National Geographic

Cystic Fibrosis? Blame Eve

Last night, as my family settled into a three-hour drive home, I began scanning the AM radio dial. The tuner stopped at on a well-produced segment in which the announcer was talking about recent evolution of pigmentation genes and lactose-digestion genes in humans. This is a surprise, I thought, and I settled in for a listen. It took about twenty seconds for me to realize that this was the work of creationists. I spent the next fifteen minutes listening to the piece with jaw aslack, making sure I didn’t get so distracted I missed my exit. There is something so absorbing about the elaborate rhetorical gymnastics that creationists engage in order to square their views with new scientific evidence.


This morning I did a little research online and discovered that what I had heard was part of a weekly radio program from the Institute for Creation Research. It claims that all of the new research on recent evolution in humans does not actually serve as evidence of evolution, but rather of man’s recent creation and fall. They dismiss the examples of recent evolution in various ways. They are just minor changes, for starters, not the sort that produce “fish-to-philosopher” evolution, as the announcer put it. They just tweak the human form. Or these mutations consist of losses, rather than gains, through mutation. Humans have lost olfactory receptor genes, for example.

The radio show then explains the real origin of all these patterns in our genome. The Institute for Creation Research was founded to promote Young Earth Creationism–the claim that the Earth is only a few thousand years old. The announcer explained that the minor variations in the human genome originated at the time of the flood, or at the creation of man at the earliest. Mankind was created with a perfect genome, we are told, and once we turned away from God through sin, our genome has been degrading ever since. All mutations that have accumulated since the fall of man have led to the loss of genes and to disease.

I have to say that the “Genomic Degradation as Original Sin” line was new to me. But in order to make this case, the radio show engages in the three classic creationist errors.

Error #1: Get the science wrong.

In order to portray recent mutations as nothing but loss and suffering, ICR must distort the facts. Take their discussion of mutations that provide protection for malaria but can also cause sickle-cell anemia. An ICR “scientist” tells us that all this mutation does let people die of sickle-cell anemia at age 15 instead of dying of malaria at age 10.

Earth to ICR: if what you say is true, then why do so many people have these mutations? Why didn’t they all die before they could pass that awful gene down to children? Because people only get sickle-cell anemia when they inherit two copies of this gene. One copy gives protection to malaria. On balance, natural selection thus favors the gene in regions with high rates of malaria.

The radio piece also makes a big deal about the digestion of lactose, a sugar in milk. It describes some populations as producing lactase, the enzyme for digesting lactose, and others as not producing it. Thus, this is just another case of a mutation destroying “genetic information” rather than creating it.

Second transmission from Earth to ICR: if what you say is true, then babies in those populations that cannot digest lactose should all die. After all, they cannot digest the lactose in the milk they get from their mothers. Here’s the real story: all mammals produce lactase as babies, in order to break down lactose in milk. Then, after weaning, the mammal’s cells stop reading the lactase gene. Since adult mammals don’t drink milk, making an enzyme to break down lactose is a waste of energy. The timing of this switch is under genetic control, and mutations can delay it until later in life. In human populations where cattle-herding became important, mutations that allowed humans to continue making lactase as adults were favored by natural selection. So nothing was lost. In fact, dare I say it, these human populations gained an adaptation that their ancestors lacked.

Error #2: Skip over inconvenient facts.

The ICR molecular biologists and science professor from Liberty University throw out lots of details, which may give the impression that they’re telling you everything there is to know about the evidence of recent evolution. But they skip over major things that would knock out the basis for their claims. For example, they claim that all the genetic changes that scientists have identified have nothing to do with the major changes that would have arisen on the way from ape-like ancestors to humans–such as an increase in cranial capacity. They conveniently skip over the genes that have been identified as having experienced natural selection in our ancestors that play a role in language, brain size, and brain development.

Error #3: Contradict yourself.

You can only conclude from this radio piece that the folks at ICR accept the evidence that humans have recently acquired mutations. But in many cases, scientists can only determine recent changes in humans by comparing our genomes to our relatives–chimpanzees, for example, and mice. By studying their genomes, scientists discover what our ancestral genome was like, and can then pinpoint the changes that arose in our genome after our ancestors split off from other species. If the ICR accepts these examples of recent human genetic change, then they must accept our common ancestry with chimpanzees and mice.

I am not a theologian, and so I won’t try to dive too deeply into the religious implications of thinking of our genomes as the result of original sin. But I do wonder how one makes that sort of idea work. The ICR radio show claims we lost our olfactory receptor genes since the flood. We have 388 working olfactory receptor genes and 414 broken ones (called pseudogenes). Mice, on the other hand, have 1037 working receptor genes and 354 psuedogenes. Many of their working genes have counterparts among our pseudogenes, which is some of the main evidence that our ancestors lost many genes involved in smell. So does that mean that mice enjoy an Edenic perfection that we have lost?

Anyway, let you own mind roam free: here’s the show in mp3 and real audio. And if you are hungry for more, here’s the radio show archive. It’s a fact-checker’s paradise.

Add Yours.

  1. natural cynic
    August 7, 2006

    I’ve seen the argument about the Fall being responsible for the “corruption” of the genome numerous times in my experiences on the Beliefnet Evolution/creationism board. The lack of biological knowledge and the attempts at apologetics by the creationist camp are thoroughly exposed.

  2. Hans
    August 7, 2006

    Carl,

    that should teach you! … venturing recklessly like that into the depths of the AM band… ;)

  3. Cameron
    August 7, 2006

    I’ve been engaged in a letter to the editor debate with a woman who believes that evolutionary biology is an impediment to science and should be removed from classroom. All of her talking points have come from the Institute for Creation Research. One of the funnier ones included an argument that samples from Mt. Saint Helen’s falsifies radiometric dating of rocks. What’s not so funny is how many people take the ICR seriously.

  4. Ebonmuse
    August 7, 2006

    When it comes to refuting creationists who claim that all mutations are harmful, you can’t do better than apolipoprotein AI-Milano. It’s a mutant blood protein possessed by a very fortunate group of people in Italy which confers on its possessors major protection against heart attacks and arteriosclerosis, with no observed negative effects.

  5. catherine
    August 7, 2006

    I have to agree with Hans. Were you very tired as you scanned the AM dial? What made you even consider the possibility that you were going to hear a scientific program? :-)

    Sorry, I know I’ve just exposed a form of bigotry; perhaps it’s the heat and late hour.

    And with Cameron, I refrain that what’s not funny (I would add scary) is how popular this stuff is with so many people.

  6. Michael Hopkins
    August 8, 2006

    I am really surprised that you are previously unaware of the “Genomic Degradation as Original Sin” rhetoric of the YECs. It is a rather fundamental talking point used to support their dogma since the “scientific creationism” movement began.

    Admittedly they did not use “genomic” before it became a buzz word though. But the basic concept that bad genes are a result of sin is a universal claim of YECism. This why, they claim, that Adam’s children could marry each other without the genetic problems that would result today. And of course, they “explain” the diversity of life as “microevolution” from a perfect original created kind.

    Yeah, there are thousands of thing wrong with this. Grab a few used YEC books. (Used so the authors don’t get a cent.) It would provide enough things to correct and general implications to point out to fill a thousand blog entries.

  7. meridian
    August 8, 2006

    This why, they claim, that Adam’s children could marry each other without the genetic problems that would result today. And of course, they “explain” the diversity of life as “microevolution” from a perfect original created kind.

    Wow. I think we’re seeing an example of the sort of revisionism that went into writing the Bible. “Word of God” doesn’t suit your purposes? Hey, just tweak it a little!

    I enjoy reading biblical scholars like Elaine Pagels because their studies show that convolutions in the bible are anchored to and explained by historical events. In “The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe,” Valerie Flint documents how Christianity appropriated demons from paganism to get more people to adopt the religion. “Demons” gave people an out — if something bad happened, they could blame it on a demon and ask a priest to help them get rid of it instead of taking responsibility for their “sins.”

    There was apparently quite the debate at the time among church fathers as to whether they should allow religion to be diluted in such a way.

    One of the ways creationism can be countered is to teach biblical exegesis. It’s pretty difficult to keep on accepting the validity of a concept like the “unchanging word of God” when there’s proof on paper of how many times man has reworked the “word” for his own purposes.

  8. Monado
    August 9, 2006

    Here’s an explanation of the “witch” vs. “poisoner” mistranslation.

  9. Leon Brooks
    August 9, 2006

    Don’t know about Creationism, but Evolutionism definitely needs to go as a mandatory.
    The only real reasons I’ve ever seen for retaining it despite a constant stream of broken and far-fetched ideas is that there are no ideologically-safe genuine alternatives at all.
    Then Evolutionism’s supporters turn around and sling off at Creationists for “introducing religion to science” — as if they’re not already doing it majorly themselves!
    The result is that “science” blockades itself with philosophy — against real observations which are ideologically, um, interesting.
    Lots that we’re deducing about astronomy, for example, fits reality (observations) very poorly because it’s been chained to philosophies, with other theories & data discarded for being alien to those philosophies (ie for “religious reasons”), rather than for any intrinsic shortcomings.
    That philosophical dichotomy by itself is a direct hobble around the leg of science, to say nothing of the social losses consequent on the squabbling behind it. It’s like watching team sports, where each team gets barracked for based on who they represent rather than any real sports skills they might (not) possess, and for fitting the “team character” rather than for playing excellent sport, as such.
    Or race riots, where people get beaten up for something esoteric like skin colour rather than who they are or what they’ve done.

  10. Nick
    August 10, 2006

    Leon,
    The reason people are passionate about science and do science is because they want to know and understand more about the way the world really is. I’m sorry, but that’s not why people are religious. The two approaches to understanding the world are extremely different, and it’s obvious that science is the best, and realisically, the only way to try to get an objective handle on nature.
    Your analogies and observations on science seem rather silly. The Big Bang has religious implications for many people, yet is textbook science; this seems to contradict your naive hypothesis. It’s in the textbooks because science is trying to discover what’s real about the world, and the Big Bang is real. Who cares whatever religious or philisophical implications people derive from it? Scientists care about reality. Otherwise, what’s the point?
    And how is it that you make such ridiculous judgments on evolutionary theory, when you claim you have no idea why scientists still hold onto that position? Have you ever asked a biologist or read a biology book? You don’t have to look too hard to find why biologists find it so compelling. And if you really have no idea why it’s compelling to them, then you should probably assume you don’t know enough to talk competently about it.

  11. SteveF
    August 11, 2006

    Carl,

    This seems likely to be a line that the YECs are going to be pushing over the coming years. A chap called John Sanford (a courtesy associate Professor at Cornell) has written a book about our apparently deteriorating genome:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599190028/sr=8-1/qid=1155333876/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-6763462-2867017?ie=UTF8

    http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/hort/faculty/sanford/

  12. Steve Greene
    August 12, 2006

    The young earth creationist argument that “Evolution can’t be right according to the Bible, because there was no death before Adam and Eve sinned,” is actually a very old religious argument that has been around since at least the early 19th century. According to the Adam and Eve story in Genesis, death came as a result of The Fall, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Enter the words

    no death before Adam

    in Google (no quotes around them), and observe how many hits you get.

    I always point out to (modern) young earth creationists that they’ve screwed up, attacking the wrong enemy. Their enemy is geology, because totally regardless of evolution, it is the fossils in the geologic record that prove that organisms have been living – and dying – for hundreds of millions of years before humans ever set foot on the planet.

  13. Kevin Anderson
    August 31, 2006

    Earth to Zimmer: You told me that you were satisfied with what you had posted on your blog. That is unfortunate, since your reasoning about sickle-cell anemia illustrates a glaring and typical flaw in your thinking. You completely failed to understand my arguments on the radio program. You seem to assume that any positively selected mutation is beneficial, and all beneficial mutations serve evolution. This is only true if you refuse to acknowledge that evolution is actually common descent, and not just merely any change. Unlike

  14. Carl Zimmer
    September 1, 2006

    Readers may be confused by Dr. Anderson’s comment. I can shed a little light.

    Dr. Anderson is editor-in-chief of the Creation Research Society Quarterly. He spoke on the program I wrote about, talking about how sickle-cell anemia, lactose tolerance, and other genetic changes in human populations have nothing to do with evolution but are degradations that are the result of original sin.

    What is the Creation Research Society all about? Here’s part of their statement of belief:

    1. The Bible is the written Word of God, and because it is inspired throughout, all its assertions are historically and scientifically true in the original autographs. To the student of nature this means that the account of origins in Genesis is a factual presentation of simple historical truths.

    2. All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since Creation Week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds.

    3. The great flood described in Genesis, commonly referred to as the Noachian Flood, was an historic event worldwide in its extent and effect.

    Two weeks after I wrote my post, I got an email from Dr. Anderson with the subject line, “Nice Sarcasm…”

    “In your Blame Eve blog, and very interesting since most of it was apparently directed at my comments. Of course, I might be inclined to think that you simply failed to get your mind wrapped around the points I was trying to make. But, of course, that clearly could not have been the case, you being so smart and all, and I being just a dumb ole creationists who could not possibly have any understanding of genetics. So, to allow you to expose my ignorance even more, I’m inviting you to further take me to task in the ‘Editors Forum’ of the Creation Research Society Quarterly. Each of us will write a 3000 word position statement on genetics and evolution/creation, and then a 1500 word rebuttal of the other’s position statement. And, if you like, I would agree to concurrent publication of these position statements and rebuttals in any unedited forum (printed or internet) that you choose.

    You being so smart and all (and me a brainless creationist) this should be a cake walk for you.

    How about it Carl? Let’s dance, you and I.

    Kevin Anderson, Ph.D.

    Editor, Creation Research Society Quarterly

    I replied:

    Thanks for the invitation, but I’m satisfied with what I put in my blog post.

    To which I received another message from Dr. Anderson:

    Interesting. But, I would remind you, you called down the thunder. If I didn’t know you were so smart and all, I’d think you’re running. And, if you’re satisfied with what you posted on your blog, this simply illustrates how little you understand the genetics involved.

    I did not respond, considering this odd exchange over. (I don’t think thunder can fit in my inbox.) But then, after another long lull, Dr. Anderson posted his comment on this post.

    While I don’t think it’s my job to fill the pages of Dr. Anderson’s magazine, I do think it’s common courtesy to try to respond to comments when I can find the time.

    Dr. Anderson’s comments have very little to do with the evidence for natural selection. He has put together catchwords, rather than actually making any coherent argument.

    Dr. Anderson claims, for example, that carrying a single sickle cell gene causes harmful effects. He offers no evidence. A sickle cell information site maintained by Harvard Medical School declares, “With a few rare exceptions, people with sickle cell trait are completely normal.”

    Even if carrying a single copy of the sickle cell gene does have some harmful effect on people, that would not in itself have any relevance to how it might be driven by natural selection. Natural selection favors genes that increase average reproductive success in an entire population. It does not favor mutations that produce a long happy life for everyone. Someone who lives to adulthood with a slight chance of some kidney trouble can have many more children than someone who dies at age five of malaria.

    Now, somehow, Dr. Anderson believes that the sickle cell gene does not “provide a genetic example of how organisms commonly descended through time.” I can try to guess what he actually means…when he says organisms, does he actually mean species? Or does he mean individuals within a species?

    Let’s assume he means the latter. If he does, then he’s wrong. The sickle cell trait is an inherited trait. Scientists know the mutation to the gene that creates it. And they know it’s a mutation because other people have a different version of the gene. In other words, the people with the sickle cell trait ultimately inherited the gene from someone in whom the common version mutated. In other words, it’s a sign of common descent. If it wasn’t, how would we know that it was a mutation in the first place?

    Or perhaps Dr. Anderson means that sickle-cell anemia must have produced some entire biological system in order to be considered part of the evolutionary process. If so, then he’s working with his very own special definition of evolution. Mutations are the raw material for evolution, and they may be favored by natural selection, genetic drift, or other factors. In some cases, this process may produce a trade-off such as we see in sickle cell anemia versus malaria protection. But sometimes evolution pushes beyond a trade-off. Antibiotic resistance may slow down the growth of bacteria when they’re not faced with antibiotics. But other mutations can compensate, lowering the cost of resistance.

    There’s also plenty of evidence supporting the idea that mutations can also give rise to biological systems and change them into new forms. More comes in every week. Here’s one showing how “junk” DNA can get shuffled into genes, producing new ones.

    But let’s not forget, of course, that Dr. Anderson belongs to an organization that says the world is a few thousand years old. See this article in his magazine if you think I’m joking. When I try to figure out this whole “genome degradation as original sin” thing, I can’t get past the fact that all of the mutations that are found in humans must have arisen in a few hundred generations–and we’re talking several million mutations, each found in millions of people. That means an amazing mutation rate–you’d think that every generation of children would be riddled with new ones. Of course the actual mutation rate is far lower.

    But I guess I’ll let Dr. Anderson work out these mysteries.

  15. Dave S.
    September 1, 2006

    Carl writes:

    I can’t get past the fact that all of the mutations that are found in humans must have arisen in a few hundred generations–and we’re talking several million mutations, each found in millions of people. That means an amazing mutation rate–you’d think that every generation of children would be riddled with new ones. Of course the actual mutation rate is far lower.

    Which is related to the rapid variation (not evolution!) after all the animals left the Ark. Apparently, those animals exhibited absolutely astonishing speeds of variation in order to go from the hand-full of created ‘kinds’ on the Ark to the diversity of faunal abundance we see today. For some reason however, this breakneck variation never crosses the kind barrier, and has coincidentally ceased today. Makes one wonder why the cattle and fish carved on ancient Egyptian stone can look so much like they do now. Probably more coincidence.

    I’ve asked, but it’s also never been made clear to me exactly how biologically a pair of “canine” kinds gave birth to all the different canines we have today. And all without gaining “information”. Quite a trick.

  16. Ick of the East
    September 1, 2006

    …..Makes one wonder why the cattle and fish carved on ancient Egyptian stone can look so much like they do now.

    Hell with cattle and fish. Look at ancient sculptures of humans. Europeans look European. Chinese look Chinese. Amerinds look Amerind. Etc.
    This means that all variation in humans descended from Noah must have been completed by at least 2,000 years ago, leaving only half of the generations mentioned above in which to generate our diversity.

    There’s no question about it. The most radical evolutionists on the planet are young earth creationists.
    .

  17. sharon
    September 1, 2006

    From Carl Zimmer “Original Sin Genomics”:
    Rather than splitting comments between two posts and dispersing the conversation, could people leave all their comments on the original post? Thanks.

    Copying my question[s] over, with some additional ones added:
    I have a question for him [Dr. Andersen], I haven’t received any responses from skeptics elaborating as of yet, and it would be a first for a Creationist, if they’d answer. Just how “physical” was the so-called immortality of Genesis? No death before the fall?

    Did man and all the creatures in the Garden (extend that to all creatures, great and small across the earth, including whales, dinosaurs and bacteria that live in the depths of the earth), did all living creatures partake in the tree of life?

    I’ve heard from one skeptic, how to the recent day some still search for the Fountain of Youth, and a lot of ancient cultures believed the human could take a bite of magic fruit and live forever (rephrase that to, live a little while, but they must take another bite in due season).

    THE TREE OF LIFE MUST BE PARTAKEN OF ON A MONTHLY BASIS… LIKE A PILL
    (God told Adam to partake freely of the tree of life, so its safe to presume he did) – but, he was cut off from the tree of life, and driven from the garden, preventing him from living forever.

    Revelation:2:7: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
    Revelation:22:2: In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
    Revelation:22:14: Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.(KJV)

    … another question. if a person should partake and “live forever”, what becomes of them, when they decide to break God’s commandments? Do they live forever, now having partaken of the tree of life, … like the devil, knowing good and evil as Adam did, but a lisence on eternal life, and free to act the part of a devil!

    This tree of life sounds very much like a physical immortality for imperfect bodies requiring monthly maintenance. I mean, if Adam were built immortal and perfect to begin with, what need would he have of any “tree of life” to sustain his body?

    According to the scripture, after the curses were handed out to snake, woman and man, Adam still had the potential for eternal life. It was only a matter of getting his hands on the magic fruit.

    Gn:3:22: And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: (KJV)

    So, man (and animal) were cut off from the lifeline of immortality when driven from Eden? For all we know, Adam may have been lactose intolerant.

    MORE QUESTIONS

    Indeed, as skeptics have pointed out, the snake spoke the truth, because the day Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, he did not “surely die”. He supposedly lived, yet hundreds of years, 930 years [Gen. 5:5], which is better longevity than modern humans, (though Kathleen Kenyon, the archaeologist pointed out the outlook was actually much worse).

    EXAGERRATED AGES OF THE BIBLICAL PATRIARCHS
    It is certain that one cannot build up a chronology on the spans of years attributed to the Patriarchs, nor regard it as factual that Abraham was seventy-five years old when he left Harran and a hundred when Isaac was born and that Jacob was a hundred and thirty when he went into Egypt, for the evidence from the skeletons in the Jericho tombs shows that the expectations of life at this period was short. Many individuals seem to have died before they were thirty-five, and few seem to have reached the age of fifty.
    – Dr. Kathleen Kenyon (the eminent excavator of the city-mound of Jericho)

    God genetically engineers man to live 120 years.

    Gn:6:3: And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an *hundred and twenty years.(KJV)

    Google Jeanne Louise Calment 121 years old.
    Born in Arles, France on February 21, 1875.
    Died August 4, 1997.

    According to Yahoo Answers, “A Japanese man lived to 121 a couple of years ago.” And, there may be others who’ve defied this curse in Genesis.
    *Due to oversight of what was written in Genesis, Sarah and Abraham themselves are recorded as having lived beyond the threshold of 120 years of age. God himself doesn’t seem to have any regard for his own curses and prophecies in Genesis. I’ve asked Creationists to explain this also, but none have.

    Gn:3:14: And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life

    But the serpent was not genetically engineered to “eat dust” in Genesis, (like an earthworm??), this curse obviously failed, because in Isaiah, the prophecy tells of a “coming kingdom” in which the snake will futuristically “eat dust”.

    Is:65:25: The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.(KJV)

    A failed curse on the serpent, or did God simply change his mind?

  18. TAW
    September 1, 2006

    to completely butcher something Carl said earlier (I won’t even try to find the post, there’s no way I’d find it), evolution isn’t always about adding better, new organs and functions without any tradeoffs whatsoever, evoluton almost always involves big tradeoffs. Organisms evolve to be able to survive better and not to reach some optimal state of being superior to all the rest.

    One example are birds. Having wings helps them survive better, but they had to give up their front legs to have wings (ie: griffins don’t exist).

  19. jackd
    September 1, 2006

    I can’t get past the fact that all of the mutations that are found in humans must have arisen in a few hundred generations–and we’re talking several million mutations, each found in millions of people.

    This is exactly the kind of question that one would expect creation scientists to investigate, yet they never seem to. Given the millions of mutations we know about, what mutation rate is necessary for them to have arisen since the Noachian bottleneck? It doesn’t seem to be an especially difficult question.

  20. Steviepinhead
    September 1, 2006

    But at least birds can still type okay, even if they have to hunt and peck….!

  21. Carl Zimmer
    September 1, 2006

    Jackd: I don’t know if we’ll hear from Dr. Anderson on how so many mutations surged into the human genome in so little time, with no evidence of such a high rate today. But I now think I can guess what the answer would be. Look at the article I linked to in my earlier post. It claims that geological clocks do not show the Earth is billions of years old, because the rate of radioactive decay has changed:

    God drastically accelerated the decay rates of long half-life nuclei during the earth’s recent past. For a feasibility study of this hypothesisincluding God’s possible purposes for such acceleration, Biblical passages hinting at it, disposal of excess heat, preserving life on earth, and effects on stars, see Humphreys (2000, pp. 333-379). The last three problems are not yet fully solved, but we expect to see progress on them in future papers.

    You can see where I’m going, right? Swap decay rate with mutation rate, and you’re all set.

  22. Clastito
    September 1, 2006

    What kind of “scientist” explains human origins by sudden, supernatural creation rather than the modification of previous organisms? Of course these people love the bible much more than they love fossils. You have to be blind to really belive it, when you quetsion the veracity or relevance of ALL transitional fossils ever dug up. And, ultimately, you have to really don’t give a crap about fossils. Thats why all these “geniuses” like in the discovery institute invariably know about as much paleontology as a hairdresser does.
    The commitment of these poeple to the bible comes in first place, before their commitment to science.

  23. Matt Bull
    September 1, 2006

    I’ll repost this comment in this thread, per Carl’s request:

    What I can’t get past is the fact that I just don’t understand the psychology behind creating a creationist organization in the first place. If there is an omnipotent creator God, surely he doesn’t need our help in defending his own existence. If a) the goal is to “win over sinners and unbelievers,” and b) there really is a shaky foundation under evolutionary biology, wouldn’t a more effective tactic be to quietly work within the academic and peer review system without revealing your agenda, and let the facts of the universe (and, if you’re right, God) speak for themselves?

  24. oldhippie
    September 1, 2006

    “I’ve asked, but it’s also never been made clear to me exactly how biologically a pair of “canine” kinds gave birth to all the different canines we have today. And all without gaining “information”. Quite a trick.”
    It seem to me our domestic breeding programs, and especially with dogs, are one of the most obviously compelling examples of evolution. Creationists always claim you cannot see a species change. Well you could not have much clearer evidence right before your eyes in just a few thousand years. If in that time you can get from a wolf to a pug or fox terrier, it is easy to see how change in more time would lead to speciation.

  25. Owlmirror
    September 1, 2006

    It claims that geological clocks do not show the Earth is billions of years old, because the rate of radioactive decay has changed:

    Digging through the talkorigins site for rebuttals for the claim:

    Constancy of Radioactive Decay Rates

    Cosmic rays and radiometric decay rates

    I suppose a religious fanatic would argue that not only did God change the rate of radioactive decay, he also made sure that this change would leave no detectable evidence. After all, when you have faith, you don’t need evidence…

    Oh, and here’s an ironic one (based the presumptive argument of a God-ordained high mutation rate):

    Evolution requires mutations, but mutations are rare.

  26. …the importance of being, Andy.
    September 2, 2006

    end of week shitpile

    Where to start, where to start. Here I suppose. It’s yet another bit of interest from Carl over at Loom. It all started so simply, with daring to tread into the murky waters of AM radio. And lo, but he hath hooked an ID-er!

    More amusement lies beh…

  27. sharon
    September 2, 2006

    It claims that geological clocks do not show the Earth is billions of years old, because the rate of radioactive decay has changed … rebuttals for the claim…

    Here is a question I am curious about.

    Paraphrasing, Paleobotany and the Evolution of Plants, Stewart and Rothwell, 1993; DiMichele & Wing, 1987:

    Extant organisms in their structure and distribution, reflect the composition of their environments. We assume extinct organisms also adapted to their environment in the same way. If this assumption is true, then it is possible to determine seasonal variations using growth rings from petrified wood, including paleo-environmental availability of water and temperature changes. Fossilized wood which reflects lack of growth rings, indicate a continuous supply of water and uniform temperature, just as thickened cuticles and sunken stomata of fossilized leaves indicate a lack of water, while roots and spongy stem tissue suggest a swampy or aquatic paleo-environment. With such information extracted from morphology and anatomy of fossil plants, provides in part, the basis for paleoecology and paleoclimatology. Further studies are taken into consideration, such as those on sedimentary materials which naturally occur with the fossils and, how the fossil became preserved, all play into better understanding the paleoenvironment.

    QUESTION: How many examples exist in strata, the fossil record of (hypothetically speaking) a region which was once a freezing icy environment, turned warm and wet, turned hot, dry desert, with fossil remains that represent whole eco-systems of species adapted to each special climate? Has any thing been written on this?

    I understand only a little about the extreme shift the continents underwent, i.e., Africa in the South Pole!….

    The Vendian closed around 545 million years ago. This was a time in Earth’s history of shifting continents and changes in the atmosphere and chemical make-up of the oceans. Geologists have discovered that during Vendian times, the earliest continental masses were centralized in the Southern Hemisphere, with Northwestern Africa located in the region of the South Pole.

    …shifting land masses throughout the geological periods, which in itself would contribute to the downfall and rise of new species.

    But God created them all in six days, putting freezing polar-adapted animals in Mesopotamia with creatures only suited for blazing hot desert conditions… others only suited to tropical conditions… :o/

    – With those ecosystems rising and falling, and species suited to them, just imagine, it was all stuffed within a time frame of merely 6,000-10,000 years. (i.e., deserts today containing species with desert creepy crawlies, were once seas teeming with legged whales. Both species (or possibly more in the fossil record) could not share the same environment, could they? at least I wouldn’t assume… a Creator… creates entire ecosystems, break them down, only to re-create all new species and replace them all in the next thousand years… we should be in for another ice age, any day now. That’s exactly what YEC implies if it claims their teachings concur with the fossils. Five major extinctions cramped into 10,000 years max. That is a miracle in itself.

    – Imagine how likely would it be that Penguins and Polar Bears were “created” in Mesopotamia just for Adam to name them? Any fossil remains of Polar Bears in that region?

    I know, they are ridiculous but necessary questions. Sadly, I was a young earth creationist over half my life, and I still hear people in my local area, who wholeheartedly believe in the young earth biblical account, never questioned it, and take it for granted as literal, even scientific truth.

  28. ERV
    September 2, 2006

    Carl Zimmer:

    They conveniently skip over the genes that have been identified as having experienced natural selection in our ancestors that play a role in language, brain size, and brain development.

    They also skip other major topics like regulatory RNA and epigenetics… Almost as if they dont even know those topics exist…

    Owlmirror:

    Oh, and here’s an ironic one (based the presumptive argument of a God-ordained high mutation rate)… …Evolution requires mutations, but mutations are rare.

    Ouch. Nice catch, Owlmirror.

  29. Pierce R. Butler
    September 5, 2006

    Of course Adam was lactose-intolerant – if his body was “perfect”, then why would it waste energy on creating enzymes to digest milk for which he had no supply?

  30. Dougman
    September 8, 2006

    I don’t know a whole lot about the mutation rate issue. Creationists rely on a vast amount of variability programmed into the created kinds. Most of the variation and adaptability within a “kind’ (which is not necessarily equal to a species) is due to this and not mutations in the creationist methodology. As for those that can be positively identified as mutations, I can’t answer whether it amasses a quantity that is a problem for creation scientists.

    I do know it’s a problem for evolutionists. Evolutionists must assume all variation is due to mutation. The problem for Evolutionists is multi-faceted.

    First of all determining a “mutation rate” itself is shaky. It’s determined by first assuming evolution. Then take Species A and Species B, determine the genetic difference. Then, based on various assumptions, you determine when they shared a common ancestor. Simple division gives you the mutation rate (half the genetic difference divided by years since the common ancestor). I’m sure I’ll receive a number of heady derogatory replies but none will really point to a dramatically different method.

    Second the mutation rate is too slow for evolutionists, which is the basis for shock at rapid speciation. Also do a search on Haldane’s dilemma and after reading talkorigins weak rebuttal critically analyze it with your own brain and determine if it’s ever been resolved.

    Third the accumulation of “bad” mutations that “drift” in under the radar of “natural selection” is too great, creating a genetic load that may eventually crush the human race (if “evolution” is true).

    Regarding fossils: Creationists love fossils. Fossils might be the greatest argument against evolution (or maybe molecular biology or maybe genetics). This argument, and in fact this entire blog entry, exposes the fact that virtually everyone that argues against creation science knows nothing about it. I’ve read numerous attacks, criticisms and not-so-subtle jabs by Carl Zimmer against creation science but very seldom has he exhibited any evidence that he knows his opposition’s theories. His criticism of the short radio program that began this blog entry is a case in point. The program cannot possibly be exhaustive in everything it touches but they are not “new” arguments.

    Regarding an “old earth”. Some radiometric dating points to an earth of billions of years or so you are led to believe. Radiometric dating is based on a number of assumptions beyond that of a constant decay rate. One must assume the beginning quantity of parent and daughter isotopes. That nothing interfered with the values of either. Temperature, moisture, surrounding chemicals, pressure etc. all effect the reliability of the result. The assumptions become rather ridiculous when they are applied over the supposed millions or billions of years of the sample. Radiometric dating is a highly subjective process.

    Before you launch into long or short rebuttals, insults and comparisons to the mythical flat-earthers, please, I beg of you, take some time to learn what creation scientists and enthusiasts actually suggest. We all share the same evidence but our respective worldviews dictate the interpretation of that evidence. I guarantee we’ve taken a lot of time to learn your interpretations of the evidence.

    PS: Creationists believe in a global flood. Close your eyes for a moment and picture the earth you’ve seen from space. Now picture it covered in water. No visible land. Try to envision the water pouring from the sky and breaking through the crust of the Earth. Picture Katrina on a global scale for more than a month. Imagine forces powerful enough to push up the mountains. Picture every “end of days” movie you’ve seen in the last few years. See you’re still not even close. So just imagine the effect such a cataclysmic event would have on the Earth – immediately and for years to come. Now I’m not asking you to believe that it actually happened but you must understand that it is an integral part of the creation science ideology. Just as billions of years is an absolute must for an evolutionary philosophy.

  31. Carl Zimmer
    September 8, 2006

    Let’s take a walking tour through the words of Dougman…

    I don’t know a whole lot about the mutation rate issue.

    Okay, so he doesn’t know a lot about mutation rates. So I shouldn’t expect him to go on at length about the mutation rate, right? Wrong.

    Creationists

    Dougman refers to creationists mainly in the third person here, as if he was just an anthropologist observing them. In case there’s any confusion, follow the link he provided to the Southern Arizona Origin Science Association, which declares, among other things, that ” All basic kinds of living things, including humans, were recently made (not millions or billions of years ago) by direct creative acts of God during the creation week of 6 consecutive literal approximate 24 hour days as described in Genesis. Whatever biological changes have occurred since creation week have accomplished only changes within the original created kinds where no new genetic information has spontaneously arisen or evolved. ”

    Creationists rely on a vast amount of variability programmed into the created kinds. Most of the variation and adaptability within a “kind’ (which is not necessarily equal to a species) is due to this and not mutations in the creationist methodology. As for those that can be positively identified as mutations, I can’t answer whether it amasses a quantity that is a problem for creation scientists.

    What exactly is this vast amount of variability that can produce things as different as wolves and poodles, but which is not mutations? Dougman doesn’t say. Dougman claims that he can’t say whether mutations are a problem for creationists, but the people of the Southern Arizona Origin Science Association clearly don’t think it is, given their unqualified statement I just quoted above. So we’ve got a contradiction here between what Dougman’s saying and the organization he links to.

    I do know it’s a problem for evolutionists. Evolutionists must assume all variation is due to mutation. The problem for Evolutionists is multi-faceted.

    So, Dougman’s expertise is in evolutionary biology, not creationism? I doubt it. For one thing, his statement about variation in evolution is flat-out wrong. Evolutionary biologists recognize and study variation that is not due to genetic differences. Here’s just one of the many labs where scientists study it, with papers you can download.

    First of all determining a “mutation rate” itself is shaky. It’s determined by first assuming evolution. Then take Species A and Species B, determine the genetic difference. Then, based on various assumptions, you determine when they shared a common ancestor. Simple division gives you the mutation rate (half the genetic difference divided by years since the common ancestor). I’m sure I’ll receive a number of heady derogatory replies but none will really point to a dramatically different method.

    Mutations happen. That’s a fact. You can see mutations arise in a dish of bacteria. The same process generates variations in a human population, or in any other species. From these observations, scientists can estimate mutation rates. They can test their hypotheses by looking at different genes, or at different species. Mutation rate estimates have gotten more statistical support over the years, in part because the statistics used have become more effective. Apparently, Dougman cannot tell the difference between simple division and Bayesian probability. That’s not a heady derogatory reply, just a straightforward observation of what Dougman doesn’t seem to grasp.

    Second the mutation rate is too slow for evolutionists, which is the basis for shock at rapid speciation. Also do a search on Haldane’s dilemma and after reading talkorigins weak rebuttal critically analyze it with your own brain and determine if it’s ever been resolved.

    Haldane came up with a model in the 1950s which suggested that there’s a cost to natural selection which slows down the spread of new genes. This model turned out to have incorrect assumptions. When scientists built new models that reflected the improved understanding of population genetics, the dilemma disappeared. Rather than explain scientific results that might support Haldane’s dilemma or otherwise question research on mutation rates, Dougman just promises us that we will come to his own conclusion.

    Third the accumulation of “bad” mutations that “drift” in under the radar of “natural selection” is too great, creating a genetic load that may eventually crush the human race (if “evolution” is true).

    It’s hard to figure out the point of this statement. If deleterious mutations did build up in our species, and if they did drive humans extinct, how would that challenge our understanding of mutation rates in the past? If humans became extinct, they would hardly be the first species to do so. But this thought experiment is really besides the point–current research shows that Dougman is wrong.

    Regarding fossils: Creationists love fossils. Fossils might be the greatest argument against evolution (or maybe molecular biology or maybe genetics).

    And that is because why…? Dougman does not tell us. I will not hazard to speculate why he believes this is the case. Perhaps he will share his insight with us…or not.


    This argument, and in fact this entire blog entry, exposes the fact that virtually everyone that argues against creation science knows nothing about it. I’ve read numerous attacks, criticisms and not-so-subtle jabs by Carl Zimmer against creation science but very seldom has he exhibited any evidence that he knows his opposition’s theories. His criticism of the short radio program that began this blog entry is a case in point. The program cannot possibly be exhaustive in everything it touches but they are not “new” arguments.

    Oh, if only it were true that I had not become familiar with creationist theories…think of all the great literature I might have read instead. I have indeed read a fair amount of this stuff. As for the radio show, it is chock full of misleading information, which is quite in keeping with other stuff I’ve read. But perhaps Dougman can share with us the hidden truth that the radio show had no room for…

    Regarding an “old earth”. Some radiometric dating points to an earth of billions of years or so you are led to believe. Radiometric dating is based on a number of assumptions beyond that of a constant decay rate. One must assume the beginning quantity of parent and daughter isotopes. That nothing interfered with the values of either. Temperature, moisture, surrounding chemicals, pressure etc. all effect the reliability of the result. The assumptions become rather ridiculous when they are applied over the supposed millions or billions of years of the sample. Radiometric dating is a highly subjective process.

    Funny how all these ridiculous assumptions lead to the same estimates for the origin of the solar system, whether you look at rocks from the moon or Mars, or meteorites.

    Before you launch into long or short rebuttals, insults and comparisons to the mythical flat-earthers, please, I beg of you, take some time to learn what creation scientists and enthusiasts actually suggest. We all share the same evidence but our respective worldviews dictate the interpretation of that evidence. I guarantee we’ve taken a lot of time to learn your interpretations of the evidence.

    Let’s recall for a moment that Dougman started out this whole comment on mutation rates, a subject on which he said he knew little, and said that he didn’t actually know whether mutation rates posed a problem for creationists. Now he’s tell us to get to know what “we”–i.e., he and other creationists–suggest. How can we, when Dougman isn’t suggesting anything at all?

    PS: Creationists believe in a global flood. Close your eyes for a moment and picture the earth you’ve seen from space. Now picture it covered in water. No visible land. Try to envision the water pouring from the sky and breaking through the crust of the Earth. Picture Katrina on a global scale for more than a month. Imagine forces powerful enough to push up the mountains. Picture every “end of days” movie you’ve seen in the last few years. See you’re still not even close. So just imagine the effect such a cataclysmic event would have on the Earth – immediately and for years to come. Now I’m not asking you to believe that it actually happened but you must understand that it is an integral part of the creation science ideology. Just as billions of years is an absolute must for an evolutionary philosophy.

    Flood. Lots of water. Got it. Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…

  32. steve s
    September 8, 2006

    Flood. Lots of water. Got it. Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…

    Speedboats.

  33. Garrett
    September 8, 2006

    Rock on steve s for the witty answer. And Carl too for the witty question.

  34. Pierce R. Butler
    September 8, 2006

    Radiometric dating is based on a number of assumptions beyond that of a constant decay rate.

    Funny how creationists never directly confront the clear implication of their own claims, namely that their models demand that not only biology & geology but physics, chemistry, and all the other sciences which dovetail so closely with evolution will also have to be scrapped and rebuilt, via data and theories they don’t have.

  35. Mike Jones
    September 8, 2006

    Snakes on an ark!

  36. sharon
    September 8, 2006


    Zimmer: Flood. Lots of water. Got it. Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…

    Steve S.: Speedboats.

    Just me … and my shadow:

    Did you ever see the special on those huge circles out west — mysterious circles in the geology record. Scientists thought it was nuts, a flood of *biblical proportions* – actually much worse – and underwater tornado-like formations carved the round holes in the desert ground. It’s proposed that during the Ice Age, a wall of ice broke and water that had been dammed up came flooding through — so powerful –several hundred miles — and reached the Pacific Ocean, anything in its path was destroyed … it can happen. That’s what they said, the flood went on for several hundred miles — and at unbelievable speeds (I saw the documentary months ago, so my memory is foggy –but it was like a scientifically-feasible noah’s flood without the ark) here, in North America.

    Speaking of Biblical flood geology: Penguins float don’t they? At least one should have been unearthed in Texas by now, — afterall, didn’t God create all the animals in one little spot on earth. There ought to be some polar bear bones in Mesopotamia, at least one bone?

    Ed B: You’re right about the huge local flood in North America. But it was quick, superficial, and anything in its frantic powerful path would have been destroyed, including an ark. *smile*

    You’re also right about the way specific fossilized bones of specific species are distributed on specific continents and in specific geological layers. No flood could sort bones and even bone fragments and microfossils so well without God miraculously directing the movement underwater of every miniscule piece of every species carried along by the so-called “world-wide flood.” Show me rabbit bones or tiny rabbit teeth in the Cambrian.

  37. Manuel Parrado
    September 8, 2006

    I find interesting how creationists sometimes, when referring to scientists that deal with evolution, infer they are working under some kind of agenda whose sole purpose is to defend the theory. The truth of the matter is that evolutionary theory and the current is the product of many minds working independently and the cross-validation from many different disciplines. Creationists on the other hand, are the ones working under the agenda of dispelling evolution because it does not agree well with the wording in a book of the bible written several thousand years ago.

  38. Owlmirror
    September 8, 2006

    Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…

    Carried by the finches!

    Now, what I was wondering was where the water came from. And where it went afterwards. No, don’t tell me, let me guess…

    OK, God made water all over the Earth. And afterwards, he used the moon to sponge up the excess. Remember that little patch of ice they found on the moon? Leftover Floodwater. QED.

    Isn’t imagination great?

  39. Steviepinhead
    September 8, 2006

    “Snakes on the ark!” Thanks, Mike!

    No matter how over-the-top the movie was, Mike’s comment makes a serious point: crowding even a reduced number of ancestors of the modern kinds onto a single vehicle–however large and imaginatively appointed–inevitably leads to ridiculous scenarios in almost any dimension you can think of.

    Imagine all the (very limited) number of “kinds” of animals in a modern, mid-sized zoo forced closer together. And closer. And closer… Waste disposal. Feed (feed after they get out, in Dougman’s cataclysmically-devastated world). Interactions between prey and predator species. Animal sex. Animal birth. Animal illness (this was all after the Fall, remember, so death and viruses and bacteris and wounds and infection would all have been present). Those few humans with their neolithic skills and knowledge of veterinary science must have been extraordinarily lucky at recognizing and managing the healthiest, most fertile of the animal “kinds” (more management problems, because healthiest and most fertile doesn’t exactly translate into “most docile”).

    Snakes on the ark, indeed. Mike’s one simple four-word snark lays bare the utter idiocy of the entire ark story, as sweet a metaphor for interspecies empathy as it is…

  40. Sal
    September 8, 2006

    I suggest ignoring creationists. Allow Science to be optional in schools. Let them subscribe to whatever theory they please provided that they do not attempt to impose their backwards ideas on other people’s education. Keep them busy finding someone to discuss a controversy that does not exist. Have them continue to believe that the moral teachings of their religion require evolution theory to be wrong. One of the main tenants of Christianity is that all suffering of man is caused by man itself. Let them and their descendants ride the personal consequences of blind faith. They may never prove evolution wrong, but they will certainly prove the aforementioned tenant right.

    On a more pleasant note, I enjoy The Loom immensely.

  41. Charade
    September 8, 2006

    “Flood. Lots of water. Got it. Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…”

    I’d add another complicator to this; how about all the marine life, so fresh and salt water just mixed, and how did they survive for over a month on this? Or did Noah also built huge acquariums and manage to retrieve all the acquatic life from rivers, lakes, ponds accross the globe, before the salinization of them by the flood? Or even better, did he retireve the marine life? A blue whale in the Ark!

  42. cat
    September 8, 2006

    “One of the main tenants of Christianity . . .” It’s actually tenets, not tenants.

  43. MartinDH
    September 8, 2006

    Dougman:
    It’s funny how you refute your first point (variation built-in) with your last…the global flood in which every human but eight, every clean animal but six (one for the sacrifice), and every dirty (?) animal but two, was obliterated.

    Count the maximum number of alleles per gene per kind and compare that with actual results and then claim that high mutation rates are not a consequence of creationist thinking.

    BTW Every point you raised has been refuted many times by many people and the refutations are available from a number of sources. Pick up Mark Isaak’s book “The Counter-Creationism Handbook” and check out each point you made…and follow Isaak’s references for more details.

  44. joseph duemer
    September 8, 2006

    As Frederick Crews writes in his new book Follies of the Wise, Creationists have a cognitive problem:

    “Intelligent design awkwardly embraces two clashing deities

  45. MikeQ
    September 8, 2006

    “Carried by the finches!”

    “An African Swallow or a European Swallow?”

    “It’s a simple matter of weight ratios!”

  46. Daniel James Devine
    September 8, 2006

    Joseph Duemer:

    I won’t pick on you since your comment was a quote from another person, Frederick Crews, but I’ll have to demonstrate how it actively confuses the difference between creationists and Intelligent Design theorists, a popular sport these days. Not all people who ascribe to ID are Christians or creationists. You can believe in ID and be a Muslim, a Buddhist, or an atheist (how so? believe in panspermia–aliens did it). In its current state, ID makes no inferences about the creator, it only proposes that life is at least partially a product of design.

    Us creationists believe in intelligent design, but we go further in that we identify the designer as Jesus Christ. We also believe the ancient texts that have become the Bible are true and reliable. Nothing scary there; people have been doing it for a couple thousand years.

    As to the species that keep getting “snuffed out,” the Christian doctrine of the Fall explains why that is so. Of course, the Darwinian doctrine of common descent teaches that life must be “snuffed out,” if life is ever to succeed.

    Who said stars were useless? And who said God spent 14 billion years making them? According to Genesis one, God created them in a single day, for “signs to mark seasons and days and years.” Whether you think this was deceitful of God to do is not a weighty argument against his doing it. The fact is, there’s a lot about the stars we still haven’t figured out. Either 96% of the universe is composed of dark matter and dark energy, or space is filled with ether after all, as some prominent scientists have suggested this week.

    Hey, were those American quadrillions or British quadrillions?

  47. Ick lof the East
    September 8, 2006

    And to paraphrase the stupid, “why are their [sic] still monkeys,” argument;

    “If Noah’s Flood came to wipe out evil in mankind (and baby ducks)…why are men still evil?”

    Incompetence; thy name is God.
    .

  48. fmk
    September 8, 2006

    I really enjoy this blog. However, I was a little disappointed by Mr. Zimmer’s response to dougman. The tone of the response seemed sarcastic and derogatory, an unwelcome contrast to the enthusiastic intelligence that usually animates Mr. Zimmer’s writing. I can appreciate that Mr. Zimmer’s patience may have been worn thinner than mine given his line of work, but I think that simple, matter-of-fact responses are the best way to reveal what is preposterous in creationist and ID claims. I think that such answers are more effective in encouraging critical thinking on the part of say, students trying to understand the issue, and ultimately more effective in persuading them that divine creation is not a reasonable explanation for the origin of species.

  49. Teh L0raX
    September 8, 2006

    DJD sez:

    As to the species that keep getting “snuffed out,” the Christian doctrine of the Fall explains why that is so.

    Brilliant! I bet everybody here was thinking it was a big ol’ rock from space wot snuffed out the dinosaurs. Nope. All this time it was really the sin of Adam and Eve. Who woulda thunk it? Suck it, Chicxulub!

  50. oldhippie
    September 8, 2006

    “I suggest ignoring creationists”
    How about disenvoweling them like over at PZ?

  51. Chuck the Lucky
    September 9, 2006

    Close your eyes. Imagine something that not only never happened but could never happen. Now imagine that it did happen.

    OK. Right then.

    It is amazing how all the seeds and spores of plants, lichen, fungi etc. that need such specific conditions to grow these days got to exactly where they needed to be with the right soil pH (not compacted by flood waters), the right sun exposure etc. Funny how dependent organisms are on functioning biosystems these days and yet were not back when the boat hit the mountain.

    I wonder how hungry all the fruit and nut eating animals got while they waited for the waterlogged seeds to sprout and the plants to reach maturity.

    Why is believing in Noah’s flood any more respectable than believing that Paul Bunyan carved the Grand Canyon with his ax?

  52. richCares
    September 9, 2006

    Global Flood occured around 2350 BC

    Sumerians began using papyrus around 2350 BC
    Chinese written history began before 2300 BC
    Egyptian history before as well

    why did no one tell them of the flood
    (oh I get it, they were not chistians)

  53. Bob O’H
    September 9, 2006

    Global Flood occured around 2350 BC

    Sumerians began using papyrus around 2350 BC
    Chinese written history began before 2300 BC
    Egyptian history before as well

    why did no one tell them of the flood

    They were on holiday that week.

    Bob

  54. Torbj
    September 9, 2006

    Daniel:
    Creationism is defined as believing in a creation. The cladistics and taxonomy of creationists are only relevant when considering what the particular pseudoscience gets wrong about science and nature.

    “The fact is, there’s a lot about the stars we still haven’t figured out. Either 96% of the universe is composed of dark matter and dark energy, or space is filled with ether after all, as some prominent scientists have suggested this week.”

    God-of-the-gaps arguments from ignorance. Severe ignorance, in this case.

    The reason it’s called dark matter and dark energy is that they don’t interact with normal matter on small scales, such as stars. Yes, dark matter affected galaxy formation and dark energy affects cosmology, but that is exactly why they are part of our Lambda-CDM cosmology that pinpoints the age of the universe to 13.7 +/- 0.2 billion years. There are also a number of independent order of age observations such as star ages, universe temperature, lithium conversion in stars, et cetera that places the age near that. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_universe )

    Ick:
    “why are their [sic] still monkeys,”

    Or, if gods created humans, why are there still gods?

  55. P.T. Galt
    September 9, 2006

    “Snakes on an Ark” is only the beginning.

    YEC requires that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and further, that Noah included dinosaurs on the Ark as well. Close your eyes and imagine velociraptors on an ark. Or “Jurassic Ark,” if you will.

    Well, maybe Noah was really clever, and just took dino eggs (though the text offers no indication of this) so they didn’t have to build the wooden boat big and strong enough to hold numerous species of giant sauropods. Now, imagine what a pain in the butt it would have been for those eight people, in addition to tending to all those other critters, to maintain a menagerie of thousands of dinosaur eggs, on a pitching ship, in the middle of the biggest Perfect Storm the planet has ever or will ever experience, without any of them getting broken, eaten by birds, or batted around by the cat.

    All that trouble, for what? The dinos died out after the Flood anyway, because the environment changed–even in ICR literature (though they’ll sometimes cite things like the mokele mbembe legend as evidence that some dinos still survive).

    Besides, isn’t a global flood a pretty blunt instrument for an “omnipotent” god to use to rid himself of some pesky humans? Why not a selective virus? Or a kind of “anti-Rapture” beaming the naughty people into space? Plus, you gotta wonder how many unborn children died in that global deluge, and wonder why Old Greyface gets so upset about a relative handful of abortions…

  56. khan
    September 9, 2006

    I wonder how hungry all the fruit and nut eating animals got while they waited for the waterlogged seeds to sprout and the plants to reach maturity.

    I want to know how the koalas got back to Australia along with the 100 foot eucalyptus trees necessary for their survival.

  57. Robert Maynard
    September 9, 2006

    These Flood logistical “problems” are all very simply solved. You just need to think outside the box!

    For example, for the duration of the Flood, the Intelligent Designer used his noodly appendage to tweak the diets of every single organism, so they’d be satisfied eating grain (even all forms of bacteria). He also told all the infectious diseases that they could live inside animals so long as they didn’t multiply and threaten their lives. Then when the Flood was over, he intelligently designed all the organisms to have proportionally sized wings, and intelligently designed their brains to know how to orient themselves to get back to their proper habitat from Mt Ararat. THEN, after they’d made it back home.. he intelligently designed all these modifications so it was like they were never there.

    ALSO, while the Flood was randomly “churning” the sediments of the Earth, and mixing all the dinosaurs and humans and such together, the Intelligent Designer made sure that when they settled, all the dinosaurs would be separated from the larger mammals and birds, and their corpses would appear to smoothly transition between forms the further down you looked. The Intelligent Designer also created decay product, and made sure it would settle in areas around their respective radioisotopes to make it seem as though they had decayed naturally from that radioisotope, which would imply an enormous age for the planet, which was actually not true.

    He also intelligently designed a creature to produce and drink the massive amounts of water required for the Flood, and then he dropkicked it into space, where it exploded and formed the Kuiper Belt.

  58. joseph duemer
    September 9, 2006

    Daniel James Devine promises not to “pick on me,” for which I am grateful. I hate it when Christians pick on me. And I agree with Mr. Devine that the circles on the Venn diagram of ID-ers & YEC-ers do not exactly coincide. I must say, too, that I have a good deal more respect for folks like Devine, who simply assert their belief in the biblical account & let science be damned, than I have for people who perform intellectual contortions to make the Bible agree with empirical reality. I grew up among YEC-ers & after a brief attempt at about age 15 to make intellectual sense of the biblical account & the scientific account I was learning from reading books about biology, I concluded that the Bible was fine literature but bad science. And in fact, as I have carefully studied biblical sources as a professor of literature, I now understand that the authors of Genesis were not really interested in science so much as they were interested in politics. But that is a discussion for another day. I give Mr. Devine credit: he does not concern himself with science, since his religious belief precludes it. Growing up, I couldn’t figure out why, if you believed God created the world in a week, you had to go to such great lengths to bend the biblical account to a philosophy you reject out of hand. Creationists, I concluded, want to have it both ways. So, Mr. Devine, my hat is off to you. I think your are deluded, but you are not as intellectually dishonest as the ID-ers & even the YEC-ers.

  59. oldhippie
    September 9, 2006

    “Well, maybe Noah was really clever, and just took dino eggs (though the text offers no indication of this)”
    Not if you arfe a leteralist: “You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.” Anyway do you know anyway to sex eggs?

  60. matthew
    September 9, 2006

    oldhippie: easy, the boy eggs are blue and the girl eggs are pink

    On the topic of the flood, has anyone here heard it claimed that all of the people of the world, except Noah’s family, were tainted, and thus they deserved to die? I heard about this for the first time when I read: http://ffrf.org/about/bybarker/radio_nov02.php . Apparently, as the story goes, horny man-angles came down to Earth and got it on with the purty human women. Said women then had DEMON BABIES! And this strain of demon DNA then (somehow) spread to everyone in the world, except Noah and his family of course.

    Noah and the flood is the best story, ever.

  61. Matt Bull
    September 11, 2006

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the biggest problem of the ark and flood: carnivores. Every time one of them eats, they wipe out an entire species. So let’s assume Noah, Ham, et al, brought enough prosciutto along to feed themselves and the carnivores for 40 days. Then they let off all the animals. And it’s mass extinctions at every meal until enough time goes by for the very few remaining prey to reproduce.

    I mean, seriously! That should be enough to convince any relatively open-minded christian that the bible is great for spiritual matters. But a little less than “inerrant” for the other stuff.

  62. Matt Bull
    September 11, 2006

    Dang it. I just thought of the creationist/literalist defense against the carnivore problem. While sexual reproduction had entered into the pre-deluvian Young Earth Universe, it only had been developed by non-prey species. Until, oh, a couple thousand years ago, all prey species reproduced asexually. So a fox could, say, nibble a snack off a rabbit without damaging the rabbit population in the slightest.

    That sound about right?

  63. sharon
    September 11, 2006

    Matt Bull: I’m surprised no one has mentioned the biggest problem of the ark and flood: carnivores. Every time one of them eats, they wipe out an entire species.

    You’re right and it seems to me not to be simply a problem for carnivores, but omnivores and herbivores as well.
    Gn:7:24:And the waters prevailed upon the earth an hundred and fifty days.
    If in fact a flood covered the surface of earth for that length of time, very little would be left alive for the vegetarians to eat. They would go extinct, soon followed by the carnivores. It’s simply hard to imagine all the many regional species of plants around the globe ever having survived the flood… cactus in the desert, (ehow.com) “Be careful not to over-water cactus.”… how did they survive the deluge… or take a fragile species like an orchid in a tropical rain forest…
    “More houseplants die from overwatering than any other cause. …”
    “but in most cases when your plant is distressed it will be due to overwatering! Yes, roots need water, but they need oxygen …”
    “Overwatering a potted plant is perhaps the leading cause of death. Roots that are surrounded by water and have little oxygen available soon rot,”
    Google “overwatering plant”

  64. sharon
    September 11, 2006

    Close your eyes for a moment and picture..

    Am I the only one here who gets that warm, fuzzy feeling every time I watch The Ten Commandments with Charleton Heston? The drama… the music… every time I see the red sea open, it still brings a tear to my eye..

  65. Ross
    September 11, 2006

    >Close your eyes and imagine velociraptors on an ark.

    Never mind them – how about two brontosauri? Or seven if they had cleft hooves and chewed their cud (remembering that just as there are two different and contradictory version of the creation in Genesis, so there are two different and contradictory versions of the Noah story).

    The problem starts with the assumption that the Bible is all literally true history. People who believe this will believe anything else that is required to support the initial assumption. All that we scientists can do is refute the fundamentalists when they tread on our turf and pretend their assumptions are supported by physical / chemical / biological / gelogical evidence, which they are not. Ross

  66. Noumenon
    September 12, 2006

    I’d add another complicator to this; how about all the marine life, so fresh and salt water just mixed, and how did they survive for over a month on this?

    I’ve found an Answers in Genesis page dealing with this question directly. You might not be convinced by the arguments, but it does appear to be an honest attempt by reasonable people to defend their views by appealing to facts about the world. If all creation/evolution arguments were made on this plane of rationality we would all respect each other a lot more and might actually change each others’ minds.

  67. jeffw
    September 12, 2006

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the biggest problem of the ark and flood: carnivores. Every time one of them eats, they wipe out an entire species. So let’s assume Noah, Ham, et al, brought enough prosciutto along to feed themselves and the carnivores for 40 days

    Actually, it’s more like 10 months (genesis 8). Noah would have had to bring enough food along to feed all the millions of carnivores and herbivore species for 10 months. Presumably if he could do that, feeding them for another few weeks after the ark landed would be relatively easy.

    And what about the rainbow that God gave us as a token apology for wiping us out? Apparently they didn’t exist before the flood. The laws of light diffraction must have been different then.

  68. Owlmirror
    September 12, 2006

    it does appear to be an honest attempt by reasonable people to defend their views by appealing to facts about the world.

    No. It is neither honest nor reasonable; it’s an absolutely closeminded apologetic. Like all apologetics, it assumes its conclusion (“There is no reason to doubt the reality of the Flood as described in the Bible”), and it uses only facts that are convenient, utterly ignoring those facts that are inconvenient to their argument. Here’s one of the closing notes from that AiG page:

    There is a huge number of marine fossils. If they really formed in the manner claimed by evolutionists (over hundreds of millions of years), then transitional fossils showing gradual change from one kind to another should be most evident here. But they are conspicuous by their absence.

    (emphasis added)

    You can’t reason someone out of a position that they did not use reason to reach.

    Flood geology was disproven over 150 years ago.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_geology

  69. Noumenon
    September 12, 2006

    utterly ignoring those facts that are inconvenient to their argument.

    No, I don’t think so. First, the fact of fresh and salt water fish is inconvenient, but they take it head on. Other statements in the article show that they were asking themselves, “Wouldn’t salt water kill seeds? Wouldn’t turbulence mix fresh and salt water? How could the fish breathe the dirty water?” These are very good questions and they’re not ignoring them. I am confident that marine biologists would demolish at least some of their proposed mechanisms, but it’s a respectable effort.

    To see the other side’s point of view you need to be able to say, “Okay, this article starts with the assumption of the Flood which I don’t necessarily share, but let’s take a look at their evidence anyway.” That’s the kind of attitude that let me come to accept evolution despite being indoctrinated to resist things like the fossil record and carbon dating. You end up saying, “Given the thing I don’t believe in, all the other things fall into place. Maybe the thing I don’t believe in is true.”

  70. Kevin Anderson
    September 12, 2006

    First, I would like to thank Carl for engaging me in a very fun intellectual exchange. I do not fully understand why he considered my initial proposal as an

  71. Owlmirror
    September 12, 2006

    utterly ignoring those facts that are inconvenient to their argument.

    No, I don’t think so. First, the fact of fresh and salt water fish is inconvenient, but they take it head on. Other statements in the article show that they were asking themselves, “Wouldn’t salt water kill seeds? Wouldn’t turbulence mix fresh and salt water? How could the fish breathe the dirty water?”

    I think you misunderstood. The facts that they argue about are those for which they have easy, perhaps even facile, answers for.

    The inconvenient facts that they ignore all have to do with basic geology, and so on.

    All they are doing is providing a few facts, not in favor of their ideology (which they simply assume is true), but arguing against one single argument against.

    Science isn’t just about throwing out some data in a slapdash fashion; it’s about trying to track down specifics, and falsify the current model. They note, for example, that fish can tolerate “slow” changes in salinity – but they don’t mention what that rate is, and they certainly don’t try to demonstrate that that rate is consistent with the rate of salinity change that necessarily follows from their presumptive Flood. And they don’t mention any exceptions to that (that is, fish that cannot tolerate any changes in salinity, no matter how slow the rate of change).

    And so on and so forth.

    All they care about are a few vague facts that can be hijacked to support their ideology. They discard the facts that explicitly contradict their ideology. And while it’s all very well to say “at least they’re thinking about it”, well, the evidence seems to show that they’re just cherry-picking.

  72. Owlmirror
    September 12, 2006

    Well, I’m not Carl, but since I’m here anyway:

    I am simply challenging whether the sickle cell mutation offers any basis for a genetic mechanism that evolution could use to ultimately produce an “entire biological system.” How does mutating a preexisting system (hemoglobin A) to a less functional form (hemoglobin S) provide any underlying genetic basis for a mechanism that common descent could have used to originally evolve hemoglobin?

    I’m not a geneticist, so I find your arguments confusing. I’m not even sure what you’re trying to ask, above.

    Are you trying to say that the mutation for sickle-cell would have arisen and spread even if the malaria parasite had never existed?

  73. Owlmirror
    September 12, 2006

    Also, a creation model does not say that the originally created humans were clones. Rather, there was likely significant genetic diversity from the beginning.

    And can you explain how “significant genetic diversity” can arise from a population of two?

  74. Owlmirror
    September 12, 2006

    It is an example of the opposite — deterioration of a preexisting system, and that fits very nicely within a creation model.

    One more question: Doesn’t that mean that the improvement of a prexisting system falsifies the creation model?

  75. Jon H
    September 12, 2006

    Carl writes: ” Now if only I could figure out how Galapagos tortoises got halfway around the world into the ark and then back to the Galapagos again…”

    They had intelligently designed turbine-like flagella, with which they sped across the oceans like a flotilla of jetskis.

  76. Carl Zimmer
    September 12, 2006

    Let me respond to Dr. Anderson’s last comment.

    Dr. Anderson wonders how mutating from one form of hemoglobin to another can be “a genetic mechanism that evolution could use to ultimately produce an entire biological system.” You don’t have to look very far into the scientific literature for an answer: gene duplication.

    As mutations go, it’s fairly common for a gene to be accidentally copied. In many cases, one of the copies will pick up mutations that disable it, creating a useless pseudogene. But in other cases, duplication can give rise to genes with new functions. In some cases, one copy of a gene goes on with its original function, while the other gene takes on a new function. In other cases, duplicated genes may divvy up the functions of the ancestral gene, becoming highly specialized on only some of them. Rounds after rounds of gene duplication produce large families of genes with similar sequeces and with a wide range of functions.

    It just so happens that hemoglobin is a very well-studied example of gene duplication. An ancestral gene for an oxygen-carrying enzyme was duplicated. That mutation gave rise to hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells, and myoglobin, which carries oxygen in muscles. After that duplication, the hemoglobin genes duplicated again several times, producing special forms that are produced in the adult or in the fetus.

    And where did the ancestral gene for myoglobin and hemoglobin come from? Earlier gene duplication. All major groups of animals, plants, and microbes carry similar genes (called globins), which have diversified as new copies have emerged. The current consensus among scientists is that globins started out billions of years ago as oxygen sensors, and then later new copies of the globin genes took on a new role as oxygen carriers.

    Sickle-cell anemia has emerged in humans in just the past few thousand years, the result of natural selection that favors mutations to hemoglobin that provide protection to malaria. Dr. Anderson believes that if sickle-cell anemia cannot provide a mechanism for the evolution of a system like hemoglobin, then evolution must be wrong. But the evidence I’ve just described shows that his argument is nothing but a red herring.

    For those who want to read some recent (free) papers on hemoglobin’s ancient history, see here, here, here, and here (pdf).

  77. dht
    September 13, 2006

    Kevin Anderson writes : “The mutations must be the types that provide a basis for a genetic mechanism that accounts for the origin of contemporary biological systems and functions. Not their loss.”

    Essentially your argument is that mutation can only cause losses of biological function. This hypothesis is incorrect because changes in the DNA code can result in a both gains in function as well as losses.

    A simple example. Many enzymes in the cell act to remove phosphates from other proteins. This process needs to tightly regulated, the enzyme is ON when the cell needs it and OFF when it doesn’t. Many mutations can lead to the loss of the enzyme’s ability to remove phosphates, ie always OFF. There are many cases where a single mutation can lead to an enzyme always being ON, a gain of function. One reference is Brunner et al. Cell 1994 (abstract link below). In that one case there was a change of a G to an A.

    The result of a that single mutation? Extra photoreceptors in the eye and veins in the wing. What happens when the this enzyme can’t function? You lose photoreceptors and veins.

    http://flybase.bio.indiana.edu/.bin/fbidq.html?FBrf0068431&resultlist=/tmp-shared/fbrf5968.data

  78. Owlmirror
    September 13, 2006
  79. brightmoon
    September 13, 2006

    errr in what field of study does dr anderson have his phd …it’s certainly not in biology …that’s a bad C-student highschooler’s explanation

  80. Josh
    September 13, 2006

    I have a problem with people who say ID is not creationism because ID accepts that aliens could have created us. There is a logical flaw with the idea that ET created us because it begets the question “Where did ET come from?”. Are we to assume that ET is capable of evolution but we are not, or are we to assume that ET was created by a different alien. The first assumption seems laughable and the second line of reasoning is infinitely recursive. Not a whole lot of help there. The only assumption that works is that ET has always existed in some infinite state, much the same way as God, and infact only different from the creationist God in the sense that the imagery and number of beings of such god like status do not coincide with creationist ideals of god.

    For a counter arguement to the flood I am going to turn to the musings of one of the greatest philosophers of our time, Eddie Izzard. “What about all of the evil Ducks?” Indeed, the evil ducks, not overly hindered by the types of water or the fact that it was raining would be free of any inconvinience posed by a lack of land.

    Of course trying to argue with anyone who thinks the bible is literally true is a pointless gesture and one that any logically and rationally minded person will exhaust themselves doing. To take the bible as literal truth one would have to have such a capacity to ignore any semblence of logic that no arguement is capable of swaying them. I mean there are so many inherent contridictions within the text that it would take a very capable ignoramus to accept it all literally without an ounce of questioning. Ignoring the actual contents of the text (an area ripe with contridiction itslef) there is the very fact that supposedly man has free will, the bible is currently printed and distributed by man, yet man cannot chose to alter the bible so that it is not literally true (and considering that there are, in fact, several versions of the bible, in several languages, one cannot argue that God preserves the text of the bible even with the interference of man). In that basic setup there is a fallacy that cannot be resolved. Either man can chose to print false versions of the bible and distribute them or man does not have free will.

    Of course one could argue that man does not have free will, but that begets the question “Why then does man question the existance of god?”.

    From a scientific standpoint there is no need to come up with counterevidience for creationists who assume that the bible is literally true and try to then force science to coincide with that belief. Their basic assumption is on such shacky ground, and with absolutely no physical evidence of truth, that addressing any point past the first assumption is absolutely meaningless. When the foundation is obviously about to collapse on itself one does not need to look at the make up of the rest of the structure to understand that it is inherently unsafe.

  81. Clastito
    September 13, 2006

    Dr Anderson
    I agree with Carl that there is no logical connection between pointing out some mild deleterious side effects of a mutation in haemoglobin, to jump to the conclusion that Haemoglobin could not have evolved by mutations, and that common descent is false. Any biologist is well aware that “beneficial” mutations also exist. And if you are familiar with science, you know perfectly well, that singling out “bad” mutations in humans to suggest perfect correspondence with the popular view among bible lovers that “the human race is degenerating” will earn you nothing but chuckles in the field.
    Common descent is not ” evolution by beneficial mutation”. That is darwinism. Common descent is a much, much more basic fact. That living organisms have originated from previous ones, and changes can accumulate in this proces. Regardless of the “beneficial” or “detrimental” status of these changes. Read Kimura. The mechanistic basis for common descent can be directly observed, in reproduction and in genetic changes which do not interfere with the life cycle.
    What then do you propose as the mechanistic basis to explain the origin of humans, if you discard common descent from our ape ancestors? If there has been no common descent, all alternatives seem to me unmechansitic, supernatural, and clearly at odds with the excellent documnetation of rasnitions in the fossil record. Do organisms pop up and it just “looks” like evolution?
    There, Mr. Anderson, is where you let the bible step in for you, and throw science out of the window.

  82. Matt Bull
    September 13, 2006

    >Are we to assume that ET is capable of evolution but we are not …?

    Josh, I’d have to argue that your questions are well out of the realm of science and into pholosophy at this point. For argument’s sake, let’s assume the alien designer hypothesis is true. If that were case, then modern science would have nothing to say concerning the history of the race of designers. We could use theory and observation to point to their existence, but being deprived of any fossil or cosmological evidence of them, we’d have to end it there. That’s one of the beautiful things about scientific inquiry in contrast to literal biblical theology: we have the ability to say, “I don’t know” when faced with questions beyond our ken.

  83. Josh
    September 13, 2006

    >, I’d have to argue that your questions are well out of the realm of science and into pholosophy at this point.

  84. Clara
    September 13, 2006

    “ALL transitional fossils ever dug up?!” Just name one legitimate transitional fossil and I’ll become an evolutionist!

  85. Josh
    September 13, 2006

    “ALL transitional fossils ever dug up?!” Just name one legitimate transitional fossil and I’ll become an evolutionist!

    Ambulocetus and Tiktaalik come to mind off the top of my head. Of course with an attitude like that I suspect there isn’t a single possible fossil, no matter how obvious, that would convince you.

  86. Owlmirror
    September 13, 2006

    Just name one legitimate transitional fossil

    Something I’ve always wondered — When creationists say “There are no transitional fossils!!!!!”, what the hell do they mean? What do they think a transitional fossil would look like, and how would it be different from the incredible number and variety of transitional fossils that have been dug up, cleaned, described, and categorized?

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html

  87. sharon
    September 13, 2006

    “ALL transitional fossils ever dug up?!” Just name one legitimate transitional fossil and I’ll become an evolutionist!

    Clara may be a transitional fossil. Check back in about 15 million years.

  88. Alexander Vargas
    September 14, 2006

    Clara,
    You name it, I

  89. KeithB
    September 14, 2006

    Here is an excellent article discussing the transitional nature of tiktaalik and transitionals in general:
    http://www.csicop.org/intelligentdesignwatch/fishibian.html

    (I got it from EvolutionBlog on ScienceBlogs)

  90. Owlmirror
    September 15, 2006

    Here is an excellent article discussing the transitional nature of tiktaalik and transitionals in general:
    http://www.csicop.org/intelligentdesignwatch/fishibian.html

    That is indeed excellent, and very clearly explained. And I guess it also answers my question above: creationists think that a transitional fossil would look like something put together by a rogue taxidermist.

    Oy.

  91. Josh
    September 19, 2006

    creationists think that a transitional fossil would look like something put together by a rogue taxidermist.

    If that were the case you would think the platypus would satisfy them.

  92. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 21, 2006

    I don’t involve myself in the Darwinist – YEC debate. For a start, after about 5 mins of it, I need to go outside and get some fresh air. It’s old. And it involves arguments based on totally incomplete knowledge which you as a science commentator should know are incomplete. There is one sure sign of Science having worked itself into a blind tumnnel – when it starts saying the case is closed (proved) when we don’t know much more than the first thing about it. Admitting one doesn’t know requires humility, and if that humility had been put into practice the hooha wouldn’t exist.
    I can’t bring myself to thoroughly investigate this sort of combative arguing but I do have one question regarding human genetics – is it true that human genetic information is severely impoverished compared to that of other primates? There was, as I recall, something in the literature about that some years ago. The researcher concluded that Man must have gone close to extinction, early in his career.
    My second question is different – when are you going to look at the latest developments in origins science and put paid to the nonsense? I invited you to do so some time ago. You could begin by critically evaluating my educational site, http://www.creationtheory.com I suppose you don’t wish to do this, because ending an already dead controversy wouldn’t sell in the press? Or is it that technologic developments are frightening? We are talking mainstream science here, and a controversy rendered obsolete by advances therein.

  93. Comstock
    September 21, 2006

    There is one sure sign of Science having worked itself into a blind tumnnel – when it starts saying the case is closed (proved) when we don’t know much more than the first thing about it.

    Good point, Philip Bruce Heywood. Surely heliocentrism must be wrong since scientists seem so sure that the case is closed.

  94. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 21, 2006

    O.K., I’ll start a fund to get you to the sun & back in a rocketship so as to confirm the heliocentric solar system, after you have told the world precisely what happens – every chemical process, every quantum information event, every atomic realignment, in detail, to immune systems, reproductive systems, DNA, the whole box and dice, when one species transformed to another. Don’t worry; the semi-fanatical Darwinist knows. It’s based on the principle that if you throw rocks at a pile of electical wiring in an electric field for long enough, you get a PC computer. Do we have even the faintest glimpse of what is involved, in fact, at species transformation?

  95. Owlmirror
    September 22, 2006

    every chemical process, every quantum information event, every atomic realignment, in detail, to immune systems, reproductive systems, DNA, the whole box and dice, when one species transformed to another.

    Eh, science is getting there. Science is a work in eternal progress. And without the existence of science, there would be no knowledge of chemistry or of chemical processes, or of quantum mechanics, or of atomic theory, or of immune systems, or of reproductive systems, or of DNA, or that species are in fact related.

    Religion, on the other hand, has produced only trivial observations (such as might have been made by any human living a few thousand years ago), or false ones (such as might have been dreamed up by humans who didn’t know any better, living a few thousand years ago), which is why “creation theory” is useless.

    See also:
      http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
    et cetera, et cetera.

  96. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 23, 2006

    Funny that at least 75% of respected scientists were creationist. Some of them openly mentioned that their achievements came through prayer: many studied the Scriptures.
    Cogratulations on admitting that Science doesn’t know everything. Pass the word around, would you?
    We don’t even know fully the (quantum) processes that drive the simplest chemical reactions. Yet Species Origin is “proved”? – Darwinistic Evolution?
    Yes, species were unrolled over time. But with the right sort of information technology – “quantum”, as a cover-all term – it is theoretically possible to create species instantaneously (as information, set to automatically transmit to & transform another species) and this species transformation can obviously be achieved without getting one species to give birth to another in the commonly accepted meaning of that term. Man nearly does it now.
    What’s religious about information technology? What’s not religious about nature/other species being able to create new species? Where’s the science in saying that their are laws of heredity that mean you won’t suddenly find yourself the father of an ape-like creature, but ape-like creatures were our blood ancestors? Let’s get the religion out of the science.

  97. Owlmirror
    September 24, 2006

    Funny that at least 75% of respected scientists were creationist.

    87% of statistics are made up on the spot.

    Yes, species were unrolled over time. But with the right sort of information technology – “quantum”, as a cover-all term – it is theoretically possible to create species instantaneously (as information, set to automatically transmit to & transform another species) and this species transformation can obviously be achieved without getting one species to give birth to another in the commonly accepted meaning of that term.

    This isn’t right.
    This isn’t even wrong.

    By the way, I strongly suggest that you come up with a better term than just “quantum” for this … notion you’ve cooked up. Using the word “quantum” as though it means “magic wand” is unhelpful.

  98. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 24, 2006

    This is going nowhere, just like the whole shambroglio. Of course we aren’t interested in the statistics. (I think it within the realm of reason that we could suggest that Laplace, Kant, Buffon, Lamarck, Crick, Hoyle were not creationist. One wouldn’t wish to put words in anyone’s mouth. We can put words in the mouth of almost every respected scientist, from Francis Bacon through to Einstein and Planck, to show they certainly weren’t non-creationist.) And of course we aren’t interested in the subatomic (quantum, as a cover-all term) processes likely to be involved in speciation. Even though the modern science literature is fairly studded with it. Doing so would end the argument, and remove a whole lot of people from their various comfort zones. This is a big industry!

  99. Owlmirror
    September 24, 2006

    Doing so would end the argument, and remove a whole lot of people from their various comfort zones.

    And of course, absolutely everyone who opposes the idea of the common descent of all life as described by the theory of evolution by natural selection does so because they have a deep understanding of spontaneous-quantum-information-theory-speciation, and not because the current model of evolution makes them… uncomfortable.

    Comfort zones. Indeed.

  100. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 24, 2006

    Here’s a tricky quizz: Who/What is it?
    When talking about me, people can tend to get emotional.
    I am perceived by many as the best chance for meeting Man’s needs.
    I have provided answers to many of Man’s problems.
    By me, transformations in nature occurred which cannot (yet, anyway) be analyzed step-by-step according to rigorous methods. I override various laws (such as heredity and entropy) in my powerfull outcomes.
    I was a factor, if not the cause, of your coming into being.
    People speak of me in the highest terms (e.g., some insist that I am the centerpivot of Science itself.) Who or what do we think of in terms such as these?

    A. I think that’s a good question. Exactly Who, or What, is this center of so much emotion?

  101. Owlmirror
    September 25, 2006

    Oooh! Riddles!

    When talking about me, people can tend to get emotional.

    Well, since we’ve been discussing creationism, the answer is obviously:

    Charles Darwin.

    I am perceived by many as the best chance for meeting Man’s needs.

    Tricky indeed! People obviously have many needs. However, since “Man” is capitalized, it obviously means the species, rather than individuals. And since what the species needs most to survive is reproductive success, the answer is:

    Offspring

    I have provided answers to many of Man’s problems.

    Aha! An easy one:

    Science

    By me, transformations in nature occurred which cannot (yet, anyway) be analyzed step-by-step according to rigorous methods.

    A tricky one again! Transformations… in nature… which cannot be analyzed… rigorous methods… yet… Aha!

    Extinctions

    I override various laws (such as heredity and entropy) in my powerfull outcomes.

    An easy one!

    Mutation and selection

    I was a factor, if not the cause, of your coming into being.

    A really tricky one. Hmm. Much too vague. Oh, well, this could be wrong, but:

    Randomness

    People speak of me in the highest terms (e.g., some insist that I am the centerpivot of Science itself.)

    An easy one! The centerpivot of Science itself is:

    Methodological naturalism

    Who or what do we think of in terms such as these?

    And summing everything up, we of course get:

    Evolution!

    That’s a great riddle.

  102. Owlmirror
    September 25, 2006

    I was a factor, if not the cause, of your coming into being.

    I want to change my answer for this one (didn’t realize that “factor” iss the significant word):

    Morphogenetic development

  103. Hazard
    September 25, 2006

    Owlmirror, that was one of the best things I’ve seen on the internet in a long time.

    Va-va-voom!

  104. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    Dear Phillip,
    I am not here to tell anyone that they have to be an atheist, or that religion is superstitious, foolish, etc. All of that would be simply false. As a scientist that is none of my business. I do not step out of my way to attack religion.
    This being said, when it is the religious people who go out of their way, to say that science is wrong in arguing the necessary existence of a supernatural creator or designer , some clarifications are due, specially regarding why organic evolution is an inescapable conclusion, if we are indeed to remain within the category of scientific explanations.
    Scientific explanations are all about “how”, explaining new experiences through other better known experiences. If you think about it, there are inherent limitations to this process, and it is true that too many scientists do not acknowledge them properly. However, there is nothing more saddening than to deny what precious knowledge we have indeed been able to obtain, to replace it with supernatural explanations.
    In this respect, when trying to explain human origins, special creation can only be interposed by denying that which we know. We could produce a long listing of what we know on huma origins, derived from the comparison of both fossil and living apes. Since we can see quite clearly how reproduction and inheritance, which entails both conservation and variation, can explain how through time we have retained similarities, while at the same time acumulating differences with our ape relatives. It is clear that interposing a mechansim of sudden creation as an explanation for any ape species, including humans, would require us to abandon not only the truly scientific mode of explanations, but also to forget our detailed empirical knowledge on the transition to humans.
    I understand how beliveing in god is the best conclusion that many people achieve according to their own judgement, and Irespetc that even if I have myself reached another conclusion. Similarly, it would be nice that religious people could understand how most of us scientists cannot resign on the fact of evolution without knowing according to our judgment, that that would mean to also resign to scientific knoweldge on human origins.

  105. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    We cannot replace common descent with supernatural creation without resigning to science. If you understand this point you may understand why evolution has remained and will remain an estalished fact within the natural sciences.

  106. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 26, 2006

    That was a tricky quizz. I put down those disjointed questions because I am trying to figure out exactly what it is that drives the controversy. No other scientific controversy since the Church banned Copernicus etc., has achieved the emotive status this one has. The argument is not over evolution, because evolution simply means an unrolling. Cool-headed people have put forth various theories as to how the species were unrolled. (I summarize one or two at my educational site.) I think Mr Mirror has summed it up nicely. Some people have embued some technical terms with religious significance. We are in fact looking at the hijacking of technical theory and technical jargon, by what might be termed a religious force. What other explanation meets the observations? What other technical theory attracts this sort of attention? And why do people keep bringing up matters of religion, when invited to examine technicalities? You ever hear of lawsuits over Newton’s laws, or quantum theory? And why do some people point blank refuse to answer simple, reasonable questions? Are we afraid of what we might see if we look through Galileo’s telescope?

    If I might add an addend: we keep hearing this talk about religious considerations. The church that opposed Copernicus (who was one of its officers!) obviously got something wrong. Its opposition to Science was minor compared to its barbarism towards some other dissenters. Reformation brought again to the fore the (biblical) teachings of Christianity. One outcome of biblical Christianity is free speech and the fostering of science. Science proceedure is actually rooted in certain scriptural precepts. One of those precepts (or whatever) is the principle that the natural world operates independent of religious belief. Science is open to all. Atheism is in fact permitted by few religions, other than reformed or scriptural based Christianity. These are historical facts. (Which some people doubtless will dispute, as they will dispute the fact that most successfull scientists had a concept of Intelligent Design. The records are available.) So the fact that so-called science, masquerading as one, narrow explanation of evolution, is excluding people of various faiths, by definition shows the “science” to be wayward. As I pointed out, established, proveable technical laws, such as quantum theory, relativity, and so on, ultimately dissociate from religious friction.

    Check it out. One or two of the quizz answers will have personal meaning to some people, way beyond 1 + 1 = 2.
    Whilst such a situation stands, technical progress in these areas will be stultified. As it is, now. If the new findings of quantum theory throw new light on the mechanisms of your brand of evolution, which goes – the mechanisms, or quantum theory?

  107. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    Phillip,
    I do hope you understand special creation is not a scientific description of mechanism, but in fact a supernatural and nit a scientific, explanation. You should not dodge away from truly thinking about this.
    Progress in quantum theory has been completely irrelevant to biology, even if it is at the base of the matter itself that makes living things possible. You seem to be telling us that understanding something new about bricks of which a building is made would somehow change its standing architecture. Certainly, the bricks make the building possible, but this does not mean that everything stems merely from brick composition. Similarly, with the same basic atoms, C, H, O, N, very differenet organisms are made… what makes you think that subatomic levels are any more relevant? They set limits, but your suggestion that biology ( and for that, sociology, or everything) will be enslaved to the advances in quantum theory is a quite plain epistemological mistake of flaming reductionism.

  108. Kevin Anderson
    September 26, 2006

    My challenge to Carl was simply to explain how the sickle cell mutation (transformation of hemoglobin A to hemoglobin S) provides a genetic basis of a mechanism for common descent. Carl

  109. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    Mr Anderson
    If you are sincerely wondering about the origins of haemoglobin, the topic of sickle-cell disease is not the place to look for it, since haemoglobin is indeed much older than humans and is common to all or most vertebrates as far as I know.
    The fact that slight bad side effects exist for some mutation in haemoglobin or any other gene does not provide any argument to question the plausibility of common descent, which as you know only leaves supernatural causes as unscientific explanations. In fact,as you surely know, it has been well demosntrated that sickle cell disease despite its mild problems conferrs immunity to malaria nad therefore people with these mutations are more frequent in places where this disease exists.
    Anyways, it is rumoured that creationists do not search to win any arguments, but to come off as equels when they manage to engage people like Carl into discussion. I am not syaing this is necessarily the case, but the lack of progress on any poitn when explainign things to creationists does make you wonder about their level of sincerity and the hiding of religious motivatiosn. Take phillip, for example… he seem to use the term “religion” in a pejorative way attaching it to evolution. Is this sincere? Do you agree?

  110. Owlmirror
    September 26, 2006

    Therefore, my initial contention still stands, sickle cell mutation does not provide a viable genetic basis for an underlying mechanism for common descent. It is a degenerative process that is the antithesis of a genetic mechanism for the evolutionary origin of comtemporary hemoglobin. Enough of such mutations would bring about the end of humans rather than their next evolutionary stage.

    This argument shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what evolution is all about.

    There is nothing in the theory of evolution that says that humans have some “evolutionary stage” that our species is meant to achieve.

    Evolution simply says that any genetic change that allows for more offspring that survive will be propagated by those offspring that have the genetic change.

    That’s it.

    Saying that the sickle-cell point mutation is “degenerative” completely misses the point. Genetic changes can’t be looked at alone; they have to be taken into account with the environment that the individuals of the species is in. If there’s something that looks degenerative that is nevertheless common in a population, then it’s necessary to look at the environment that the population is in.

    If they’re in an environment that’s getting colder, then genetic changes that allow the individuals of the species to retain heat could be selected for.

    If they’re in an environment that’s getting warmer, then genetic changes that allow the individuals of the species to lose heat could be selected for.

    And if they’re in an environment that contains a parasite that survives by invading blood cells, and which kills those that it infects, then genetic changes that allow the individuals of the species to avoid infection by that parasite, and the death it brings, could be selected for. If that change works by causing some cells to be deformed, then that’s how it works. And, of course, in this particular case, it can only provide a benefit if there’s one mutant gene and one healthy gene.

    All that’s necessary for the genetic profile to propagate is for more offspring that have the genetic change survive than those that don’t.

    And that’s all that the sickle-cell mutation is.

  111. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    Evolution can also include the fixation in populations of non-adapative or even slightly negative mutations by the occurrence of bottle necks and foundation effects rather than natural seletcion. This has been well-documented and is known as evolution by genetic drift.
    Of course judgements of the “adaptiveness” of changes bear no implications allowing to question common descent.

  112. Owlmirror
    September 26, 2006

    Oh, and the original-sin model of mutation and painful genetic disease implies a designer who is utterly evil. Not just incompetent, not just indifferent, but actually deriving some malicious pleasure in seeing children suffer and die at an early age, and parents mourning at one more tiny grave.

    Because an incompetent might be helpless to stop the occasional “degenerative” mutation, and an indifferent designer might not care enough to stop the occasional “degenerative” mutation.

    But only a despicably evil torturer would cause a painfully fatal mutation to spread through a large population over many generations for no reason.

  113. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    Err.. yeah, well, that’s owlmirror’s opinion. We all know religious people can cite thousands of other observations of nature that they may rejoice as reflections the goodness of god.. so if anything goes…I don’t take sides in arguments like that.

  114. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 26, 2006

    Try looking at my site (classified mainstream science) to get the picture.
    The discovery of DNA and ancillary mechanisms revealed that species including Man’s physical aspect are essentially information married with life. Leaving the deep question of life aside, this means it is theoretically possible to unroll a sequence of instantaneously created species over time.

    Enter the sophisticated and at this stage mostly theoretical information technology revolution associated with what we call quantum mechanics. Already papers have appeared in the literature pointing up the quantum – computer affinities of DNA.

    Not only do we now know that species revelation is an information systems outcome – we have clear pointers to the systems involved.

    These advances mean we can now describe species evolution (unrolling) without calling for one species to be the true genetic ancestor of another, and without violating the entropy barrier. But we can retain adaptation according to environmental circumstances.

    We can also stop bothering the religious community. These concepts fit perfectly with the Bible. Incidentally, the Bible says or implies in a dozen places that the earth is of extreme antiquity. Nowhere does it even imply the opposite.

    Like most things in science, it is beautiful in its simplicity, whilst being mind-boggling.
    It’s documented at http://www.creationtheory.com .

  115. Clastito
    September 26, 2006

    That’s not science. That is science fiction. The “code” in DNA is a metaphor, not to be taken at literal value. There is chemical structural correspondences, templates, but no symbols that have been ARBITRARILY assigned a meaning by an observer, like our letters. Try to read the genome? All you will do is babble “attcgtggcca”. No literal code. Just a metaphor for chemical corrspondences.
    Quantum computer affinties of DNA? Jeez man. Sounds very nice, but its useless. No new phenomenologicla domain or line of experimentation has been born form that. Nor will there ever be from such unhinged imaginations that do not delve into mechanism nor make testable hyotheses. Very nice for explanation, sure, and akin to the religion-prone, better. But not science.

  116. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 26, 2006

    Which brings me back to my original point. Everyone has their peculiar calling in life. Church people can’t be expected to do science. Scientists are usually lousy at P.R.. Most P.R. people don’t often get to the complete bottom of complex issues. And some scientists seem to have something like Asperger’s Syndrome, and react to humanity-warming actions and concepts like a cold frog.
    So when are we going to see professionalism and common sense prevail here?

    Over at TalkOrigins they are still defining speciation as one part of a population getting different to another part of a population. They still can’t decide whether species exist. That’s actually a retrogression from Darwin.

  117. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 26, 2006

    I wrote previously about comfort zones, and choosing between technical advance and personal feeling. Full-blown quantum information technology is NOT the same information technology as we are employing right here, via conventional computers. It’s powers of ten more powerful – and under certain applications, more erratic or seemingly disordered? There are reasons to believe it could manifest in outcomes such as we observe in biology. This is unproven. So right now we await developments. That’s what Science is doing, anyway. What’s religion doing?

  118. Owlmirror
    September 26, 2006

    The discovery of DNA and ancillary mechanisms revealed that species including Man’s physical aspect are essentially information married with life.

    OK, got this part. DNA conveys biological information in a chemical sequence, sure.

    Leaving the deep question of life aside, this means it is theoretically possible to unroll a sequence of instantaneously created species over time.

    Right here, you lose me. What?

    How does the existence of DNA in any way shape or form imply “a sequence of instantaneously created species over time”?

    How is it even supposed to work?

    The current evolutionary model refers to common descent. For example, cats and dogs are very distant cousins; there was an ancient common ancestor that gradually, over many millions of years, and thousands of generations, gave rise to populations of carnivores which separated from each other, one of which over time became felines, and another became canids.

    In your model… what is supposed to have happened? The ancient common ancestor gave birth to one litter of kittens and one litter of puppies, and those were the first cats and dogs?

  119. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 27, 2006

    You have succinctly highlighted the great problem with full-on Darwinism. Species by definition don’t grade into each other – unless we re-write species terminology to “get” them to do so. Whether an “ape” was or was not somehow involved in how we got here, it was NOT involved in giving birth to a human, in the common genetic meaning of birth. If it was, the laws of heredity demand we would sometimes give birth to apes. I don’t have to tell that to a biologist.
    So, what say we look at how living organisms are made up, and see if we can’t come up with a theoretical procedure of species transformation without genetic or “blood” lineage. That was actually Sir Richard Owen’s idea, back before Darwin. He couldn’t see the mechanism. Darwin came along and certainly highlighted the importance of adaptation to environmental change. As Owen pointed out at the time, this is an inadequate mechanism.

    My approach is abruptly summarized as follows. Please see my site for enlargement.

    From what we know now about living organisms, we need to figure out how to get one species to transform to another – without violating the obvious law of heredity. We can clone a sheep. Sexual creatures can be caused to reproduce asexually. That may lead somewhere? O.K., try for a sheep embryo inside a goat for a surrogate mother. (Yes, sheep and goats aren’t in evolutionary sequence. But perhaps we can use them to prove a point.) Put the brand new embryo of a sheep inside the goat. Theoretically we are going to have to do something about autoimmune rejection. If we can rewrite the immune system somehow, can we get a goat to bear and rear a sheep? Theoretically, something of this order may be possible? To avoid physical intervention, we need to actually re-programme the information in the embryo of a goat, effectively turning it into a sheep embryo.

    This is an inadequate summary and you need to see my site for more. Of course there are huge gaps in the hypothetical procedure. But it does not violate any law of science. As Sherlock Holmes said, When all impossibilities have been eliminated, that which remains, be it ever so improbable, is the answer.

    The latest on how animals pick up signals and how chemistry really works in DNA & immune systems is mind-boggling and provocative. Theoretically, it is possible to re-programme DNA, and to incorporate response to environment into the re-programmed molecule – without external physical intervention.

    That’s what Owen, Darwin & co., were driving at all along.
    They were working in the dark.
    DNA reprogramming either happened, or species never were evolved (unrolled) a la fossil record. What other option is there? And what other option do we have for the actual transformation procedure, other than one in which new information, at least partly garnered from environmental conditions, featured in DNA transformation at a point in time, this transformation being concurrent with the other events which, combined, resulted in a genetically unique outcome – a new species? And this new species must have had “parent(s)” to give it a start in life!

    Tell us how it happened, will you? It did happen – often, repeatedly, as an ASPECT of nature, not as a CREATION by nature. It happened without violation of any law.

  120. Clastito
    September 27, 2006

    That we descend from apes does not imply we should give birth to a full blown chimpanzee every now and then… though some traits reflecting evolutionary ancestry do come up every now and then in humans, such as tails or rows of multiple nipples.
    I have no idea how the challenges of growing a sheep embryo in the uterus of a goat is supposed to imply a supenatural origin of species. Even between indivudals of a same species there can be immunological rejection of an embryo, yet we know they are related. Are we arguing that because I cannot grow a cat embryo in a lion’s uterus, these species are not truly related? Common descent does not require such compatibliity between distant endpoints, but simply one reproduction at a time, in the lineage leading to each species. You do not want to reject a reasonable concept by knocking down a strawman caricature of it.

  121. Clastito
    September 27, 2006

    By the way, didn’t poor old Conan Doyle end up fooled into believing in fairies by some fake pictures?

  122. Owlmirror
    September 27, 2006

    From what we know now about living organisms, we need to figure out how to get one species to transform to another – without violating the obvious law of heredity. We can clone a sheep. Sexual creatures can be caused to reproduce asexually. That may lead somewhere? O.K., try for a sheep embryo inside a goat for a surrogate mother. (Yes, sheep and goats aren’t in evolutionary sequence. But perhaps we can use them to prove a point.) Put the brand new embryo of a sheep inside the goat. Theoretically we are going to have to do something about autoimmune rejection. If we can rewrite the immune system somehow, can we get a goat to bear and rear a sheep? Theoretically, something of this order may be possible? To avoid physical intervention, we need to actually re-programme the information in the embryo of a goat, effectively turning it into a sheep embryo.

    This is an inadequate summary

    “Inadequate” certainly is a good description. I’d also suggest “incoherent”.

    Your assertions include the implication that Darwinian gradualism is “impossible”. You have not demonstrated that before coming up with with your ideas.

    Speciation by way of gradual change over millions of years and many generations may be hard for you to understand, but it is by far the best explantion for the evidence in nature that we have.

    If you think that there’s something that completely falsifies gradual changes in species as the result of cumulative changes in generations of individuals, you’ll have to come up with the evidence.

    And if you think that there are quantum-thingamabobs in DNA that can cause spontaneous speciation, you’ll have to come up with the evidence for that, too.

    Just out of curiosity: How much research into current models of speciation have you done?

  123. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 27, 2006

    No serious attempted to answer the questions nor grasp the concepts. Par for the course in this area! Prime evidence of what goes wrong, perenially, in the Science/Religion Sphere!

    Notice how these commentators and indeed many convinced parties in this debate simply wind back to some previous spot in the script and go again from there? Or get personal? Standard practice if ever you bump into a religious/political sect on the street corner, or if you get a visit from people with fervent zeal in their demeanor.

    The evidence that species don’t grade into each other is seen every day by anyone with their eyes open. More on that soon.

    The cry for evidence, when breakthroughs were still in the pipeline, is precisely what people demanded of Copernicus, Kepler, & co.. Then when Galileo came along with his telescope, it took some of them years before they could bring themselves to look into it. I have to go. My third son is at the top of a tree, making strange roaring noises at a man with long hairy arms who is riding a two-humped horse, followed by a cat that barks and cocks its leg at every fifth post.
    And there’s a bloke further down the street burning copies of NEW SCIENTIST and holding forth about what he says is all this new junk science.
    Well, one supposes it helps keep the Press in pocket?

  124. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 28, 2006

    This won’t be of much interest to those who already know all, but if anyone out there is actually interested in being part of these exciting new developments – http://www.creationtheory.com has been around since yr.2000, classified as agreeing with mainstream science, researched and provided by a qualified geologist, up-to-date with recent research (even NEW SCIENTIST!) and, of course, opposed, ridiculed, and even banned by a healthy proportion of the players in the field. I must swing off now.

  125. Owlmirror
    September 28, 2006

    No serious attempted to answer the questions nor grasp the concepts.

    What questions?

    The only questions I saw were these:

    We can clone a sheep. Sexual creatures can be caused to reproduce asexually. That may lead somewhere?

    How does this support your ideas? Cloning of placental animals is a hard problem. It is so difficult that it is only made possible by extremely hard-working and intelligent scientists with a deep understanding of all aspects of the biology involved, and even then requiring multiple failed trials before reaching even one success. All of this argues against the possibility of such a thing happening suddenly and spontaneously.

    And then there’s these questions:

    Theoretically we are going to have to do something about autoimmune rejection. If we can rewrite the immune system somehow, can we get a goat to bear and rear a sheep? Theoretically, something of this order may be possible?

    Hacking the immune system is a hard problem, which, again, argues against it happening spontaneously in nature.

    Where’s your evidence that a completely alien zygote will spontaneously erupt, ever?

    The evidence that species don’t grade into each other is seen every day by anyone with their eyes open.

    I did ask you what research you have done into current models of speciation. The thing is, from my reading, species do grade into each other. There are various different species that can nevertheless interbreed, to a greater or lesser extent; have you not read of these hybrids? (horse-donkey; lion-tiger; dolphin-orca; housecat-serval; serval-caracal, etc)

    Have you not read of “ring species”, where one population may interbreed with the population immediate adjacent to it, but not the populations at the far extremes of the distribution?

    Speciation is a difficult topic, and I certainly don’t understand everything about it, but the assertion that species “don’t grade into each other” is simply not correct.

    The cry for evidence, when breakthroughs were still in the pipeline, is precisely what people demanded of Copernicus, Kepler, & co.. Then when Galileo came along with his telescope, it took some of them years before they could bring themselves to look into it.

    Hmpf! Kepler had evidence, in the form of Tycho Brahe’s excellent observational data, as well as having the mathematic skills to create the formulas that correlated all of that data, which he published. And he furthermore was able to use his formulas to make successful astronomical predictions.

    And so far, what you’ve shown is not Galileo’s telescope, but rather the equivalent of Kepler’s earlier confused idea of correlating planetary orbits with the Platonic solids. He puttered around with that for a while, before giving up on it because he couldn’t get the math to work – it did not match the data.

    So I think it’s only fair to ask about your notion of spontaneous-speciation-via-quantum-thingamajigs-in-DNA: Where’s the data? Where’s the math? Where are the predictions?

  126. Clastito
    September 28, 2006

    Species can grade into each other. Several birds are taxonomic species, with different plumage and song, and do not normally interbreed, but can do so in the lab, with fertile descendants. This is speciation on its way; precigotic mechanism of reproductive isolation come first. Since in practice they do not exchange genes, genetic incompatibilities can accumulate, and eventually include mechansims of postcigotic isolation (complete inviability of interbreeding).
    All of this is well documented by the work of Mayr and more recently by Grant & Grant

    Similarly, even lions and tigers can be interbreed, and have fertile descendnts. And no one would doubt that these are in fact quite different kinds of animals.

    The distinction of species is in fact not clear clut, and as is well-known, not applicable to asexual organisms to begin with. Does this mean there is no common descent? Of course not. Blurriness to limits testifies to the continuity of life through common descent, if anything.

    In fact new species that breed mostly within their own kind can originate form the hybrids between different species, as is well documented in the case of plants and insects. Species hybridization is a source of evolution. The whole species topic is still under study and probably will always remain so, since there are for sure, discrete types in nature, that tend to breed within their own kind, yet at the same time, we find the links between kinds and blurry limts here and there.

    Only a very prejudiced mind indeed, who knows aforehand where it wants to go, deduces any evidence for supernatural creation from these honest scientific discussions.

    And, they will resort to all kind of banal contextualizations as arguments to substitute for any REAL bological discussion. And of course, use the ocassion to merely proselitize their website.

  127. JohnnieCanuck
    September 28, 2006

    In response to the question “Where are all the missing transitional fossils?”, I would like to point out that pretty much every fossil ever found is transitional. Each and every fossil is of an individual that had ancestors and barring imminent extinction, descendents. In fact there can be no proof that due to a lack of descendents showing changes, any given fossil is not transitional.

    The challenge for all those thousands of creationist paleontologists out there, is to come up with fossils that falsify common descent or evolution. Of course, if by some surprise, they do, honestly using the tools of science, then they will have added to science.

  128. JohnnieCanuck
    September 28, 2006

    Someone asked why it is only evolution that comes in for criticism.

    My answer is Egotism. The men (women not included) who were responsible for these ancient writings flattered themselves that everything was about them.

    They were:
    Created in God’s image.
    Created separately from animals and women.
    Given dominion over the earth et al.
    The reason for the creation of everything.
    At the centre of everything.
    His Chosen people.
    Betrayed by women.
    etc.

    Evidence obtained through science casts doubt on several of these items, but being related by birth to monkeys seems to cut the deepest. As a consequence of descent with modification, somewhere back when, we had a many-times great grandmother whose sibling is the ancestor of all the other primates.

    Myself, I’m definitely not ashamed of my distant primate cousins. If only I could be sure that their descendents won’t someday accept religion as an ego crutch.

    There are of course, quite a few closer cousins who shamefully prefer wishful thinking over the evidence. They but defend the pedestal their predecessors created for them to stand on.

  129. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 29, 2006

    We have GOT to be dealing with some sort of quasi-religion here. And it’s even fouling up basic science education.
    If your grandfather had a “roman” nose, and I came along and said none of your descendents will ever have a roman nose, you would laugh at me. But you come along and tell me your grandfather was a chimp-like creature, but you sure as shooting would laugh at me if I insisted you have a vet. as well as a doctor, at chilbirth. Ah! But evolution changes the genes. Sure, sure. It’s just that it doesn’t change roman noses. The roman nose info. is forever in the information bank of the species. The only thing happening to genetic info. amongst HIGHER forms of life right now is de-clarification through genetic damage. (Bugs, weeds, and pests, however, are advancing – detrimentally to higher life.)
    The idea that fossils are inherently transitional flatly contradicts the fact that palaeontologists, operating within the parameters one would expect from normal and observed species variation, classify fossils into species, in many cases without much doubt about the accuracy of their classification. (Of course some groups of organisms are more difficult to classify than others – and hybrids are possible. Hybrids aren’t new species. They simply tell us something about species.) The roman nose illustration holds equally for palaeontologists and biologists.
    Ego? Get rid of an omnipotent diety, and WHO is the BIGGEST noise in the universe? Wouldn’t be humble, little ol’ ME, would it?
    Get R.Dawkins and the whole team and answer such questions if we wish, but spare us the AIG – like professional obfuscation. Give rational investigation a try.

  130. Clastito
    September 29, 2006

    I feel the roman nose argument is bad enough not to require any reply. You should be able to tell why, Phillip. If I were you, I would worry if not.
    The fact that fossil species are discrete and identifiable is more interesting. Does this mean we can jump to discard common descent in favor of the non scientific, supernatural explanations? Jeez, no man. Bear with us a second, will ya.
    First, this does not mean that “there are no transitional fossils”. If we can identify a species of walking whale, then another that still has hindlimbs but is more aquatic, the fact reamains that the latter shares a more recent common ancestor with modern whales than the former, and reflect changes occurred in the lineage leading to modern whales.

    Second, stasis, or non evolution, is a fact. That is, species do not HAVE to evolve, “progress” like some would have it. Transtional forms may live for millions of years with other trasnitional species alongside. What SJ Gould showed, was that species can spend a very long time in stasis while speciation occurs in much shorter times than those spent in stasis. That reflects in the fossil record.
    Even so, there ARE cases where the time resolution in some deposits is good enough that we find very gradual transitions and actual difficulty in keeping species separate.
    It is a matter of stasis being much more easy to see in the fossil record than the comparatively much shorter time in which speciation occurs.

  131. Clastito
    September 29, 2006

    And, new species DO originate from hybridization of other species. Do your homework!

  132. JohnnieCanuck
    September 29, 2006

    Well, noise to an engineer, is that which obscures information and contains little or no information itself…

    You know, the discoverers of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation thought it was noise in their equipment. It turned out it was a signal containing a lot of information about the biggest explosion ever. So far, there is no need for goddidit as an explanation.

    I’ll set aside the possible interpretation that little ol’ YOU consider yourself the biggest noise in existence. I know what you were implying and I’ll ignore the potential Freudian slip.

    The Christian religion has resisted every scientific discovery that tended to show how insignificant mankind is in the cosmos. There’s no egotism to “created in His Image”? How ironic in the extreme to then accuse atheists of egotism when they argue against self puffery.

    I thought one of the main talking points of those who defend themselves against atheism was that it is too depressing to consider because there can be no purpose or meaning if we are a random result and not specially created. Damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    Clastito, I despair that he is too blinded by wishful thinking to benefit from study of the scientific evidence. Our posts may never change his mind. We can only hope to prevent him from misleading others.

  133. Owlmirror
    September 29, 2006

    More knowledgeable commenters have already responded, but I just thought I’d reply to this:

    Give rational investigation a try.

    Rational investigation, over the past century and a half or so, has shown that the theory of evolution by natural selection, with certain additions and modifications resulting from new knowledge of paleontology, genetics, and developmental biology, is the best explanation for biological diversity that there is. In fact:

    “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”

  134. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 30, 2006

    So who’s saying there was no evolution – unrolling of life?
    I get a complaint from one commentator that I’m trying to sell a website, yet no matter how many times it is brought to his attention, he won’t spend 5 mins. to discover it’s not an anti-evolution, “God just did everything” publication that he imagines he is attacking.

    Congratulations again to Owlmirror for allowing that human knowledge isn’t perfect yet.

    I am a geologist and I know a small amount about fossils, not so much about genetics. The fact that great-grandaddy was a chimp but we have got rid of his genes, yet can’t shake grandma’s inherited worts, has me intrigued. I am so unlearned in such matters, it’s not worth the while giving me an explanation. Likewise the Public. So why not give the explanation, here, in less than 500 words, in everyman’s language. Or go to the site that you can’t seem to find and tell people whether the explanation there is feasible. Do some science!

  135. Clastito
    September 30, 2006

    Phillip, your comments, on fossils, genetics, of possible quantum mechanisms of sudden appearance,all pointed against common descent.
    I am very glad, therefore, that you have accepted evolution. Welcome.
    As a paleobiologist, this immediatley removes the greatest source of my annoyance.
    You are welcome to believe that evolution and everything in the universe is the unfolding of the will of god. This does not imply that we have to deny any basic scientific facts as “hogwash” when they are not. I may continue to be respected for studying fossils, for teaching that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and other beautiful facts of nature. And I will continue to respect the religious beliefs of anyone, while at the same time, never surrendering that my own thinking also be respected.
    We may all just get along!!

  136. Philip Bruce Heywood
    September 30, 2006

    I don’t have a habit of getting along particularly well with people who put words in other people’s mouths. Sorry, you can’t pull that one. As anyone with the most basic cognative skills would know through the simple expedient of actually reading what was placed before them, EVOLUTION in my usage EQUALS UNROLLING. COMMON DESCENT equals AN IRISH PHURPHY GONE TO SEED. We are still waiting on the explanation of why grandad chimp’s genes went away but grandma’s congenital worts are still with us.
    I’ll wager we shan’t be seeing it.

  137. Owlmirror
    September 30, 2006

    EVOLUTION in my usage EQUALS UNROLLING. COMMON DESCENT equals AN IRISH PHURPHY GONE TO SEED.

    Can you please explain, in a short, understandable way, what the heck that means?

  138. Philip Bruce Heywood
    October 1, 2006

    It means, my fine friend, that if certain vegetable products in Ireland are left to ferment in an appropriate way, there can be some unpredictable outcomes. Or it could mean that the two Irishmen who got out of the pub and decided to go fishing from the bridge but had to pull in to save their tackle every time a train went under them, knew more about catching fish than some people know about how to design and test a scientific theory.

    As far as I can see, the reason the chimp genes went away was because nature told them to, and the reason inheritable features such as face-shape stayed with us was for the same reason. This “Nature” I would like to meet some time.
    Unless of course it wasn’t Nature, the Animist’s Diety, but random events in nature, such as quantum particle bombardment. The sort of bombardment that would have killed the moon astronauts, had a storm hit them?

    OH best beloved, the Great Grey Green Greasy Limpopo has its attractions. Take some Irish elixir.

  139. Clastito
    October 1, 2006

    So, you are not antievolution, but you are against common descent??? Pfff. Yeah I guess that among your church buddies that would gain you immediate apostate status. Hey, Phillip: you can’t have it both ways. It is you who has decided to change the meaning of the word evolution to something other than what we all perfectly know. And THAT is quite plainly dishonest.
    And this dishonesty also makes discussion pointless. Adjusting to dishonest twists and turns is not worth my time. And, you delve deeper and deeper into nonsense… just check out that irish thing babble… what a spectacle…
    Goodbye, Phillip.

  140. JohnnieCanuck
    October 1, 2006

    Philip most of the genes you have were inherited from that grandad whose descendents also include chimps. He wasn’t a chimp, by the way. Modern chimps have evolved since then, just as modern humans.

    Most of the differences between you and him are not the loss of ‘chimpness’ genes. Slowly over the approximately 5 million years since he lived, individuals in particular environments had better reproductive success if they had a given mutation.

    For example, duplication of a gene allows beneficial changes to occur in one copy while retaining critical functions of the original gene.

    Whether or not congenital warts are inheritable, I won’t consider. Any inheritable characteristic that does not reduce reproductive success will not be selected against. The less lethal it is in the current environment and the later it appears in life with respect to child bearing, the more likely it is to persist in the population.

    You know, you could easily find such information for yourself, and with better authority. Try the ‘Human evolutionary genetics’ article on Wikipedia, for a start.

  141. Owlmirror
    October 1, 2006

    As far as I can see, the reason the chimp genes went away was because nature told them to, and the reason inheritable features such as face-shape stayed with us was for the same reason.

    Funny, isn’t it, how “nature told them to” looks exactly like a bunch of accumulated mutations.

    such as quantum particle bombardment.

    Go easy on the Star Trek. Scientific exactitude is not something that SF on TV is noted for.

    And keep in mind the “selection” part of “natural selection”.

    Take some Irish elixir.

    Actually, you should go cold turkey on that stuff; it kills brain cells and liver cells and gives you hallucinations. In larger doses, it will kill you deader than orthogenesis.

  142. JohnnieCanuck
    October 2, 2006

    Unfortunately orthogenesis is the theory that won’t stay buried. Creationists and their echo chamber sycophants keep digging it up.

    It is now a strawman zombie.

  143. Clastito
    October 2, 2006

    I disagree. Orthogeneticists had some extremists and bad ideas movig around but some of them did have a point. Read Gould.

  144. Owlmirror
    October 2, 2006

    I disagree. Orthogeneticists had some extremists and bad ideas movig around but some of them did have a point.

    Well, it looks like it’s a bit of a definitional matter, going by the Wikipedia article on more recent co-option of the term.

    I should probably have written “deader than vitalism”, which would have been funnier.

  145. JohnnieCanuck
    October 3, 2006

    Clastito,

    I’m not yet familiar enough with Gould to understand your reference. All the descriptions of orthogenesis I know of use the idea of directed change, usually from an internal or unspecified source. This occasionally included the concept that extinction could be the result when the mindless continuation of the process resulted in excessively large teeth, antlers, etc.

    The site http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/mammal/artio/irishelk.html gives an explanation refuting orthogenesis and then gives the following as a reference:

    Gould, S.J. 1977. The misnamed, mistreated, and misunderstood Irish elk. Pp. 79

  146. Clastito
    October 3, 2006

    The subject is complex… I recommend that you read about it in chapter 5 of “The structure of evolutionary theory”. Gould’s last book is a great buy, a reference point for anyone interested in evolution.

Continuing the Discussion

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