wrong’.)

    ` Okay, I’m going to read all that stuff soon, I just can’t right now because I can’t concentrate well enough with people playing guitar in my ear!!!

  14. #14 zilch
    November 7, 2006

    Finding fault with Darwin as a “disproof” of evolution is symptomatic of the most general difference between the religious and the scientific worldviews: reliance on authority rather than evidence. It’s touching in a way that Darwin is elevated to sainthood by creationists (IDers being creationists in cheap tuxedos), but revealing of their misconception: Darwin’s Word is accepted, or not, because it may be questioned by the facts, while God’s Word may not be questioned- it’s the facts that must be questioned by God’s Word.

  15. #15 Jason Spaceman
    November 7, 2006

    But. . .but. . .Wells says he’s gonna bring about the collapse of Darwinism by 2009! And he’s gonna do it too! I mean, just look at how they achieved all the goals set out in the Wedge Document.

  16. #16 BC
    November 7, 2006

    Narc:

    Also note the emphasis on what Darwin said and what Darwin thought. Wells seems to think that Darwin was a prophet for scientists, and we take his opinions and observations as unquestioned and unexamined gospel. Classic projection.

    Not only is that a reasonable conclusion about IDist beliefs, but I recall a moderator’s thread over at UD that specifically claimed that evolutionists see Darwin as a prophet. The claim is laughable, of course, but that’s what the moderators of UD actually believed. It just goes to show how out of touch they are.

  17. #17 amph
    November 7, 2006

    It might be interesting to go into the question of why the very early embryos seem so different. It seems obvious this must have to do with the very big differences between the environment where the zygote begins to develop: egg vs. uterus; mouse uterus vs. primate uterus. A chick embryo floats on a big yolk and mouse embryos are cropped in a limited space. And yet, when you look at it at histological or cellular levels you see that those embryos are actually very similar: same topology of germ layers, just temporarily folded in different ways; same cell movements; similar results of lineage studies. Of course, at a molecular level the similarity is so overwhelming that the whole ‘discussion’ becomes a tad boring. But like has been said before, Wells and the likes are so obsessed with Darwin (who could not know what an FGF is) that they want to play the game as if this is the 19th century. I admit that it is fascinating to see that even with historical, century-old arguments the creationists can’t win.

  18. #18 G. Tingey
    November 7, 2006

    What STILL get me – as commented on indirectly by others, is why the IDiots/Cretinists cling to Haeckel.
    They know, because we keep telling them, that Haeckel is wrong, and has been known to be wrong, for many years.
    Yet they continually recycle this argument.
    Why?

    We know it is a lie, they know it is a lie…. erm?

  19. #19 Marc Buhler
    November 7, 2006

    Nice article, PZ.

    Just to remind Jason Spaceman, 2009 will start here in Australia before it starts up there! Wells has his work cut out. (signed) marc

  20. #20 luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2006

    Hi,

    Sorry to go offthread again, but I figure this is as good a place to ask as any. The University of Aberdeen is having a speaker tomorrow (Wednesday) on the topic “Neo-Darwinism: Intelligent Design in Disguise?” –the speaker, for some reason, being a social anthropologist.

    Anyway, I hardly expect people to show up to Scotland for it, but I was hoping that you and other interested parties would be able to contribute useful definitions of neo-Darwinism in the next 24 hours, for my planned questions.

  21. #21 Heleen
    November 7, 2006

    Anyone know how to pronounce his last name?
    According to his online biography:
    Douglas R. Groothuis (pronunciation: grote-hice)

    If Groothuis is to be pronounced Grote-hice he cannot pronounce his name. Hroat-hees might be nearer.

  22. #22 complex_field
    November 7, 2006

    Excellent post. Just one question though: since dolphins are mammals, wouldn’t that make them exothermic rather than endothermic? As I recall from chemistry class, an exothermic reaction releases heat, rather than absorbing it.

  23. #23 Amph
    November 7, 2006

    Anyone know how to pronounce his last name?
    Groothuis is Dutch for big house; clearly that guy must have a Dutch Y-chromosome. If he is not denying his roots it should be: ɣɾo:tɦœys. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Phonetic_Alphabet_for_Dutch
    Well he is of course denying his roots, that was the problem in the first place.

  24. #24 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 7, 2006

    “It might be interesting to go into the question of why the very early embryos seem so different.”

    On the other thread, commenter Smokey explains this by:
    “morphogenesis and the ability of blastulas to regulate. … cells can be removed or added (by microinjection) to blastulae without killing or deforming the resulting embryo and adult. We do it all the time. Since these stages are so plastic, there’s no great morphological constraint. When complexity increases by the pharyngula stage, there are significant morphological constraints.”

    I guess that mean that since not much constrain blastulas, they can and will use different growth patterns. (Pharyngula has posts on this IIRC.) But once they get into constrained growth, the inherent similarities in these constraints shows up.

    “Even some folks at UD agree that you’re right.”

    Sorry, those aren’t objective observations to prove miracles. (But subjectively, it seems close to make one believe in them. Does this mean we will also see a no nonsense president be elected?)

  25. #25 Torbjörn Larsson
    November 7, 2006

    complex_field:
    The terms are simply referencing different phenomena:

    “In thermodynamics, the word endothermic describes a process or reaction that absorbs energy in the form of heat. Its etymology stems from the Greek prefix endo-, meaning “inside” and the Greek suffix -thermic, meaning “to heat”.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endothermic )

    “Endothermy is the ability of some creatures to control their body temperatures through internal means such as muscle shivering, fat burning, and panting (Greek: endo = “within,” therm = “heat”).” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warm-blooded )

  26. #26 mark
    November 7, 2006

    luna_the_cat,

    Where is the talk taking place? As a UoA PhD-er, I’d be very interested in attending!

  27. #27 Pete Dunkelberg
    November 7, 2006

    … I was hoping that you and other interested parties would be able to contribute useful definitions of neo-Darwinism in the next 24 hours, for my planned questions.

    The term has been kicked around for a long time and has no definite meaning. Some people identify it with the erstwhile modern synthesis, of which they may have a very limited concept. However the term was around before that. Maybe John Wilkins will give us the earlier history of it. Some people use the term for current evolutionary biology. Then there is the unfortunate game of using the term as perpetually twenty years out of date, or in some other straw man sense, in order to inflate one’s research by claiming to have superseded neo-D.

    The surprising correct terms are:
    evolution (process or processes in nature): evolution
    evolutionary biology (science related to the above): evolutionary biology.

  28. #28 luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2006

    Mark: the talk details —

    Wednesday 8th November, 2006

    Neo-Darwinism:

    Intelligent Design in Disguise?

    Prof. Tim Ingold, Social Anthropology

    Venue: 1-2pm, New Kings 1

    ——————–

    I did look up Ingold; this is him: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/socsci/staff/details.php?id=6

    I looks like he did write a number of evolution-related books, including Tools, Language and Cognition in Human Evolution, so I am hoping that he is simply using an inflammatory title for the talk to pull in a larger audience.

  29. #29 luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2006

    Pete — thanks. I was afraid that it was one of those “squishy” terms, and merely hoping that there was actually a well-accepted definition for it somewhere that I simply wasn’t aware of.

  30. #30 Jolf_Moosenhoeger
    November 7, 2006

    You know, whenever I read Wells’ stuff, I feel afterwards like I need to take a shower to wash off the slime.

  31. #31 mark
    November 7, 2006

    Cheers Luna.

    I’ll try and make it.

  32. #32 mark
    November 7, 2006

    Is that how science should be done?

    A nice case of “Do as I say, not as I do,” or maybe more properly, “Do as True Father and Messiah Rev. Sun Myung Moon says, and not as creationists do.” Then again, perhaps he asks the question because he really doesn’t know, and would like to learn how.

  33. #33 luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2006

    Mark — I hope you do. If you’re there, I’m the short woman with the long dark hair and Jewish nose and an American accent. If I do end up asking questions, I should be easy to spot. 😉

  34. #34 Boo
    November 7, 2006

    Note the italicized section. Rather than hardening in his views, Darwin expands them to mention that there can also be modification of developmental processes, even at earlier periods. This is true of modern biology as well, which sees no mechanism for barring genetic change in any stage of development, and recognizes variation where it occurs.

    Does this mean it’s likely that many millions of years from now, embryos will no longer show similarity in the pharynugla stage?

  35. #35 Adam Cuerden
    November 7, 2006

    Am I the only person with “My name is John Wellington Wells / I’m a dealer in magic and spells” running through my brain?

  36. #36 luna_the_cat
    November 7, 2006

    Not any *more*, Adam, drat you. 😀

  37. #37 The Famous Racing Greyhound
    November 7, 2006

    Douglas Groothuis reviewed the Jonathan Wells book, along with the new Michael Shermer book, for the Denver Post a couple of weeks ago. He had earlier reviewed the Wells book for the online journal of the Denver Seminary (where he is a professor of philosophy). Comparing the two reviews is pretty interesting — I think he has them both as entries on his blog — since the Post review is (or attempts to appear as) a balanced examination of the two books, coming down on the side of the Wells book on the basis of the internal evidence, whereas the review for the Denver Seminary journal pretty much flat out states that Wells is a great antidote to the dogma of the “Darwinian priesthood.” If I could ever figure out tags, I’d post links.

    Frankly, I was surprised that the Post — a quite good regional paper — would assign such a review to someone who had such preconceived notions regarding the two books.

  38. #38 Jules
    November 7, 2006

    Adam,

    Obviously you have been touched by the FSM… you must finish the song. We’ll all get together in Seattle and sing it to the DIers there…

  39. #39 Bob Carroll
    November 7, 2006

    I think his real name is John Corrigan Wells, which fits in nicely. He certainly is a “dealer in magic and spells,” but is rather heavier on the curses than the blessings.

  40. #40 Kristine
    November 7, 2006

    Isn’t it silly to blame Darwin for something someone else did years after Darwin published?

    Isn’t that always their little game, though? (Hitler, school shootings, etc.) I am sorry to say that recapitulation is still repeated to this day JW literature.

    Earlier I stated that I could know that I was being sold a bill of goods without knowing exactly how I’m being deceived. Now I do see. Wells speaks out of both sides of his mouth, giving himself multiples corners in which to retreat when confronted. His vacillating “but I didn’t say that” defense is the most cowardly that I’ve ever seen. Be a man, Wells.

    DaveScot blew by my blog to offer his authortative view that chicks like me make his job “easier.” Nice to know I’m not hard on the designed eyes of someone perpetually primping beside a phone with a dedicated line from Jesus that will never ring. Happy to help you out, Davey. I like the 2009 prediction even better than the others tossed out there. It’s a date, Wells.

  41. #41 Glen Davidson
    November 7, 2006

    Good commentary, PZ.

    But you seem not to realize the great advantage of ID/creationism, which is that they are never surprised, and never have to learn anything:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/archives/1766

    See, those damned Darwinists, they don’t have an explanation that fits every situation whatever the complications, whatever the situation. Surprise!–it’s anathema to science (OK, religion, which they mistake science for being), and anything that has constraints on processes that leads to surprise and new knowledge is wrong (note the stupidity of the poster who claims that this recent surprise is considered to be “evidence” for evolution–no, the convergent evidence for evolution is what provided the constraints that allow for surprises/discoveries to be made vis-a-vis evolution).

    Which apparently leads to Wells’ “solution” to the pharyngula stage–the similarities could be due to design, once design has been redefined as yielding the same results as those expected from evolutionary predictions. Do that, and there are no surprises, and your religion and “science” are reconciled by being immune to new knowledge and to those horrible surprises (or discoveries, in the terms of actual science).

    That is to say, science will reconcile with their religion once science has eternal answers for all questions, again, when it is their religion.

    It just struck me how anathema discovery is to ID when I read that post on UD.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

  42. #42 James Orpin
    November 7, 2006

    “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny” – It’s odd that a phrase for an idea abandoned a century ago is still alive and well in academia. I remember lecturers in both my paleontology and human embryology courses using this phrase.

    “Just one question though: since dolphins are mammals, wouldn’t that make them exothermic rather than endothermic?”

    Temperature regulation is classified on the source of the heat so you have endotherms (“warm-blooded”) vs ectotherms (“cold”) not on whether the animal is a source or sink of heat. More commonly now they are classified as either homeothermic or poikilothermic (ie constant-ish or variable).

  43. #43 Adam Cuerden
    November 7, 2006

    Jules: I hate you.

    P.S.

    My name is John Corrigan Wells
    I’m a dealer in magic and spells!
    “Creation is science!”
    I scream in defiance
    (And somehow, this sort of thing sells).

    If Darwin had any proof lacked
    I explain it, ignoring all fact:
    A little quote mining
    (With edits refining)
    And it all fits within a Chick tract.

    TBC

  44. #44 QrazyQat
    November 7, 2006

    It must be very annoying for creationists/ID promoters. Darwin, I mean. We don’t even follow him slavishly, and yet the old gent was so good at his job, such an easy to read, informative writer, and able to put together incredibly good arguments based on such a sketchy (relative to today) set of facts. They can only wish they had someone like that to emulate. Okay, they could emulate Darwin, but that wouldn’t work so well for their position.

    Maybe they should try emulating Ben Franklin, Jefferson, or Mark Twain instead… still doesn’t work for them. What do they have then? Wells, Behe, Dembski. Gee, that’s sad.

  45. #45 Foggg
    November 7, 2006

    Adam, the Wellington Wells parody was done several years ago.
    Even better if you read the original Gilbert & Sullivan first.

  46. #46 Adam Cuerden
    November 7, 2006

    Foggg: Those links don’t work. I take it the second was http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/sorcerer/web_opera/sorc12.html ?

  47. #47 Dave M
    November 7, 2006

    Lay off Groothuis for not pronouncing his name like they would in the Netherlands. This is America, where we do not speak Dutch (anymore). I used to wince when I heard schoolmates pronounce their name (say) “Ba-TAG-lee-uh” instead of “Bat-TAHL-ya” as it would be in Italia. But later I realized I was being a snob. People should pronounce their names however they want, and not take crap from other people who “know better”. (So if he wanted to pronounce it the Dutch way, and correct everyone he ever meets who pronounces it wrong, that would be fine. Again, this is America, which is, in this sense at least, a free country.)

  48. #48 Foggg
    November 7, 2006

    Sorry Adam. Yes, you got the second, the first is
    http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Musicals.cfm
    PZ’s software put a “nofollow” in the links for some reason.

  49. #49 John Wilkins
    November 7, 2006

    Neo-Darwinism can mean:

    1. The views of Wallace and Weismann, c1895-1918, in which natural selection was the sole mechanism of evolution worth talking about, although Weismann allowed for something like drift. Moreover, these guys also rejected Darwin’s “pangenesis” inheritance theory in favour of a sequestered germline.

    2. The views of the original Modern Synthesis, c.1930-1950, in which Mendelian genetics and Natural Selection are the primary aspects of evolution (from which we get the “change in allele frequencies” definition of evolution). The contrast here is with people like Waddington and Sewall Wright.

    3. The c1964-1980 views of the post-Hamilton evolutionary theorists like Maynard Smith, Price, and others (like Dawkins, a decade later) who thought that genetic selection was the sole thing about evolution, and that all the action should be reduced to genes and game theory.

    This is very simplistic and unfair to the views of these thinkers, but there have been three distinct movements that get called by the name “Neo-Darwinism”. I’m on the road, so I can’t check my sources right now…

  50. #50 Ed Darrell
    November 8, 2006

    However Dr. Groothuis pronounces his name, I’ve been chiding him for some time about his endorsement of Wells’ work. I mean, Groothuis professes to be a philosopher teaching ethics and such at a Christian seminary. Shouldn’t he take a stand for good citations in footnotes, at least — against Wells?

    Generally he retreats to posting a link to a Discovery Institute post or something.

    It is embarrassing that a professor at a seminary seems to have such a weak grasp of what honesty in academic writing means.

  51. #51 truth machine
    November 8, 2006

    You must be embarrassed a lot, Ed.

  52. #52 Ray
    November 14, 2006

    I finally got around to reading this and, even though others have had similar comments, I must say narc stuck it with the comment:

    Also note the emphasis on what Darwin said and what Darwin thought. Wells seems to think that Darwin was a prophet for scientists, and we take his opinions and observations as unquestioned and unexamined gospel. Classic projection.

    I have repeatedly pointed out to creationists that Darwin is not our prophet and OtOoS is not our bible.

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.