Creationists in Seattle? Say it ain't so!

I knew this would happen: creationists are pleased with the media coverage of the platypus genome, since it reinforces their misconceptions. The Seattle Times published a couple of letters from local creationists. Need I say that they are ridiculous?

It is rather sad to see the evolutionary spin doctors try to put a positive face on something like the platypus. "Bizarre DNA of Platypus tells a story about us" [Times, News, May 8] did not offer any plausible evolutionary scenario for such a creature's existence. This is because there is none.1

The platypus has long given the evolutionists nightmares. The article states the platypus is a "transitional creature." Even evolutionists admit that the platypus does not qualify as transitional. It is a mosaic, a curious compilation of features that continue to defy evolutionary explanation. Such chimeras offer no help to the hypothesis of evolution.2

The article speaks of the platypus (and echidna) being isolated on a branch of the evolutionary tree. What is true of every branch on the evolutionary tree is that there are creatures only at the tips of the branches and absolutely nothing leading up to them. The tree does not exist, nor do the branches, only their tips. Not much of a tree when it comes down to it.3

The spin doctors are hard-pressed on this one. If only the media would give equal time to other responsible viewpoints. And yes, they do exist.4

1There is a solid evolutionary explanation for the platypus: it's a member of a branch of the mammalian family tree that split off in the Jurassic, before our ancestors evolved viviparity. It lacks some of the derived traits familiar to us from eutherian mammals, but has other specialized traits unique to its lineage. This rally shouldn't be difficult to grasp; here's a diagram that illustrates the relationships.

2I've never had a platypus nightmare, and I doubt that many evolutionists have. We love oddball lineages that have survived into the present day — they give us an opportunity to identify features of our ancient ancestors. That the monotremes separated from the mammalian lineage 166 million years ago means they are helpful in sorting primitive from derived traits. Our poor sad benighted creationist then muddles up his terms. The platypus does exhibit transitional traits; for instance, it secretes a true milk laden with sugars and fats, but it lacks nipples. This represents an intermediate state between the the more generalized secretion of primitive mammals and the more elaborate specializations of eutherian mammals.

It is a mosaic, but all animals are; features evolve by accident and utility at their own pace. Some lineages will retain different sets of ancient characters than others, so you don't see every species evolving in the same way in the same direction. While it is mosaic, it is not a chimera of any kind. Its morphology is the product of an evolutionary history, not the cobbling together of bits and pieces from different species.

3The creationist gets something almost right in his third paragraph: only the tips of the evolutionary tree still exist. What he leaves out, though, is significant. There are also scattered ghosts of the deeper branches in the fossil record; it's very spotty, of course, but enough to see an intermittent outline of the structure. Most importantly, though, we also have genetic information that allows us to see which of the various twigs are most closely related to one another, and that allows us to infer and reconstruct the missing branches. So it is like a strangely cored sort of tree, where all we see suspended in space are a halo of short twigs in an ordered, organize pattern, with a few branches hanging within — it's more like an exploded tree, with modern species as part of an expanding wavefront. But we can still reconstruct the pattern; the evidence is there. Denying the tree is denying the data.

4Biologists are not hard-pressed by the platypus story: they sought it out, they worked to get funding for it, and a large group of biologists did the research with the explicit goal of fleshing out that branch of the mammalian family tree. It is utterly nonsensical to pretend that a research goal set by molecular and evolutionary biologists was something that they feared and were confused by…it's like complaining that a man who buys an expensive fishing pole and tackle, practices his casting for hours, ties flies, purchases a fishing license, hikes to a remote mountain lake, and spends his vacation days catching trout has an abiding fear of fish and has had his hobby destroyed because he caught his limit. You have to wonder what kind of screwy version of science this creationist carries in his head. Does he think the platypus genome project was a creationist initiative?

And if other responsible viewpoints exist, they are not represented by his inane letter.

How about another one? Another common characteristic of creationist thinking is the false hierarchy and the disingenuous enthronement of anything-but-biology as the only "true" science.

A belief in atheism and evolution by natural selection comes up way short when you throw pure science into the mix.

Evolutionists rely heavily on the science of biology, which employs as its main support resourceful guesswork and subjective conclusions. You see a lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves in their writings that have no place in mathematics, chemistry or physics (the pure sciences).

It has been math probability, chemical structure, the discovery of precise cellular organization (biochemistry) that have played havoc with evolution theory.

In the strictest sense, evolution by natural selection is not a science but a conjecture that has been sold as an established fact. We were content to accept it as a theory, but when it strayed into established fact, it became non-supportable by the pure-science folks and, like many things conceived by man, could not stand exposure by the light of truth.

In the words of a great statesman, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."

There is a deep confusion here, that absolute, unquestionable certainty is the hallmark of a true science. I assure you that physics and chemistry use proper scientific caution in their phrasing of their results, too, and like biology, all rely on evidence, not guesswork. This guy is a clueless loon who doesn't know a thing about any of the sciences, while using his imaginary criteria to shuffle them into nonexistent pigeonholes.

And, as usual, he mangles math and chemistry to claim that these have refuted biological conclusions when math and chemistry are right there at the heart of modern biology; these are disciplines we use in our work.

I'll be in Seattle in two week, and I hope Glen Howard and Ray Womack can make it to my talk. I'm planning to discuss common creationist misconceptions and failures to comprehend, as well as common creationist lies, and I intend to use examples from my mailbox as well as from the web — I may talk about their foolishness publicly. They're welcome to show up and try to bluster away.

Oh, also, while I'm in Seattle…Carl Zimmer is following me around. He's going to be giving a talk on 3 June, the day after mine. It's like a ScienceBlogs invasion!

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I notice newspapers really use their letters section as a safe place to dump crap. As bad as they can be, a typical newspaper would never include that stuff in their science section. But they feel the need to show all "sides" to an argument, and they let other people put out their dumb ideas, to let the ignorant feel recognized. Sometimes I think it's bad journalism to print certain letters. An editor should have their science correspondent look over letters before publishing them. That doesn't interfere with free speech or press. The paper is free to print good science or shoddy science, but they should choose to print the good stuff.

I'm anxious of going to bed tonight now. I just know I'm going to have that terrible Platypus eating a banana nightmare again ...

By Wallace Turner (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Funny, when you think about it. These buffoons point and sneer at the "evolutionists" and yet it was those same evolutionists that made the discoveries and published the papers. They did all the work, not their foolish detractors who did none.

I have yet to see where this research in any way detracts from the ToE. Indeed, quite the contrary.

When was the last time any YEC organization actually did science in any field, or indeed, was equiped to do such? Really, I'm asking.

doov

"It has been math probability, chemical structure, the discovery of precise cellular organization (biochemistry) that have played havoc with evolution theory."

This is clearly a reference to Dembski and Behe.

Too bad creationists only read crap pseudoscience and ignore actual science books.

Dembski and Wells, in their awful book The Design of Life, point out in a faux-triumphant sort of tone that although the platypus has characteristics we associate with birds and others we associate with mammals, even biologists admit that it's not a "transitional form" between birds and mammals. The book is loaded with forehead-slappers like that. The sad thing is, so few people understand the nature of evolution well enough to understand just why that's a stupid thing to say, and exactly why the platypus is not some sort of half-mammal half-bird transitional form. Needless to say, Dembski and Wells do nothing at all to explain how cladistic analysis of shared and derived characters actually works, or what the relationship between monotremes and therians is, or how once you understand that, the platypus makes perfect sense (or, perhaps I should say, as much sense as something as strange and grin-inducing as a platypus can make...).

Barry

By Barry Trask (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Newspapers publish opinion sections because it keeps readers engaged. So they go ahead and print letters that are totally stupid, or fly in the face of reality, because they know it will generate MORE letters, etc.

PZ quote "There are also scattered ghosts of the deeper branches in the fossil record; it's very spotty, of course, but enough to see an intermittent outline of the structure."

I like that.

By extatyzoma (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Dennis, I work for a newspaper. The letters section is for opinions, and editors find it hard to cut out any but the most repeatedly loony -- the crackpot who writes week after week about demon spiders coming to drag all sinners to hell, or the guy who sends repeated demands for the CIA to stop stealing his mail.

One place I worked, I got letters regularly from a retired English teacher who went through each issue and picked out every typo, misspelling and grammatical mistake. He not only sent me letters, he sometimes came by the office and carefully explained things to me!

Sometimes, it's a matter of not finding enough good letters to fill the hole, and sometimes they put in the loonies deliberately just because they're so funny.

The only defense we have is to make sure we write letters to represent the other side. Every time you see something in your area you think is going to stir up the anti-science idiots, see that a pre-emptive flurry of pro-science letters get written and sent to the paper.

"and, like many things conceived by man, could not stand exposure by the light of truth."

I'm surprised the writer didn't capitalize "Truth". Or better yet, "TRUTH!!!!!!111!!1"

I wish you wouldn't post these -- they just make me angry and then I don't get any work done! I hope those two yahoos DO show up when you lecture in Seattle so you can set them straight. More than likely though, they'll skip the event -- no one likes being proved wrong.

Thanks for the insight, Hank. I try to write to my paper whenever certain issues come up, but it's very difficult to explain complex issues and form rebuttals in 250 words or less, while it's quite easy to be nutty in just a few words. The crazies have a distinct advantage. It sometimes take pages to break down everything that's wrong. I end up writing it for myself, just to soothe the dumb out of my head.

Dr. PZ, while you're out in Seattle, why don't you make a picnic, and go check out the DI? I think you'll be able to find it; after all BS did, without too much trouble. It would be amusing to see the reception you get, strolling into the "lair of the enemy". Just be sure to take a good camera crew, and you might want to wear clothing made by DuPont (kevlar)...

By Blaidd Drwg (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I love the platypus example when talking with creationists, they've usually been told that this animal shows how evolution is wrong, and it's usually easy to show how wrong they are.

If there is a single lie that, when exposed, helps creationists out of their denial it is this one on the platypus. Of course it doesn't do much against the "you can't believe in our god if you accept science" line preached in many churches.

By Dutch Delight (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I would call these people retards, but that would be an insult to the truly developmentally disabled.

once again a testament to creationist ignorance, misunderstanding and lack of imagination.

Somehow the bird like bill of the playtpus, its venom, its egg laying all conspire to throw the creationist into a tizzy, words to the effect of 'how can evolution explain that?'.

well what a bunch of fucking neotenous gibbons, just because the platypus is a bit 'odd' among the surviving mammals they just cant hack it, one could pick ANY creature and say 'how can evolution explain that' and of course evolution can be used to explain all of it. Ive noticed that creationists always sound a bit dumb generally from their writing style, its hard to put my finger on it but these two letters sound like 17 year olds rehashing nonsense they have read in creationist pamphlets but im guessing they could be a bit older.

quote 'your ignorance is not evidence'.

By extatyzoma (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Rev. BigDumbChimp

Yeah but all those talking points are facts. When did they ever let facts influence their take on science.

Never, of course. Facts have a well-known liberal bias and can turn people into Godless evilutionists.

I AIN'T NO MONKEY!

Ugh. I can't keep this kind of farce up for long. How does Colbert do it?

Rats! I was really hoping that the first letter-writer would elaborate on those 'other responsible viewpoints' because I've yet to hear one.

Note to Mena @ 4: I prefer pathetic to 'inherently funny,' though they sure do say the strangest things.

By Pete Moulton (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Dennis N (#14): "[I]t's very difficult to explain complex issues and form rebuttals in 250 words or less, while it's quite easy to be nutty in just a few words."

An excellent, concise summary of the fundamental problem the pro-evolution/pro-reality side has. The Gish Gallop works because of this phenomenon - you can throw out fifty crazy ideas in the time it takes to refute one.

I know you're talking about newspaper editorials here, but it seems that it's a wider issue than just the back page of your local paper.

By chancelikely (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

It's morphology is the product...
"IT IS morphology is the product...", PZ? For shame!

hang on, i thought the playtpus could be the clincher, its almost the famous crocoduck, maybe the 'crocobeaver'.

surely this proves that evolution is true. ah damn, i suppose only the crocaduck will do, oh and its not a 'true transitional' well i dont suppose it can be (yes, it has retained transitional features) until its got about 20,000 descendents after it, doh.

By extatyzoma (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

[...] which employs as its main support resourceful guesswork and subjective conclusions. You see a lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves in their writings that have no place in mathematics, chemistry or physics.

Mr Womack has obviously never seen an inorganic chemist pull a reaction 'mechanism' out their arse.

Does he think the platypus genome project was a creationist initiative?

Idea!
Since the cdesign proponentsists pretty clearly have more money than good sense, could we not start spreading rumours along these lines?: "Gosh, I hope noöne ever sequences the genome for . If that were to become common knowledge Ebolution would surely be done for."

How many genomes do you think we could get them to finance that way before they caught on?

Finally, I wish I dreamt of platypodes!

#22, Patrick Henry: "I ain't kin to no platypus."

Speak fer yerself, Miles -- I mean, Patrick Henry. My sister done married m'cousin, and they have a li'l daughter we call "Platy Mae." All furry with a sorta beak. The doctors'd fix her but we need the eggs.

Barry

By Barry Trask (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

dutch delight.

quote "I love the platypus example when talking with creationists, they've usually been told that this animal shows how evolution is wrong, and it's usually easy to show how wrong they are." unquote

it never ceases to amaze me how people can seem fairly intelligent generally but if they have creationist leanings they invariably start to talk utter shit as soon as they try to discuss evolution, its a very strange phenomena, maybe the talk shit generally but i just dont give a hoot, at least when evo comes up i have a reasonable understanding and id say that not a single creationist I have met has the slightest understanding of evolution, its almost embarrasing. If they try to move to atheism or god, i ignore that and keep them working on evo until they realise they know jack shit and walk away.

By extatyzoma (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

The article states the platypus is a "transitional creature." Even evolutionists admit that the platypus does not qualify as transitional.

The first statement wasn't needed by the article's authors. If they actually made that statement, it was a waste of effort. It didn't help them (for a number of reasons) and it shoots them in the foot with these fundy assholes. The second sentence cannot be considered false because it doesn't even make sense.

Qualifies as a transitional creature? What, we have a fucking formula now?

"Taxon A possesses all of these synapamorphies of the clade we classify it in, Clade 1. But look, it also has three synapomorphies of this other clade over here, Clade 2. That's neat! Hey, but wait, Taxon B over there possesses four synapamorphies of Clade 2. Taxon B is obviously transitional between clades 1 and 2 where Taxon A is simply a member of Clade 1. Taxon A does not qualify as a transitional form between 1 and 2."

What a bunch of bullshit. If someone within the scientific community said that the platypus isn't transitional, they made a mistake. Everything is transitional...that's sort of the point.

Here's the task for the day. Find me an animal that isn't transitional. Show me an animal that isn't a transitional organism and bulletproof your answer. Go.

"evolution by natural selection is not a science but a conjecture that has been sold as an established fact"

I have seen similar arguments like this. The irony is lost on them that they are criticizing someone's beliefs as being conjecture and subjectivity treated as if it was established fact, yet they don't realize that their preferred "theory" is exactly that.

This "belief in atheism" nonsense annoys me no end. I wouldn't even know how to start to believe in atheism.

By mikespeir (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I've heard creation-sympathetic people bring up the platypus in simple water cooler discussions at work. I wish I had pressed them more, but this was several years ago now, and I was much less informed then.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

It has been math probability, chemical structure, the discovery of precise cellular organization (biochemistry) that...

It always annoys me that the creobots think that because you can produce a mathematical model of something, it somehow makes it correct. For some reason, they have the greatest difficulty in understanding that math is not some sort of magic dust that transforms their ridiculous fantasies into "science". Of course, in this process they demonstrate their complete ignorance both of biology AND mathematics. If the model is WRONG, the theorems are useless. And their models are laughably WRONG.

Don't y'all know the platypus was created by god on the 8th day. He rested real good on the 7th, got into the liquor cabinet and really decided to F*** with the scientists.

Now I think I am going to go F*** with some creationists I know. I will tell them since I have hazel eyes I am a transitional form between green eyed and brown eyed people.

To Mikespeir:

You could pray like Jacques Prévert:

Notre Père qui êtes aux cieux
Restez-y
Et nous nous resterons sur la terre
Qui est quelquefois si jolie
...

Translation:

Our father who is in Heaven
Stay there
And we shall stay on the earth
Which is sometimes so lovely

#32, Ale: "It always annoys me that the creobots think that because you can produce a mathematical model of something, it somehow makes it correct."

You know, that is my standard rant against Specified Complex Information, and against any "information theory" attack on evolution. I am a bit surprised that more people don't point this out when arguing with Dembski. Mathematical models prove nothing in themselves as regards the external, real world (though they may, of course, prove purely mathematical propositions beyond any doubt); they make predictions which we have to test by observation. So, if the model says evolution can't happen, but evolution seems to be happening regardless, that doesn't disprove evolution; it places the model in question.

Barry

By Barry Trask (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

"The science of biology relies heavily on evolution"

There we go, corrected it for 'em. What's the phrase? "Teaching biology without evolution is like teaching English without verbs".

Well, you got to hand it to him, though. Unlike most creationists, he actually hit the nail on the head on an argument that would, were it true, falsify evolution: the existence of a chimera (and no, by the way, I'm not talking about fused embryos, but relatively large multicellular creatures that have features as if they had descended from two otherwise independent branches of the tree of life). Too bad he's flat wrong that the platapus is an example of such a chimera.

By Jason Dick (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

This Ray Womack who seems to have a "very profound understanding of science" and writes :

In the words of a great statesman, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."

also wrote (found with google) :

Has it ever occurred to any of you that the banner "Mission Accomplished" referred to the aircraft carrier and its crew returning after months in the war zone and proud, as they should be, of a mission they accomplished? Do any of you know what goes on aboard an aircraft carrier in a war zone?

The president, as he should, was honoring the crew with his visit. If anyone bothered to listen to the president's speech after arriving on board, he never included the phrase "mission accomplished." He knew there was a long, hard fight left ahead.

How uninformed and foolish are you Democrats?

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2003693915_sunlets06.html

The president knew there was a long hard fight left ahead but had no problems with this "mission accomplished" banner knowing that the press of the whole world would be filming it ? How logical is that as an argument ?

Doesn't surprise me that when one has the same kind of twisted logic as our dear president one can come up with this kind of letters to the editor.
What a joke this guy is.

Don't think you really want to meet with this Ray Womack when in Seattle, PZ.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

[QOUTE]it never ceases to amaze me how people can seem fairly intelligent generally but if they have creationist leanings they invariably start to talk utter shit as soon as they try to discuss evolution[/QUOTE]

I can't give credit for this quote, since I don't know who he is, but its one of the guys who talked on 'Bullshit!' episode about the bible.

"Smart people are very good at rationalizing things they learned for unsmart reasons."

By Josh West (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Mr Womack has obviously never seen an inorganic chemist pull a reaction 'mechanism' out their arse.

Hey, just do a couple of oxidative additions and reductive eliminations, and you are on your way!

Back to the topic: I remember reading about platypus evolution a few years ago on TalkOrigins. Now, I don't necessarily think that TO was the final word or anything, but I've been wondering, did the recently reported genome make any serious changes to the general view of platypus evolution?

I nominated the platypus as "best mammal," though I'm sure that I wasn't the first.

It's a great little bugger. The animal is just what you'd expect from something that split off from our lineage (or vice-versa--well, it's both) long ago.

I was asking the IDiots why it is that the platypus has similarities with us "because we have the same designer", yet has entirely different sex chromosomes than we do, while actually having our sex chromosomes as autosomes. Of course they didn't answer. If they really thought about the platypus, it only makes sense as an evolved animal having reptilian and even bird genetics that the rest of mammals (except two species of echidna) have lost.

Of course they can't wrap their minds around the fact that a mammal would have bird genetics, since they think that birds would be "evolving to become birds" and platypuses would be "evolving to become mammals". Actual evolutionary dynamics are confusion to them, because their hatred of biology hasn't allowed them to learn evolutionary theory. Oh, a lot of them are hideously lazy intellectually, as well.

Gee, you might think that Darwinists hiding the truth wouldn't want to expose all of the "difficulties" of the platypus genome, especially since we had evidence of how unusual it is for mammals well before sequencing was completed. Except, of course, that the platypus genome has done what every other sequenced genome has, demonstrated that genomes are absolutely without sense or reason without (non-teleological) evolutionary theory.

Were it otherwise, I would hope that we'd be pleased to know of this. However, nothing suggests that it is at all other than evolution we see by comparing genomes.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

Some days ago, I saw (here, perhaps, or elsewhere in the Web) a cartoon, with, on the left, normal scientifics saying "here are the facts, which conclusion can we draw from them?" and on the right, creationists saying "here is the conclusion, which facts can we say to make it valid?" or something like that.

But I don't remember where I saw it. Here, perhaps? But I didn't find. Can somebody tell me? Thanks.

I consider it is the first reason why it is impossible to talk with religious people. They already know what is true.

Further evidence of the kind of desease that seems to be occupying most of Mr Womack's brain :

As is routinely common in the Bush-bashing game, no credible evidence is offered to back up the claims.

Democrats never do their homework. It is easier to fabricate or misapply the facts and use emotion to force the opposition to accept them. We must thank the Good Lord and the authors for our First Amendment. It is being sorely molested and abused to serve the whims and fantasies of rapacious jurists. But it will prevail.

Do we really want to abandon the Iraqis and add to the legacy of Vietnam as those cowardly Americans who run and hide when things go badly?

We see elements in the Democrat party that seem eager to see America fail in Iraq. How patriotic is that? How do they support the troops by not only objecting to sending help but also threatening to cut funding if help is sent?

Freedom is on the move around the world and you all deserve your seat at the table.

And of course, the expectable and unavoidable letter from Mr Womack to the editor with his most precious comments on HOMOSEXUALITY, what else would you expect ...

We seem to be moving toward the inexorable elevation of an abnormal behavior to acceptance as a normal aspect of the human character. In reality, homosexuality seeks nothing less than a protection as a right by legal fiat. Many wonderful individuals are locked into this lifestyle and we do them no favors by condoning it as a normal aspect of human sexuality.

The aggressive efforts of those leading the cry for normal acceptance characterize it as a civil right. Those in the lifestyle have the same rights guaranteed to us all, but their leadership seeks an additional right to engage in an aberrant behavior forcing its acceptance on the rest of society.

Truth be known, my prayers go out to those locked into the homosexual lifestyle. It has gained political clout as well as something like divine acceptance in some mainline churches. The downside is never mentioned in news coverage. Truth is swept away in a tidal wave of benevolent acceptance and glamorous portrayal. Even the basic family institution of marriage is now under virulent attack.

And what can one expect when many sexual associations between a man and a woman is occurring out of wedlock. I weep for America.

You see, it's like a winner take all, you know for sure that the first letter, the naïve little letter on science and evolution generates all this nonsense, it's guaranteed win !

Thank you for this dreck Mr Womack.

By negentropyeater (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

UGH. Just, UGH! To me, it is inconceivable that these folks even read the platypus genome paper. They certainly SHOULD have, but it's painfully obvious that they did not.

So, when reading these comments, it's just eye-gaugingly bad =(

The platypus?? Feh!

What I really want them evilutionist to explain is the jackalope. I seen one of them in a bar out in Wyoming and there ain't no way you can't call that the work of a creator.

@ Josh West #38:

It was Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society, if I recall correctly.

You see a lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves in their writings that have no place in mathematics, chemistry or physics (the pure sciences).

There's a slap in Heisenberg's face.

By Reginald Selkirk (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Reginald, that is a gross overstatement of the significance of Heisenberg. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle has very little real impact on chemistry or (most of) physics, especially in regards to "might haves" and "could haves." h-bar is just too small to lead to much uncertainty in these fields as usually applied. Yeah, it comes to play in particle physics and in ultrafast spectroscopy (an interesting incidence, btw), but a materials scientist isn't going to be invoking Heisenberg.

Ray Womack:

Evolutionists rely heavily on the science of biology, which employs as its main support resourceful guesswork and subjective conclusions. You see a lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves in their writings that have no place in mathematics, chemistry or physics (the pure sciences).

Hah! I'd like to see this retard try to retain this attitude next time he has to go to the hospital! Doctor:

We're sorry Mr. Ray Womack but because of the fact that biology is not a "pure science" we can't perform your desperately needed bypass surgery - it is, after all, only "resourceful guesswork and subjective conclusions" and has "lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves".

What I wanna know is, how did Noah git the platypus on his ark, seein' that it's only found in Austrailia?

They got a lot of weird critters down that way. Why'd so many weird ones end up in just one spot?

Platypi give me nightmares, but not for the same reason. They're so cute...but they have venomous barbs of agony.

About this "peanut butter jar": now, when looking at such videos, I check whether it is a comedy or not, so terribly stupid they can be.

The peanut-butter thing is a classic. Monumentally stupid.

And what arrogance and disrespect for knowledge it reveals!

God, I just went and read my local paper back home and had to come back here for a dose of sanity. Every day is 3 letters to the editor touting tired old ID arguments, and there's no comment section to debunk them. I have to come here back to relax.

What I wanna know is, how did Noah git the platypus on his ark, seein' that it's only found in Austrailia?

Hyperfast tectonics--after the flood.

Seriously, I've seen them advocate that. Doesn't explain why so much weird shit is in Australia, but that would require them to be consistent...

I realize the difficulty you have over there in USA... (sorry, I just discover that.) But I consider that they are wrong to try to attack science: Science is a wall very hard to destroy. Hope it is not going to degenerate into a civil war.

About the sainted crocoduck
I do not give a flying fuck.
Bananas do not trouble me
Because I know their history.
The jar of creamy peanut butter
Used by that religious nutter
Does not bother me at all
And cannot make my spirits fall.

These people now will claim, it seems,
The platypus must haunt my dreams--
Creationists who haunt Seattle
Write this sort of brainless prattle
And send it to the local press
Though why they print it, I can't guess.
(The only part that gives me fright
Is this: These folks know how to write?)

Cuttlefish (@58):

I would suggestyou submit this (with the second line suitably redacted) to the Times as an LTTE... except that in my experience they insist on knowing your name and address, which I suspect would be a dealbreaker for you. Too bad...

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I prefer the Tardis Ark explanation. You see, the interior of Noah's Ark existed in a different dimension created by God explicitly for Noah's use. The Ark has many entrances, each opening onto a different continent. You see? Don't you feel stupid now?

SEATTLE SYMPOSIUM on GENOMICS of SPECIATION this Friday
For PZ and other interested Seattlites:
If you're in Seattle this week, there is a great symposium offered at Foege Auditorium in (of course) Foege Hall on the UW South Campus, Friday May 22 from 8:30- 11;20- The 4th Annual Genome Sciences Traning Grant Symposium : "The Genomics of Speciation". Joseph Felsenstein, UW, William Rice, UCSB, Mohammed Noor, Duke and Hopi Hoestra, Harvard, are all giving talks. Don't know if you will be here yet, PZ, but the talks should be great, and maybe of general interest to Pharyngulites. I'll post this here, and leave it to readers to forward info to those who might be interested. The announcement poster gives (Jeremiah Smith)JJsmith@u.washington.edu as a contact email.

Tardis Ark! Tardis Ark!

Don't you feel stupid now?

Uh... yeah. That really puts the "tard" in "Tardis".

It also reminds me of Howl's Moving Castle.

I wish there were some effective way to call the anti-science people on their arrogance.

Some scientist spends years studying an issue in detail and arrives at the podium to offer his observations and insights. What sane person, unless a qualified expert, would stand to say, "You've got it all wrong"?

Imagine having a carpenter at your home putting in a window. Your neighbor who knows nothing of carpentry or building regulations says, "Ur doin it wrong!"

There's a reason witnesses are not asked for their opinions in court, unless they happen to be experts in a relevant field. Non-expert opinion is worthless. At best, a non expert may offer a second-hand summary of an expert's position.

These creationists are ignorant of their own ignorance. Their insulated from the humiliation that would awaken them to their lack by a comforting illusion: that there exists a whole ton of experts out there backing them up. They know the experts are there because Pastor said so and because they hear all the time about these debates going on. The folks in the debates are Christian scientists and doctors. Real smart leaders in their fields.

The only science the creoturds have comes from their book of mythology, The Beeble

By Ex Partiate (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

With all the fundamentalist morons claiming that a platypus is some sort of chimera, I feel as though I have to defend the integrity of my blog title - Chimaera Contemplations. So with apologies to both T. S. Eliot and The Digital Cuttlefish:

The Ad-dressing of Platypuses

You've heard of the platypus from Australia
That is a member of the Class Mammalia
It split off from our family tree
Before we evolved viviparity
When first discovered it caused a ruckus
But was very soon named Ornithorhynchus

But how do you ad-dress a platypus?

It has a bill superficially like a duck
That it uses to dig around in the muck
This "beak" is electro-sensory and more
To locate prey for this carnivore
It does lay eggs, like few mammals other
But young platypus do drink milk from their mother

But contrary to what you may have heard
A PLATYPUS is NOT part BIRD

The venomous ankle spurs the males portray
May help keep other males at bay
And this is hypothesized to be the reason
They are only venomous during breeding season

But do not make the silly MISTAKE
To think the Platypus is part SNAKE

A chimera is a mythical creature
With fire-breathing as a prominent feature
Part lion, part serpent, part goat but all Greek
Bellerophon and Pegasus killed this freak

Although the beast was born of Echidna
A platypus is real and is NOT a CHIMERA

A chimaera is a fish of the deep and dark
With a rat-tail and claspers, it's related to the shark
It also is an organism with genetically different tissues
A chimera can cause the CSI some real issues

A chimera is also a wild dream or illusion
This is MUCH more like the creationist's delusion

The genetics are causing biologists no fuss
And this is how you AD-DRESS a PLATYPUS

(Sorry it's so long)

lol...Evolutionists are having a hard time with the "PLATYPUS" which is still not known to them if it's more reptile or closer to mammals. Some have suggested it's closer to reptile, but interesting observation to note, snakes strike with their fangs, while a Platypus strikes with it's heel. Now where are those missing links that moved the venom apparatus from one end of the body to the other?

Michael, do not run from the other discussion. Please tell us the experiment you mentioned about ID being done in a lab.

Actually, according to Michael:

ID is able to be performed in a lab, and it doesn't use the Bible for answers, thus you will see some conclusions contrary to Creationism. ID basically uses the lab. Performing all four basics of science, "observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion".

We're waiting for an example.

Some have suggested it's closer to reptile, but interesting observation to note, snakes strike with their fangs, while a Platypus strikes with it's heel. Now where are those missing links that moved the venom apparatus from one end of the body to the other?

If you idiot trolls could or would read, you'd know that the model is that the platypus evolved venom independently of the evolution of snake venom, with both animals evolving venom from similar proteins.

As usual, you morons have no explanation for why the "designer" used the same proteins to modify to make snake venom and platypus venom. It could have used tarantula proteins to make venom, if it really were an intelligent designer.

Only evolution has sufficient constraint to make predictions, and of course it predicted that both snakes and platypuses would modify previously reptilian proteins to make proteinaceous venom (if such venom were found in both). While evolutionary theory does not predict that the same proteins must be used (at least not at our level of understanding--further research may show that it had to be that way), the results of this genome study is highly consistent with evolution, and not at all with an honest design hypothesis.

And no, I didn't respond for the sake of this mindless troll, but because honest readers might have questions about this matter.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

I think what Michael means there is that they use the lab in the same way that the Cowbird uses nests.

They are parasitic. Not doing any real work themselves but picking bits and parts of actual science done in labs and distorting it to fit their preconceived idea of ID.

I'm still waiting on the testable theory before I start asking for any research.

Time to cue the SIG:
Michael, thou bootless fen-sucked minnow!

Thanks Glen. I actually thought Michael was being sarcastic for a laugh. Then I clicked on his nick.

And I would be extremely interested in this "lab use" that Michael the troll talks about. Everything that I have seen on ID amounts to nothing else but self-delusion. So, Michael? Do tell.

In the words of a great statesman, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."

Either he's referring to Abraham Lincoln, to whom this quote has never been satisfactorily attributed, or else he's calling P.T. Barnum (again, probably misattributed) a "great statesman". Or Jack Lemmon as Harry Hinkle in The Fortune Cookie.

Actually, according to Michael:

ID is able to be performed in a lab, and it doesn't use the Bible for answers, thus you will see some conclusions contrary to Creationism. ID basically uses the lab. Performing all four basics of science, "observations, hypothesis, experiments, and conclusion".

We're waiting for an example.

Posted by: Dennis N

Shhh, Dennis! I think Michael is confusing Laboratory with Lavatory again.

Michael? Michael?

Michael, like all creationists, is obsessed with "kinds". Strike one.

He's also mistaking superficial press coverage for something resembling fact. Strike two.

Josh (@28) quoth:
Here's the task for the day. Find me an animal that isn't transitional. Show me an animal that isn't a transitional organism and bulletproof your answer. Go.

Dodo. Extinct by human action. No known descendants.

Passenger Pigeon. Extinct by human action. No known descendants.

Great try, ttch, seriously - but that's not bulletproof. You still have to demonstrate that the dodo wasn't a "transition" between its ancestor and its extinction. Ditto the PP. A bulletproof example necessarily cannot have descended from another species.

You may be on to something, though.

Dodo. Extinct by human action. No known descendants.

Passenger Pigeon. Extinct by human action. No known descendants.

Nope. Sorry. The fact that an organism has gone extinct doesn't mean that evolution wasn't operating on it up until the point that it went out. The fact that the species is gone has nothing at all to do with whether or not it was "fully formed" (which is I guess what a non-transitional form would be) while it was here.

James F (#86):

Fantastic news!

Thinking about these "teach the weaknesses" and "critical analysis" bills, I've started to wonder if we evilutionists shouldn't co-opt the language. Why not create websites, lesson plans, etc., with titles like Critical Analysis of Evolution which actually teach criticism the way scientists do it? At the very least, we might be able to dominate the Google hit parade for key buzzwords.

Find me an animal that isn't transitional.

I would suggest something that reproduces asexually, except that (after reading The Ancestor's Tale) I know that even bdelloid rotifers have speciated. They may all be clones of their parents, but genetic variation occurs nonetheless, albeit not as much as in organisms that reproduce sexually.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

@MPG:

speaking of PT Barnum and things involved with hoaxes...

P. T. Barnum Never Did Say: "There's a Sucker Born Every Minute"

http://www.historybuff.com/library/refbarnum.html

Check it out if you've never heard the real story behind the Cardiff Giant before; it's quite an amusing and informative story.

Find me an animal that isn't transitional.

that would essentially mean an animal whose every identifiable trait has completely gone to fixation in every population.

why restrict it to "animals", btw? there's other kingdoms out there.

Whoever plans to try to do this, we'll see you... well, we'll see your great great great great great grandchildren maybe, when all organisms on the planet have been analyzed to see if there is one that has gone to complete fixation.

:P

...hey, maybe we should give that job to Kenny?

Will your talk be recorded? I'd love to hear one! This is Youtube material, PZ! (especially if those two phonies end up coming :D)

An animal that isn't transitional? That's easy: a species that has only one surviving member.

Of course, 'species' is hard to define... so I guess what we really need to do is wait until there's only one *cell* left alive, probably a billion or so years hence just before the Earth turns into a twin of Venus. All of that organism's genes will have drifted to fixation (if you can call it drift when everything else is dead).

Shortly afterwards, life will end.

I think I prefer some actual diversity in my biology.

did the recently reported genome make any serious changes to the general view of platypus evolution?

Nope.

Do we really want to abandon the Iraqis and add to the legacy of Vietnam as those cowardly Americans who run and hide when things go badly?

Man. This is what this fuckwit believes is the image the world has of Americans?

TSIB!!!

The legacy of Vietnam was that Americans* are capable of entering a monumental war of evil against evil, turn it into an even more senseless and bigger bloodbath, and refusing to go away when they've lost, out of the insane belief that keeping the blood flowing would somehow redeem their dead soldiers from having died in vain -- out of the insane, cowardish fear that they'd be seen as losers, as if they could have done anything against having already lost years ago, and that in a war that was completely unwinnable from long before the beginning -- in fact, from before the preceding war (Vietminh vs France). The legacy of Vietnam is a textbook lesson in the oxidation behavior of stupid. And the stupid oxide still lies around in Vietnam and kills people and all manner of other living beings.

*...like everyone else...

Cuttlefish (@58):

I would suggestyou submit this (with the second line suitably redacted) to the Times as an LTTE...

"About the sainted crocoduck
I do not give a flying vertical gene transfer.
Bananas do not trouble me
Because I know their history.
[...]"

No, really... submit that. :-)

Shhh, Dennis! I think Michael is confusing Laboratory with Lavatory again.

LOL! My night is saved.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

PZ, if you think that's bad, then try living in Texas and going to a conservative university. I go to Texas A&M and here is the level of idiocy I have to dwell with more often than I care to.
http://www.texags.com/main/forum.topic.asp?forum_id=15
Trust me, this is not an unfair representation of what goes on in University grounds.

Luckily, the faculty, as to be expected, is largely exempt from this critique. I'm also taking a course on Evolution and Genetics. You can damn well be sure if I hear anything this outrageous from fellow students (and I likely will), I won't stay silent (I seldom do).

It's not so much the religious aspect that annoys me, if you want to retain your ignorance to yourself, fine by me. It's the willingly propagation of falsehoods and idiocy that baffles me. And then politicians will turn around and criticize our teaching of sciences in public schools. Yes, it's because some member of some school boards would rather teach supersticion.

The average college student knows more about quantum physics than they do about evolution (and the average college student knows nothing about quantum physics).
And unfortunately they seemingly don't learn anything in college either.

By 19bernardo87 (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I would suggest something that reproduces asexually, except that (after reading The Ancestor's Tale) I know that even bdelloid rotifers have speciated.

You seem to have reified the Biological Species Concept.

Just ignore it. Evolution is descent with heritable modification. Speciation is not required, nor is any species concept required.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Re:#18 I really hate it when people compare the religious folks to dumb animals. What do you have against neotenous gibbons (young apes). Please do not compare them to cretinist IDiots. At least the gibbons are truly applying themselves to the issues at hand. Mark

You seem to have reified the Biological Species Concept.

I don't make this stuff up; I'm just reporting it. Although Dawkins was reporting it too (that is, he's reporting on the research done on bdelloids, his emphasis being more on chromosome variation), and he does mention the trickiness of determining/defining species in asexual metazoans.

Evolution is descent with heritable modification.

Obviously! I'm just trying to understand some of the details that are still somewhat debatable (among working biologists, I mean).

Speciation is not required, nor is any species concept required.

It's this sort of thing that gives me headaches. I'm really not sure what it means, in relation to what I wrote.

Did you just mean that I didn't need to mention that bdelloids have speciated, since the offspring differ from their parents, no matter what critera are used to define species?

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

the trickiness of determining/defining species in asexual metazoans.

This assumes asexual metazoans actually form species.

It assumes that anything actually forms species.

That's not a good assumption to start from. It's essentialism -- Platonism, ultimately.

Rather than asking "what is a species", we should be asking "what do we call this assemblage of populations".

Did you just mean that I didn't need to mention that bdelloids have speciated, since the offspring differ from their parents, no matter what critera are used to define species?

Yes. Because whether they speciated isn't simply a fact. For example, it depends on the species concept. Under the two Biological Species Concepts bdelloids don't speciate, because they don't form species in the first place -- only sexual organisms do. Mayr once explicitly said so. Several other species concepts are applicable, but they don't all yield the same results.

Some think "species" is a rank like every other (genus, family, order, class...), means, just as unreal. I haven't yet seen any evidence to the contrary. What each species concept describes is real, but the idea that all species concepts have some common denominator (so that it makes sense to call them species concepts) is not supported by evidence. It's essentialism.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

It's very apt that the creationists speak in Comic Sans.

(That's the font they use in my head, at least.)

By A Design Geek (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

Hey! How about wearing your reply to the Creobots as a T-Shirt?

(wow! I remembered that comic from way back in 2001!)

By Charlie Foxtrot (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

I was bored and so I decided to read the letters mentioned above. Wow, people that stupid talking as if they have an insight lost on the rest.

The whole "Biology is less of a science than X" argument sounds a lot like our local Troll Kenny. I wonder if it's some new godbot talking point.

A problem for evolutionists? It bloomin' inspired Darwin, by showing him another example of the problems with creationism - from his Journal & Remarks (nowadays published as The Voyage of the Beagle) -

In the dusk of the evening I took a stroll along a chain of ponds, which in this dry country represented the course of a river, and had the good fortune to see several of the famous Platypus, or Ornithorhyncus paradoxus. They were diving and playing about the surface of the water, but showed so little of their bodies that they might easily have been mistaken for water-rats. Mr. Browne shot one: certainly it is a most extraordinary animal; the stuffed specimens do not at all give a good idea of the recent appearance of its head and beak; the latter becoming hard and contracted.

A little time before this I had been lying on a sunny bank, and was reflecting on the strange character of the animals of this country as compared with the rest of the world. An unbeliever in every thing beyond his own reason might exclaim, "Two distinct Creators must have been at work; their object, however, has been the same, and certainly the end in each case is complete."

This might be why America is infested with creationists: most high school biology teachers are incompetent and need to be fired.

"Less than one-third of high school biology teachers believe that God had no part in evolution, nearly one-half believe God had a hand in evolution, and almost one in six believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years."

http://tinyurl.com/3vojj8

Seeing as how the Discovery Institute is in Seattle, it hardly comes as a surprise that these letters were published in the Seattle Times...

One of the many ridiculous claims BS made in Expelled was that Big Science and Big Journalism are teaming up to expel ID from newspapers as well. Hmmm.....

(Actually, I think he was trying to say this about the media in general, though it's a bit difficult to tell since he gave a total of one [dishonest] example of a media "expulsion," and that was from print journalism. If he was trying to say this about the media in general, though, I'd be curious to see how he would reconcile this with the reception he's gotten on the mainstream TV media, which has been sickeningly nice to the point of coddling.)

In the words of a great statesman, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time."

(Emphasis mine.)

Creationists are a prime example of that second case. Some of the people, being fooled all of the time. And trying to fool the rest of us into sharing their constant delusion by hijacking the educational system....

In the second letter, i love how he tries to compare biology with the other "pure" sciences, like physics and chemistry, while epistemologically they have nothing in common. Physics is reductionist, while applying reductionism to biology is senseless. I suggest reading the works of Ernst Mayr (i'm reading "what makes biology unique" right now). Biology is a relatively new science, and because of the nature of what it studies, what applies to exact sciences cannot be applied here.

When this story 1st came out I was very 'Supercool! They sequenced a monotreme!' Not many of those left. And of course I mostly read the stories from sciency type websites. So it took me awhile to notice the HORRID write ups from the Main Stream Media types. At a certain point you have to spread the blame around. Many science news editors should be taken out behind the shed and horse whipped.
Sure I agree the Creationists say stupid things, but how much of the blame needs to rest on the heads of folks who write up news that says things like 'Part Bird, Part Reptile, Part Mammal'? And genes for making snake venom?!? Umm..No. Evolved that -after- it was a furry lille mammal all on it's own and only basically is kinda similar to snake venom. Doesn't bother to mention that until deeper into the news article.
Humans are part reptile too. Check your brain stem.

By KeaponLaffin (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

It AIN'T so! Those letters weren't from Seattle. They were from small rural communities well outside Seattle.

Don't ask me why the Discovery Institute is here, since I can't think of a place less amenable to their agenda. They don't even try to get ID or creationism into our local schools, knowing their chances would be nill, and instead focus their efforts on other venues. Sorry about that, rest of the USA...

Kseniya wrote: You may be on to something, though.

I don't think he's on to anything, actually. That an organism is extinct has nothing to do with whether or not evolution was "doing something to it" before its "death." It isn't as though organisms which go extinct stop evolving beforehand. Clades don't sit upon the precipice of oblivion and say to themselves "Oh, well we're screwed--I guess we should just give up now and shut down the whole evolutionary machine." As far as we can tell, the clade doesn't "know" that it's going out. It continues to rage against the dying of the light, without any "organismal knowledge" that the light is fading. Extinction is the end of evolution, sure, but even if an organism loses the big game, it continues playing until it gets dragged off the field.

[finding an animal that wasn't transitional] would essentially mean an animal whose every identifiable trait has completely gone to fixation in every population.

Yeah, pretty much. As far as we know, that isn't the way the "machine" works. It presumes that there is some sort of fitness stasis state that can be achieved.

why restrict it to "animals", btw? there's other kingdoms out there.

*shrug* completely arbitrary choice.

Whoever plans to try to do this, we'll see you... well, we'll see your great great great great great grandchildren maybe, when all organisms on the planet have been analyzed to see if there is one that has gone to complete fixation.

If we're gonna give this task to Kenny (which I think is a terrific idea), we first need to get him to define a means by which we can assess fixation for a trait in a reliable sense. Maybe we want to add a few more "greats" on?

Heck, while we're at it, can we get him to sort out the "species" concept?

An animal that isn't transitional? That's easy: a species that has only one surviving member.

By "member" do you mean individual?

And this doesn't work because again it presumes that the one last member (I'm gonna use individual) of the "species" (nods to your recognition of what a pain in the ass it is to define this) is for some reason "fully fit" (i.e., evolution is "done" with it). As far as I understand our current understanding of how evolution works, there is no such state where evolution is "done" with a clade (except the state of actually being extinct). And even if that state did exist, there is no reason for it to coincide with the last surviving individual of a group. You're correct of course that the last individual of a "species" isn't going to itself transition into anything else (ignoring for the moment that evolution is something that happens to populations), but that doesn't mean it wasn't transitional (i.e., was "fully fit").

Jesus...could evolution be any less user-friendly?

"You see a lot of maybes and might-haves and could-haves in their writings that have no place in mathematics, chemistry or physics (the pure sciences)."

What he completely misses is that what defines science is precise observation, rather than precise calculation (not to dismiss the value of mathematics, but without solid observations "garbage in-->garbage out" is the rule of the day.)

That in mind, biology is one of the strongest scientific disciplines going. Unlike, say, astronomy, the kinds of tools we have for biology are fairly good at making observations at the scales we require. Unlike, say, high energy particle physics, the subject matter, organisms, are relatively easy to acquire, observe, and analyze.

Indeed, the culprit behind the lamented stall-out in attempts to develop a "theory of everything" is not a lack of mathematical models, nor a lack of intelligent researchers and theorists (physics has plenty of each), but rather the prohibitive expenses involved in making the needed observations of high-energy phenomenon.

By Jason Failes (not verified) on 20 May 2008 #permalink

PZ, if you bump into Bill Gates while you're out there, ask him why he's pouring millions into the anti-science asshats at the Discovery Institute.

humm.... seems to be outlined right there on that link

The Discovery Institute today announced a 10-year, $9.35 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will enable Discovery Institute to increase the efforts of its "Cascadia Project," a long-term initiative to develop balanced, seamless, and expanded transportation systems among Washington, Oregon and British Columbia through public-private partnerships and innovative financing.

The grant will fund research, development, promotion and implementation of a long-term transportation plan for the Puget Sound region.

Th DI has other projects not directly related to their anti-science pushes.The Cascadia Project actually has some good goals behind it. But yes, it is a shame that the DI is involved.

Physics is reductionist, while applying reductionism to biology is senseless.

IANAB, so I am continually baffled when people make such sweeping claims, seeing that there are so many senses of reductionism. Doesn't populations contains individuals, multicellulars cells, and genomes genes?

OTOH biology as a science seems less amenable to greedy reductionism due to a large number of epiphenomena including emergent phenomena. But also not greedy parsimony due to a large number of contingencies.

If that is what such statements means, why would that be surprising or making parsimony or reductionism useless? For example, AFAIU is parsimony successfully used in phylogenies in spite of the contingencies of lineages, and lineages itself seems reductionist (but useful) in spite of the existence of LGT and endosymbiosis.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 20 May 2008 #permalink

Some have suggested it's closer to reptile, but interesting observation to note, snakes strike with their fangs, while a Platypus strikes with it's heel. Now where are those missing links that moved the venom apparatus from one end of the body to the other?

Now you are just trolling, as the very post answered both questions (in a link to a phylogeny).

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 20 May 2008 #permalink

The original letter writer says:
"[T]here are creatures only at the tips of the branches and absolutely nothing leading up to them. The tree does not exist, nor do the branches, only their tips."
I was surprised that PZ's response("only the tips of the evolutionary tree still exist") seems to acknowledge the legitimacy of this statement. I would have said that the tree analogy is only that--an analogy--and as such is an imperfect way of illustrating the concept. We could just as easily say that a family tree consists only of tips, with no actual tree or branches, and yet it's still a useful illustration of one's relationships with parents, grandparents, etc.

I found the questions regarding the delineation of what constitutes a "species" very interesting. I think that the demarcation between various species is comparable to that which exists between "genders". While there are going to be several instances where it is easy to determine a particular species or gender(a member is definitely either this or that) there is going to be a certain percentage that defies easy categorization. Or to put it another way that gender (and I believe that speciation as well) exists as a continuum rather than definable category or entity. In the case of human gender I have seen estimates of up of 1% of the population exhibit enough traits of both sexes to be considered neither truly one or the other.

Glen Howard, DVM, of North Bend, WA, is one of the veterinarians that own the veterinary clinic at which my wife works. I can't guarantee that Glen will be at your talk, but I can guarantee that he will know about it, if nothing else.

I'm curious about the number of scientists that would be involved in a project of this scope (I'm no scientist, just love science). Does anyone have a ballpark figure?

I would have said that the tree analogy is only that--an analogy--and as such is an imperfect way of illustrating the concept.

Agreed. But then you miss the IMHO useful device that it is a mathematical "tree" structure.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 22 May 2008 #permalink

My apologies, I wasn't very clear in my question. The "project of this scope" I was referring to was the mapping of the platypus genome.