Continued Responses to Rusty

Rusty has again left comments on a post below. Unfortunately, the comments only allow a short message and the issues he raises may require more than 300 words, so I'll copy them here and respond in more detail. Rusty's words are in italics, my responses are in plain type.

I will take a different tact here and state that I disagree that the order of appearance MUST be as the record shows for evolution to be true. Gould himself stated that if the evolutionary tape were rewound and then run again the results would be entirely different. For all the data we have on the Cambrian Explosion there is nothing that mandates it MUST have happened the way it did. It seems that Ed is doing the "backwards pass" with regards to interpreting the data.

I think Rusty misunderstands what I meant when I said that the order of appearance must be what it is if evolution is true. I did not mean that the evolution of life on earth had to follow the exact evolutionary pathways that it took. Obviously if you went back in time and changed the environmental conditions at any given time, the results would be different because the traits that are selected for would change dramatically along with the environment. To use just one obvious example, if you went back in time and took away the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs, the entire natural history of life on earth for the past 65 million years would have changed dramatically. It is likely that mammals would never have escaped the small niches that they inhabited prior to that event. We, in all likelihood, would not be here discussing this. But that has nothing to do with the statement I've made several times that the fossil record must show what it shows if evolution is true.

What I meant by that statement - and I thought this was quite obvious, but perhaps I overestimated Rusty's understanding of evolutionary theory - was that regardless of what pathway evolution took contingent upon environmental conditions, the patterns would be the same as we see now. That is, it would still be true that the first representatives of each new major animal group would look virtually identical to the lineage it is believed to have evolved from and they would become more and more diverse over time, less and less like the ancestral group and more modern looking. Even if you cancelled the K/t extinction and mammals never spread into new niches to fuel adaptation and speciation, the pattern that I've repeatedly pointed out would still be true of every other lineage that preceeded that point. The first amphibians would still look just like lobe finned fishes and would retain most of their aquatic adaptation, then over time become more and more diverse, less fish-like and more like modern amphibians. The first birds would still look just like theropod dinosaurs and still retain most of their reptilian traits, and then over time would become less and less reptile-like and more like modern birds. And so forth. This is often referred to as "nested heirarchies", and it is a major prediction of evolution that absolutely must be true. If 150 million years ago, numerous species of modern birds with no teeth and with beaks and with fully fused vertebrae and all the other modern avian traits just appeared in the fossil record, evolution is dead in the water (or in the air, as the case may be). But that's not what happened. 150 million years ago, the first birds appeared and they are literally little more than feathered theropod dinosaurs. And over time they diversify and lose their exclusively reptilian traits and become more modern looking. This pattern is "consistent" with the "creation model" only because the "creation model" can be consistent with ANY pattern in the fossil record. But this pattern is predicted by evolutionary theory and has to be true if evolution is true.

Let's face it, for evolution to be true there MUST be countless transitional forms. Of course only a small number get fossilized... but a small number of countless is significant - and should be found. And in spite of all the tap dancing around the issue of similar body plans, they haven't been found.

I have to confess that this is becoming a bit frustrating, to make long and detailed arguments on a particular subject and then to have those arguments be ignored completely and the same argument that was already replied to get repeated as though it was somehow axiomatic in this conversation. I have already explained why it is clear that no matter what fossils you were shown, you would not ever admit that they were transitional. I have already explained why, in lots and lots of conversations with other creationists, the goalposts always move on the subject of transitional forms. I have even given specific examples of where creationists have said "a transitional form in this lineage must look like X" only to be shown "X" and then deny that it was transitional on entirely different grounds. It's frustrating to take the time to make these kinds of detailed responses, have them go unrefuted (or even responded to in any way) and then have the original argument just be repeated as though it was a given. I'll repeat the challenge I made in my last posting - give us a set of criteria that could hypothetically be met by a fossil find that you would admit is transitional and we can then look at specific fossils. But I maintain that no creationist will ever admit that ANY fossil is transitional, that they will simply shift the ground to traits that are not preserved in fossils, or they will say that the fossils can't prove actual ancestry, only the appearance of ancestry. I also maintain that it is disingenuous to continue to demand that we show "transitional fossils" when you have already determined a priori that no fossil could possibly prove that any transition took place.

With regards to testability... I'm a bit confused as to why you do not accept the testable prediction that Junk-DNA will prove to have function, as not a valid testable prediction?

Several reasons. First, because unless all junk DNA is proven to have function, the argument against special creation based on junk DNA is still a solid one. So far, creationists have trumpeted the findings that a couple of specific genes once thought to be non-functional have now been shown to have a possible function, but that still leaves a vast amount of junk DNA without function as of now. Second, because even those examples that have been found have been examples of endogenous retroviruses, which itself is powerful evidence for evolution. And third, because even if the opposite was true, you would still be arguing that it is consistent with the "creation model". Before Hugh Ross found an article suggesting that LINE DNA possibly plays a role in X chromosome inactivation, did you think that the "creation model" must be false? Of course not, no more than the vast amounts of other junk DNA in our genomes convinces you that it's false now. And if that one tentative article on a possible function for one aspect of junk DNA turns out to be false, you will explain that away too. Testability is tied to falsifiability, as I've stated many times - and again, this is a logical argument that you have never even bothered to engage, much less refute. If the creation model can explain data set X and the opposite of data set X, then it is not, by any definition, testable. A theory that can explain anything explains nothing.

One simple question proves my point: Can you name any set of data or any piece of evidence that could falsify the "creation model"? If so, what is it? And remember that I'm not talking about the question of the existence of God, which I have not denied and which has no bearing on the issue at hand. I'm talking about the "model" that all life forms on earth were created directly by God. Is there any evidence that could show up that would make you regard the creation model as false? I've already named lots of things that could be found that would falsify evolutionary theory completely.

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