Evolution as Observed: Watching Life Generate New Functions in Real Time

When creationists claim that evolution cannot create “new information” or that “macro-evolution” has not been observed, they rarely mean those terms in the way scientists use them, or even understand exactly what they themselves mean by them. In general, the overall meaning they are trying to convey is really more along the lines of “evolution can’t generate new and useful traits and functions.”

Indeed, oftentimes even the now-standard admission of micro-evolution is a ruse: instead of new genetic traits developing and getting refined within a species population, creationists really only accept that natural selection can weed out or play favorites amongst already existing traits, never generating anything truly new.

Top-notch science journalist Carl Zimmer has a new book, Microcosm, out, and it contains one of the clearest and best refutations of this creationist canard I’ve seen in a while. As described on Zimmer’s blog, the Loom, the basic setup was a sort of brute force approach: literally watching something evolve over a looong period of time, both in terms of its behavior, morphology, and its actual underlying genes.

A dozen flasks full of E. coli are sloshing around on a gently rocking table. The bacteria in those flasks has been evolving since 1988–for over 44,000 generations.

Lenski started off with a single microbe. It divided a few times into identical clones, from which Lenski started 12 colonies. He kept each of these 12 lines in its own flask. Each day he and his colleagues provided the bacteria with a little glucose, which was gobbled up by the afternoon. The next morning, the scientists took a small sample from each flask and put it in a new one with fresh glucose. And on and on and on, for 20 years and running.

He froze some of the original bacteria in each line, and then froze bacteria every 500 generations. Whenever he was so inclined, he could go back into this fossil record and thaw out some bacteria, bringing them back to life.

The point of all this was to allow the scientists to track evolutionary change directly, era to era, step by step, mutation by mutation. And one of the things they recorded in this fashion was an E. coli bacteria evolving in order to eat an entirely new food source: a radical change in its lifestyle, genes, and cellular machinery that scientists managed to record happening in real time.

As Zimmer notes, defining species in bacteria is an even murkier problem than defining it in sexual species, and though this new strain no longer fits the standard definition of E. coli, its not clear whether it’s important or even relevant to call this a speciation event.

But the point is simply that it’s a great illustration of evolution at work, undeniably generating new “stuff”, caught happening pretty much frame by frame.

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65 Responses to Evolution as Observed: Watching Life Generate New Functions in Real Time

  1. Sounds interesting! Thanks for sharing.

  2. GodKillzYou says:

    I thought this was amazing. I’ve written about this, also – but with a different angle on it.

    Not that evolution was ever doubted before, but this is basically the nail in the coffin for “Intelligent Design.” We can stick a fork in that argument. It’s all done.

  3. Bad says:

    Oh, I don’t think that’s likely at all. In fact, Behe recently came out and claimed that this experiment proved what he’d been saying about the impossibility of evolutionary change in key areas all along.

    The problem with even clear-cut stuff like this is that it still takes a couple minutes to explain, and even that only assuming a general knowledge of biology, scientific procedure, genetics, etc. The vast majority of people just aren’t interested enough in the details to spend time looking at something like that. And that is even assuming that they ever hear about this experiment, which they are very unlikely to.

    What they do have time for are easy catchphrases like “evolution can’t make new information” and so on.

  4. Oh my gosh, you guys never quit. This had an INTELLIGENT scientist interacting with the bacteria in the experiment! Tampering with the environment (designating it to flasks), manipulating the environment (adding glucose). That is mere observation to you? Please.

    Who’s to say this was the condition during the supposed billions of years ago? Can the correlation between this experiment and that time be proven? The scientist involved is coaxing the result by directing the process. Are you really going to assert that this accounts for all the complexity and variation that we observe between kinds today? That’s philosophy on your part- taking the first two letters in a sentence (this experiment) and saying “that’s good enough to be considered a book” (the complexity of nature).

    Science is not about snapping still-warm exercises to an overall presupposition. It takes time, inquiry and challenges from other scientists to see if this experiment is all that you claim it to be. Already it’s loaded with problems.

  5. “Suppose we think of a man made of water in an infinitely extended and bottomless ocean of water. Desiring to get out of water, he makes a ladder of water. He sets this ladder upon the water and against the water and then attempts to climb out of the water. So hopeless and senseless a picture must be drawn of the natural man’s methodology based as it is upon the assumption that time or chance is ultimate. On his assumption his own rationality is a product of chance. On his assumption even the laws of logic which he employs are products of chance. The rationality and purpose that he may be searching for are still bound to be products of chance.” Hmmmm …

    – Cornelius Van Til

  6. Bad says:

    TBT, your complaint doesn’t hold any water. The addition of glucose and the culturing of bacteria in general doesn’t invalidate any of the findings as they concern how new traits appear and are exploited by natural selection. This isn’t even a case of the scientists employing artificial selection (which is also a valid way to study genetic ingenuity, despite complaints of creationists): all they did was make sure that everything was happening in a carefully controlled fashion so that there would be no contamination and they could observe what was going on.

    Who’s to say this was the condition during the supposed billions of years ago?

    What condition? That organisms had genomes and mutations and selection? Can you supply any reason at all to suppose that they didn’t? Because there’s no evidence of life suddenly acquiring genes out of the blue a century ago, or any of the core features of life working differently in the past. All the historical evidence shows continuity of form and structure. Where’s your evidence to the contrary, aside from “it could have happened by unknown, perfectly concealed magic.”

    Are you really going to assert that this accounts for all the complexity and variation that we observe between kinds today?

    This exact, particular change in the genome? No. But changes like this, on the same order? Sure: that sort of process happening in all living things all the time over the particular time periods in question looks like it indeed can account for that complexity and variation. Certainly there’s a lot more to be learned about the particular history of life, and what other factors may have nudged it in particular directions over time. But how exactly are you ruling out this sort of process from consideration of the central cause, as it quite seems to be?

  7. Bad says:

    Christian Striver Says:

    [some stuff that basically boils down to "Cornelius Van Til doesn't understand that applying metaphysical abstractions like "ultimate" or even "chance" to empirical observations and study doesn't make any sense"]

  8. “All they did was make sure that everything was happening in a carefully controlled fashion so that there would be no contamination and they could observe what was going on.” Precisely. But nature is not careful nor is it free from the influence of outside variables. And the scientist knew that, which is why he HAD to structure this experiment in a way that removed variables, and then coaxed the process with glucose to up his chances. And even still, the evolutionary community is SURPRISED at this finding because as you said it IS NOT COMMON, and yet such a quick jump to proclaim “there it is! We’ve done it! That’s all we needed! Case closed!” I refer back to my example about two letters in a sentences vs. an entire book.

    On what grounds do you dismiss my complaint and stamp the control and manipulaton of the environment as acceptable, and a parallel to infant life if there was such a condition? You’re setting standards now?

    Second paragraph: I don’t have to provide a counter-theory while challenging the validity (or extent of what you say is revealed) of this experiment. That’s a classic evolutionist tactic and it doesn’t work. A broken work does not get to sit on the pedestal just because there is no immediate alternative. As I said- time, inquiry and challenge will reveal the durability of this.

    Also- many who believe in a rapid creation scenario or some form of intelligent-management when related to design/life/origin do not expect natural science to be able to answer every question. We accept a level of mystery which frees us up to discover, question, etc. I see from many hardened evolutionists the opposite of inquiry which is a sort of religious dogma that doesn’t allow for anything other than naturalism to answer EVERYTHING under (and including) the sun.

    “That sort of process happening in all living things all the time over the particular tme periods in question LOOKS LIKE IT INDEED CAN account for the complexity and variation.” You are an intelligent dude, but will you not see the hopefulness and wishful thinking of that statement? That’s a projection using very insufficient data. It is not happening “all the time” (note the fervor over this ONE assisted and relatively-slight occurance). Don’t you think it’s problematic that this is the first so-called smoking gun, and that when looked at closely, is not reasonably fit to compare to the functional complexity and symbiotic ecosystem which we see in nature?

    I am not ruling out this sort of process. I can accept a level of adaptation and variation but see its limits. It is not grand enough or joined with sufficient evidence to intelligently account for the diversity of life.

  9. Bad says:

    “applying metaphysical abstractions like “ultimate” or even “chance” to empirical observations and study doesn’t make any sense.”

    Aren’t you here defending a “chance” observation?

    Is it just me or does science seem to be broken? “You can stick a fork in that argument” and “applying metaphysical abstraction to empirical observations … doesn’t make sense.” Seriously?

    Empiricism is a facade that covers up the bias and arrogance of those who think that their own eyes define reality. If these are the rules for a discussion of how life began, then the debate isn’t over, it simply cannot begin.

  10. Bad says:

    The Broken Telegraph Says: Precisely. But nature is not careful nor is it free from the influence of outside variables.

    This is an utterly ridiculous complaint. If we observe evolution in nature, you can complain that it wasn’t a controlled experiment. If we control the experiment, then you (Gasp!) are horrified that researchers were involved in designing the experiment.

    But nothing about their interactions invalidates the basic procedure and results. Mutations occur irrelevant of whether E. Coli are in petri dishes or in the wild. And selection in environments happens, again, regardless.

    Nothing was “coaxed.” The scientists didn’t even start with any expectations of them metabolizing citrine. The fact that the pathway was not common is an illustration of the importance of contingency, and the power of multiple mutations: a particular set of mutations that were not themselves all that important were important down the road for subsequent mutations that conferred a radical new ability.

    On what grounds do you dismiss my complaint and stamp the control and manipulaton of the environment as acceptable, and a parallel to infant life if there was such a condition?

    The controlled environment was perfectly acceptable as a means to carefully isolate the precise factors they wanted to study and demonstrate. This is what scientists do in virtually every area of exploration: it’s Standard Operating Proceedure. Why do people only seem to complain in those cases where they find the results to be threatening to their beliefs?

    I don’t have to provide a counter-theory while challenging the validity (or extent of what you say is revealed) of this experiment.

    But you’ve failed to challenge it. If you want you challenge to proceed, then you are, yes, going to have to provide some sort of account of why it’s incorrect and why it cannot account for what it very apparently seems to.

    Don’t you think it’s problematic that this is the first so-called smoking gun, and that when looked at closely, is not reasonably fit to compare to the functional complexity and symbiotic ecosystem which we see in nature?

    This is far from the “first smoking gun.” It is one aspect of confirmation on top of countless other ways of looking at the issue, all of which just so happen to confirm the same set of answers.

    You don’t like the answers. Fair enough. But that doesn’t mean that your unease is the same as any sort of coherent case against the results and evidence.

  11. Bad says:

    Christian Striver Says: Aren’t you here defending a “chance” observation?

    The problem here is that metaphysics and science have very different ideas about what “chance” is. In science, chance is basically synonymous with “uncorrelated.” In metaphysics, it’s far nearer to “uncaused or completely undetermined/random.”

    Is it just me or does science seem to be broken?

    It’s you. The basic elements of science are the exact same as those you rely upon to get out of bed every morning and navigate through a physical world. You can’t both object to them and sit down in front of a computer and type out a reply to me: you’d be contradicting yourself.

    Empiricism is a facade that covers up the bias and arrogance of those who think that their own eyes define reality. If these are the rules for a discussion of how life began, then the debate isn’t over, it simply cannot begin.

    This is nothing more than copping an attitude: it’s an accusation, not an argument. The rules of the debate are “provide some good evidence of all claims, and rational, logical reasons for things.”

    Do you have some sort of alternative set of rules in mind? Please, do elaborate.

  12. You dodged a good amount of my previous post. You evolutionists surprise me. You dismiss and ridicule anything that doesn’t proceed by your standards. How easy! Just call criticism or anything outside your set of standards and reasoning “invalid” and it’s off to bed. Are you trying to sound like Dawkins by saying colorful things like “utterly ridiculous” as if that immediately carries weight just because you said it? Kindof like what Bill O Reilly does too- he just paints things outside of his view as SO loony that it can’t possibly have any sense to it. Well I guess if that works for you…

    There is nothing ridiculous about my point. The coaxing had to do with influence- not intent. It doesn’t matter if he intended to get to point B (more on that in a minute), what matters is that he influenced the process, which means it is no longer just observation, and furthermore and FAR more important: that the process is not a proven replicant for infant stages of life, nor does it demonstrate or conclude that such an event can explain the functional complexity and symbiosis of nature. I said nothing about observing evolution in nature so don’t throw someone else’s point on my shoulders. And if it’s frequent in nature- go observe it and record it in nature. Record all the examples of beneficial mutations that lead from one kind to another. Show me the fossil record for transitional species, too. Although I know of one evolutionary scientist at least who concedes that there is virtually none to speak of. It also seems amazing to me that humankind name the variations of kinds of flora and fauna and then use that to say “see- variations! It must have all evolved from non-matter billions of years ago” AGAIN- you are jumping up and down about getting two letters in a sentence to appear next to each other, and are forecasting that those two letters are enough to produce an entire book.

    The scientist had no expectations?!? ahaha The article describes him as “evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski.” Yeah- he’s got no bias whatsoever.

    Furthermore I have not failed to challenge it. I have challenged it in context of what the evolutionists are claiming it accomplishes- which is validate a wildly speculative theory based on fragmented evidence. The way that you guys jump to this and sing its praises is very suspect. Like I said, time will tell where this fits and if it was done credibly. Endless experiments in history have been thought to illuminate one truth at one point and were later revealed to be faulty by design or to have actually proven an opposing reality.

  13. Bad says:

    I didn’t dodge anything: I explained why your objections were unfounded. I call things utterly ridiculous when they are: and I explained why they were as well.

    Objecting to an experimental procedure whose purpose was to isolate populations from contamination and observe their exact genetic development does not invalidate the results as they pertain to the way things evolve. All the lab environment represents is simply a set of environmental constraints. Any constraints will do: the point is that new functions emerge from the constraints via natural evolutionary modification over generations, rather than being directed in particular steps.

    The coaxing had to do with influence- not intent.

    But you haven’t explained what influence or why it’s relevant to invalidating the results. No: it wasn’t “just observation” (we do that in nature proper, with similar results, but less of a way to track them since there we cannot control for various influences, contaminations, etc., nor track changes as easily over long period of time in the right detail): it was an experiment, and one whose results yet again validate something creationists claim is impossible.

    and furthermore and FAR more important: that the process is not a proven replicant for infant stages of life,

    No one said it was was. Again, this objection is nonsensical. The fact that one thing does not explain everything does not change what it does explain.

    nor does it demonstrate or conclude that such an event can explain the functional complexity and symbiosis of nature

    It is an example of what countless other data demonstrate: that functional complexity can evolve via a process of steady diversification and successive natural selection.

    Symbiosis is, by the way, a different process entirely from what was observed in this experiment, though one that was, in fact, a concern in this sort of setup, which is why they controlled to prevent it.

    And if it’s frequent in nature- go observe it and record it in nature. Record all the examples of beneficial mutations that lead from one kind to another.

    We do this all the time. It’s called field research. There’s a whole discipline devoted to it for goodness sakes.

    Show me the fossil record for transitional species, too.

    These requests for me to do anything here are pointless. There are countless transitional fossils, all well documented and well described, as well as countless high quality fossil lineages. None of these are secrets I’m keeping from you. If you want to dispute some, by all means pick one and we can discuss it. But don’t try to pretend that they are so elusive that it’s my responsibility to track them down and cite some. The question is not “where are they” but “which of the countless ones do you wish to discuss?” Whales? Tetrapods? Mammals? Molluscs? You pick, instead of pretending that you haven’t seen any and are skeptical that there are any at all, and then asking me to play along.

    Although I know of one evolutionary scientist at least who concedes that there is virtually none to speak of.

    Chances are, you are mistaken. Creationists regularly circulate quotes of this sort which rarely ever turn out to be accurate or even about the issues they appear to be from the truncated context.

    The scientist had no expectations?!? ahaha The article describes him as “evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski.” Yeah- he’s got no bias whatsoever.

    Again, this is simply a bizarre statement. We weren’t talking about whether Lenski believes evolution is reasonable: we were talking about him not having any specific direction or design that he imposed on the evolution of the bacteria.

    Of course he thinks that evolution is real. The experiments he runs wouldn’t even work at all if it weren’t a reality.

    have challenged it in context of what the evolutionists are claiming it accomplishes- which is validate a wildly speculative theory based on fragmented evidence.

    In my experience, this sort of difficultly comes from you only knowing a few of the pieces, but not enough about any of them or all the rest of them, to see how they all fit together, and how telling that they do fit together at all. If you actually follow the evidence and argument, no one is jumping to random conclusions, and the evidence is convergent: many different lines of evidence all start to build the same picture, in detail. Every single claim is tested and compared against more evidence, again and again, and again every time we uncover yet more evidence still.

    Like I said, time will tell where this fits and if it was done credibly. Endless experiments in history have been thought to illuminate one truth at one point and were later revealed to be faulty by design or to have actually proven an opposing reality.

    That’s true, but this general possibility is a pretty lame excuse for trying to dismiss a specific experiment without any actual reason or argument as to why it was credible or not. The fact that some people lie cannot validate you calling a particular person a liar without any further evidence or argument. You have to actually do the work to back up the accusation.

  14. GodKillzYou says:

    I was correct in my deduction from the article I wrote. The Creationists and Intelligent Design Proponents will simply deny this evidence with bad logic, and misinformation… or conspiracy theories.

  15. GodKillzYou- so labeling and dismissiveness is your thing? It’s very effective. If you bothered to read my posts with a little less defensiveness, you’d see that I’m not discounting the likelihood of small-scale evolution, but I was saying that it doesn’t sufficiently account for grand evolution, eco-symbiosis, or functional complexity. You guys are crazy to think that this experiment is the case closed, high-fiving thing you’ve been waiting for. It merely demonstrates small scale evolution which has already been observed. Furthermore, time may reveal it to be less potent than you impatient evolutionists hope.

    Bad- I have a reply headed your way when I get the time to. More to say…

  16. Bad says:

    TBT: how can you deny that this particular experiment demonstrated the evolution of functional complexity? It evolved an entirely new metabolic pathway for goodness sakes, something we’ve seen happen many times in bacteria, though often without the neat idea of creating a “fossil” record so we could look back and see exactly how. It also evolved away from being what we usually use to define E Coli, which technically makes this an example of speciation.

    Small scale evolution is large scale evolution. What changes are you denying can happen by successive modification? Speciation? Speciation is just small scale modification that happens to affect reproductive effects. There’s nothing special about it: no magical barrier to it happening. And I don’t know what you think you mean by “eco-symbiosis.” Symbiosis is when two lifeforms happen to co-evolve to benefit from traits of the other. Again, this is well documented, fleshed out stuff.

    No one said it was a “case closed high-fiving” anything. The case was already closed: this is just one of the countless different confirmations that wouldn’t make sense if the evolutionary picture wasn’t broad scale on point.

    What this is is a remarkably easy to understand example, that doesn’t require learning quite as much biology, geology, chemistry, and so on as understanding evolution usually does.

  17. Bad- easy does it. I now have two emails of yours to reply to. Like I said- I’ll get you an answer when I have sufficient time to reply. Sometime later today…

  18. Bad says:

    No rush. I generally respond to as many comments and points as I can, as soon as I can, but there’s no obligation on anyone else to do the same. I’m just overbearing that way.

  19. Bad- I will concede to you that the validity of the experiment itself in relation to process should not have been the focus of my counterpoint. However, you have yet to show me how it proves or demonstrates macroevolution. Saying “small scale evolution is large scale evolution” doesn’t cut it. It’s nice and dogmatic, though.

    To quote Cornelius G. Hunter (who you will quickly dismiss for his alliance with the Discovery Institute, overlooking the fact that he’s a Ph D. and professor of biophysics) “Small-scale evolution does not extrapolate to the large scale change that Darwinism requires…the beaks of the Galapagos finches, for example, returned to normal when the rains returned to the Galapagos Islands….bacteria to fish to amphibia to reptiles to mammals is a tremendous amount of change compared to small scale evolution.” Remember my quote about letters of a sentence vs. a full book?

    More: “instead of single mutations leading to a new functionality one step at a time, we are now called to believe that evolution produced marvelous machines by which more complicated changes can occur…the evolution of evolvability hardly accounts for evolution in the first place, for it has no explanation of how evolution produced the machines capable of facilitating evolution or how they could be endowed with such clever design capabilities.”

    Nature is finely tuned. Like a computer program, you cannot add new data and expect it not only to continue functioning but to actually improve- unless that data is designed by an intelligent agent in order to sync with the existing software, and upgrade from there. Otherwise the program crashes. To the fish with the gill system headed for land as a transitional creature, you’re telling me the transition from gill to a lung system would not only arrive but also function at every step of the way? What good is 10% of the first lung? 10% of an existing lung has at least a diminished capacity for functionality, but what about the prototype?

    I have looked around your blog- you are a smart guy, but clearly have an incentive to dismiss intelligent design or a rapid creation scenario because you appear to dislike the content and claims of the Bible. So it makes sense that you are very resistent to any challenge, and not just because of the way that you demand a naturalistic answer to life’s questions. Any admitted crack in your worldview might compromise the fortress and tranquility of comprehension that you’ve built up around yourself. Are you really free to consider these counterarguments if they hint to step outside your comfort zone? Honestly- if I could somehow prove that we were intimately and intelligently made, in some simple 2 plus 2 equals 4 equasion, would you stop with the reinforcing via athiest bestsellers and evolutionary guru’s like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al? The point being- maybe you’re locked in because you want to be.

    You’re likely going to fume at that last paragraph, but hopefully you’ll instead sense the tone of my posts so far and realize that my challenge is not meanspirited. Just two guys talking…

  20. Bad says:

    The problem is you don’t know what you mean by macroevolution. To scientists, macroevilution is just change that happens at or above the species level. In the case of bacteria which reproduce asexually, defining species is a little murkier than in sexual species, and species are generally defined simply by a particular set of key characteristics. In this experiment, the bacteria in question evolved out of the common species definition for E Coli. So we’re already talking macroevolution in that sense.

    But the way you are using the term, you seem to mostly just mean “change that I personally would consider really really significant.” Fair enough, and you may well be unimpressed with the degree of change seen in this case. But you can always claim to want more. And we can give it to you. The problem is that it quickly demands more and more of you and your time invested in learning what the evidence is and why we think that these sorts of changes can, in fact, also explain larger and larger ones. Indeed, you probably have a caricatured view of exactly what degree of change we’re even talking about. While life is amazingly complex, it’s actually a lot more interlinked and similar than most people understand. The changes, when you see what they actually involve in terms of causal events to make them happen, aren’t the sort of fundamental struggling against Platonic ideals that some people seem to think. Feathers aren’t, in fact, all that different from scales when you come down to it (in fact, a fairly simple set of mutations can change scales into feathers, and its no mistake that feathered animals also have scales).

    Hunter is case in point here: and he’s simply wrong. Note that he offers no explanation for any barrier to steady ongoing change. He offers a single example where the environmental conditions returned to a previous state, and some general traits followed suit. And yes, I remember your letters thing, since you seem to repeat it at every turn. The problem is that there’s a big difference between YOU only knowing about a few of the letters, and science as a whole only having a few.

    You and Hunter simply want to ignore the fact that the “marvelous machines” you’re talking about have a history and an overall pattern that fits rather perfectly and even sort of unavoidably into common descent. All of these structures have a surprising and interconnected set of structural connections that we see changing over time, as we look in the fossil record, and which fit into identifiable nested clades in the genetic record. Our snapshots of change over time are still just that: snapshots, but they are more than enough to illustrate the overall directions of those changes, and one of the most exciting parts of biology today is the way in which comparative genetics and the study of development are filling many of those gaps.

    You ask questions about lung and gill function that pretty well illustrate that you’ve never tried to look and see if there could be answers. What good is 10% of the first lung? 10% better than what was there before, allowing increased gas exchange for creatures that spend any part of their time exposed to open air. Indeed, lung evolution is a pretty decent example of the sort of convergence of evidence I was just talking about. When biologists do work on these issues, they produce papers like this in which they look at the evidence from all sorts of different angles. Just to pick one of interest, they can look at comparative morphology and genomics of modern animals to watch where, along their branching embryonic development, the differences are in forming structures like lungs. We have a very solid picture of how, say, amphibians, mammals, birds, and fish are all related. And when we look at their organ development, we see branching differences that match this lineage exactly.

    Your analogy to computer programs is simply unworkable: biology and biochem are all about chains of causal events, not really interpreted programs. There are all sorts of well documented ways in which living things can acquire new traits without necessarily sabotaging the old ones for the time being (for instance, accidental gene duplications that leave the old gene intact with an extra copy that can then get modified by further mutation while the old gene is still in play).

    You can accuse me of bias all you want: and of course I do have all sorts of opinions on various topics, though my opinions on biology do not, in fact, have much to do with my opinions on the Bible. Doubtless you won’t believe that, and if it makes you feel better, have fun. But that still isn’t the same as addressing my arguments. You tell a grand psychological story about how I’m closeminded… but anyone can make such pointless, hostile accusations. I’m not fuming at it, it’s just sort of a waste of time.

    Instead, I wish you did know more about biology. For instance, I wish you knew how teeth develop. Teeth, it turns out, are a sort of prototype for nearly every feature found on the skin of virtually everything in the vertebrate lineage. They develop embryonically via the interaction of two tissue layers, and we see this same pattern of development again and again, successively when we look at various later features that emerged in different lineages (again, which all just so happen to match up into one single pattern).

    What’s really interesting about teeth is that they were probably the very first “hard” part of proto-vertebrates: their basic genetic makeup is the most basal (i.e. primitive and widely distributed) of all their descendant skin features (feathers, hair, scales, etc.) and they are the very first “hard” proto-vertebrate things to show up in the fossil record. In fact, amusingly enough, we had the evidence for this for a long time without realizing it. We had tons and tons of these little oddly shaped cone-like spiky things, and no idea what to make of the creature they would have been a part of. It wasn’t until some very rare fossils that preserved impressions of entire soft body that we realized that they weren’t individual animals, but the first primitive, proto-vertebrate teeth.

    And that’s where the story gets interesting. As we look later in time, we start to see the emergence of the first hard heads on proto-vertebrates: the emergence of armor, of a sort. But when you look really closely at these armored skulls, you find that they are actually made out of… fused teeth. In other words, the very first hard parts we see post teeth in this lineage just so happen to be employing that original a basic structure in a new way: adapting an established trick into a new function.

    Now, you can poo poo this little tidbit story all you want. It is, in fact, just a tidbit, and on its own, to a skeptic, it’s not going to rule out all doubt about evolution. But the point of it is that it’s one tiny bit of evidence in a whole universe of such elements, all of which fit into the same basic pattern of descent with modification. And fossils are, in fact, just sort of icing on the cake in a way, when it comes to evolution: they allow us to find neat things like this which just so happen to fit perfectly into the evolutionary picture, but only really seem powerful as a part of a whole. Stories like this aren’t simply told: they are cross confirmed in a thousand little ways from all sorts of different angles of looking at the issue. The fact that they all fit together is a HUGE hurdle that you, as a skeptic, are going to have to overcome.

    You, I think, aren’t aware of most of the whole: you don’t see the hurdles. Which is quite reasonable. That’s part of the problem evolution has with the public: most people aren’t willing to put in the time to learn all the different aspects and elements that all fit together, which convince virtually all actual biologists that evolution is real and can explain what we see in nature. Because people aren’t willing to put in the time, they’re very easily misled by a bunch of convincing-sounding, but ultimately highly misleading assertions.

    In closing, I want to comment on your “bacteria to fish to amphibia to reptiles to mammals” thing. Your taxonomy is off here, in large part because the groups you name are largely colloquial terms best reserved for only modern animals, rather than being actual well defined and exclusive taxonomic terms.

    I don’t expect to convince you all in one go, but I do want to ask if you think there’s anything significant in the fact that the kind rough history you scoff at does actually appear in both the fossil record and all genetic comparisons of difference/similarities… all in the same pattern. And further, I want to ask you whether you can explain why we do see this peculiar pattern at all. You scoff at humans being descended from single-celled organisms (not bacteria, per se, as “bacteria” generally means a modern group). But aren’t you a little intrigued by the fact that we are, in fact, even today, composed of single cells? And not just any cells, but eukaryotic cells: the same type of cell found in all creatures we similarly claim are descended from the first eukaryotes. We aren’t just descended from eukaryotes: we ARE eukaryotes: a particular application of the basic cell type, involving cells which simply happen to have developed various means for communicating with each other, sticking to each other in various ways, and so on.

    You then scoff at our claimed ancestry as “fish.” Of course, again, there is no taxonomic group of just “fish.” Instead, our ancestors were vertebrates, craniates, and specifically those that developed lobed limbs. Isn’t it something a coincidence that all those basic core features are still core and distinctive to us, and all the creatures evolution claims are descendants of those lobed fish? You can call those things just “fish” of course, but in a way, that’s just a means of blurring what we are really talking about: a specific lineage of creatures that just so happens to be in pretty much every way a prototype of all modern land animals.. and NOT all the other things that come to mind when you think of and say “fish” (most of which are modern creatures).

    And so on and so on. Doesn’t this strange unity of lineage over time deserve a little more credit than “goo to you”-style rhetoric? The unity of form, the steady modification, all of it falling into nested clades (the distinctive pattern of ancestry): doesn’t this all deserve a little more than scoffing at the idea that something as distinctive as a hand could evolve, when in fact we have a virtual timeline of how and what steps it took to get there?

  21. Glazius says:

    Nature is finely tuned. Like a computer program, you cannot add new data and expect it not only to continue functioning but to actually improve- unless that data is designed by an intelligent agent in order to sync with the existing software, and upgrade from there. Otherwise the program crashes. To the fish with the gill system headed for land as a transitional creature, you’re telling me the transition from gill to a lung system would not only arrive but also function at every step of the way? What good is 10% of the first lung? 10% of an existing lung has at least a diminished capacity for functionality, but what about the prototype?

    …uh.

    Fish had lungs long before they went up on land. The determining factor toward surviving for extended periods on land was not breathing air, but supporting the body weight, since air is much, much less dense than water.

    Breathing air is an advantage for fish to survive in shallower, muddier waters, or freshwater ecosystems which are only submerged part of the year. Even a minimally functional lung is useful in this aspect.

    There are fish with lungs today. We call them “lungfish”. Also “mudskippers”. The idea that the first organisms out of the ocean had either lungs or gills is just wrongheaded for several reasons: a) the first vertebrates had both, b) arthropods use a gas-exchange system that works just as well on land (though again there’s the weight problem) and didn’t need much pushing at all to be the first land animals, c) plants had them both beat.

    Honestly- if I could somehow prove that we were intimately and intelligently made, in some simple 2 plus 2 equals 4 equasion, would you stop with the reinforcing via athiest bestsellers and evolutionary guru’s like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens et al? The point being- maybe you’re locked in because you want to be.

    You can’t prove that we were intimately and intelligently made.

    Unless you’d like to claim to know the mind of God, or be the Lord’s counselor, or to have given unto God something that you expect to be repaid for.

    In which case I’d laugh at your hypocrisy.

  22. Bad- you make this conversation less interesting when you bludgeon me with a book’s worth of points. So much of what you said is an observation of nature, which I have no problem with (though you’d like to think I do). Being able to describe the workings of nature does not prove the arrival of matter in the first place nor even the sequence how how it came to be. I’m tired of making that point, because your reply is to always point to particulars of function, or similarities in design, as if the mere observation and explanation is enough to say your presupposition is correct.

    In my opinion, and in the opinion of many many others, some far more learned and educated than you and some far less, we buy some of it while not jumping into the deep end as you have. And maybe it’s not because the issue is so massive, accumulated and fragmented with a never-ending trail of evidence as you say- perhaps it’s because those who have a skepticism are asking bigger questions that the physical data can’t satisfy. What satisfies you, and what you refuse to admit to, is a wishfulness that strings the facts on the ground together in a philosophy, a philosophy that gets labeled as equally scientific to the physical studies.

    There is so much dogma in your reply, and if I were to research and to reply to each point of yours, you could easily just kick the can down the road a little further by shifting and bringing in a bunch of new material that I then have to answer. But that is really a side issue. You will not accept or see that your data does not prove your belief. For you, it persuades you to believe and for me, it persuades me to observe it, and then admit that my explanation of arrival and development is based on faith. Yours is too, only you can’t afford to say so.

    Because feathers are not that different from scales does not mean one is a later version of the other or that they are both an extension of a common ancestor. Why is similarity so persuasive to the evolutionist? Your essential premise is that similar must be related via common descent.

    There is a clear distinction between the athiest and a person of faith. The athiest cannot be agnostic to the greater questions- he must dismiss anything intending to give credit to an intelligence or purpose in nature, design, etc. As dawkins put it- evolution leaves us with a pitiless meaningless existence (yes i’m summarizing but i’m close enough). The faithful- take me as a Christian, can be skeptical. There are Christians who believe fully in God-authored evolution, meaning God made nature make itself, and far more who don’t accept 100& of its claims and favor a rapid creation scenario with adaptaton and limited evolution in the mix, and yet all follow Christ. Comprehension does not save the Christian, Christ does. So while the Bible tells us to “come, let us reason” and Paul urges a discussion, a mental and verbal wrestling as if in court, that we doubt, struggle, wonder, change and doubt some more- these are not threats to an honest Christian because comprehension doesn’t save. Now I must apologize, because many Christians do carry out a faith that is misguided, arrogant and dogmatic. But that is not the teaching, but rather a perversion of faith. When you post examples of “faithful gone wrong” or the religious nuts on your blog, you’re not really helping your case. Faith does not lead to personal perfection, in fact it’s an admittance of fault and a need for forgiveness. If you’re looking at the church to convince you of God’s relevance and likelihood, you’ll be waiting for a long time.

    I read sites like this and similar ones, and all I see is reinforcement, reinforcement, reinforcement. There seems to be an underlying uneasiness that strong-arms any opposition because that opposition represents, to the athiest- to not just change your opinion but possibly your faith that there is no God.

    Take the fossil record for example. You just dismiss me by saying the fossil record all fits together quaintly, and in a way that confirms your beliefs. So you’ll have to dismiss quotes like this as well, from far more educated people than myself (and quite possibly you too).

    Paleontologist Henry Gee said each fossil species is “an infinitesimal dot, lost in a fathomless sea of time, whose relationship with other fossils and organisms living in the present day is obscure.”

    Or how about Paleontologist Robert Carroll, who said of the fossil record “emphasizes how wrong Darwin was in extrapolating the pattern of long-term evolution from that observed within populations and species…paleontologists in particular have found it difficult to accept that the slow, continuous, and progressive changes postulated by Darwin can adequately explain the major reorganizations that have occured between dominant groups of plants and animals.”

    So the fact that the fossil record fits so perfectly with your presupposition is a hurdle for me? You will likely hit me with more explanation of similarity or function. And around and around we go. I don’t have any problem with your evidence, your research, your intimate knowledge of biology, etc., I just don’t think it means Something Greater as you do. It is simply nature explained.

    Where you observe the same kind of single cell and demand that it be proof or compelling evidence of literally non-sensical evolution- that is, without any management or intelligent direction, i see your observation, nod in agreement and have no problem thinking that a designer used the same kind of cells in everything he made. Why would we not expect to find identical materials of life used throughout design, as well as similarities AND vast differences in nature? Funny how you only focus on similarity, and describe design and function but rebuke the idea of a designer or intelligent author.

    Lastly- to say evolutionists have a “solid picture” of how everything is related- who cares? That means a ladder was visualized based on similarities and other data, but those similarities and data don’t PROVE the ladder. The conclusion came first and then evidence was chased to prove it.

    Why do scientists try to prove evolution? Aren’t they supposed to follow the evidence and conclusions wherever they lead to? So why are scientists who conclude intelligence ridiculed? Is that the scientific way?

  23. Glazius- you too are just describing function. And I never said I can prove intelligent design, etc. We all look at the same evidence, it’s our conclusions that are based in faith. I can admit it. Can you?

  24. Bad says:

    I’m tired of making that point, because your reply is to always point to particulars of function, or similarities in design, as if the mere observation and explanation is enough to say your presupposition is correct.

    The thing is though: we don’t stop with “presuppositions.” We keep putting more and more of this stuff together, and we keep testing any assumptions that we’re relying on whenever we can.

    Your complaint about my mere functionalism is in bad faith in any case. You are the one who made the accusations about how major the differences between lifeforms supposedly were. You’re the one declaring that the evolution of multi-cellular life from single-celled organisms is “literally non-sensical.” I’m just pointing out that there is a very distinct pattern and history for all of those “wonderous machines.” They don’t inexplicably arise out of nowhere, with no precursors.

    And the fact that you can think up some way for a being that could do anything to do things in precisely this way is irrelevant. There’s no reason at all that an all powerful God would have to re-use anything, and further, re-use things in precisely the same nested pattern that defines ancestral relationships. You could, of course, always imagine a God that makes it rain, that decided to do it in exactly the way that looks like a purely meteorological event. Do you likewise complain to weathermen when they describe weather patterns using physics and meteorological principle?

    Not only is it not non-nonsensical to imagine single celled organisms starting to work together and forming multi-cellular creatures, but we have modern examples of nearly every step of the way: each representing an ancient splitting off in ancestry at the various stages. We have single celled organisms that communicate using particular pathways which appear to be primitive versions of the ones our own cells also use today. We have single celled organisms that occasionally band together and cooperate. We have very simple organisms, like sponges, which have only a few cell types, and which can literally be put through a sieve, broken apart, and will rejoin and collaborate again, and so on. You don’t address any of this: you assert that it’s unthinkable, but then when I show just how thinkable it is, you don’t concede that it is, after all plausible, and you cover your retreat with the accusation that I haven’t proved it yet… but then, on top of that, you’re hostile to any attempt to do so.

    You keep moving the goalposts: asking us incredulously what good 10% lung function is, and then when answered, you ungraciously complain that we have not answered a different set of questions.

    And so, most of your response is, rather than addressing any substantive line of evidence, just the usual diatribe: accusing scientists of dogma and faith. You ask questions, but then curiously don’t seem at all interested in hearing any answers. You envision science as some sort of process searching for “the ultimate” when in fact it’s trying to solve all sorts of very specific and pragmatic problems and questions. It’s not about “Something Greater.” It’s about what the evidence says.

    Because feathers are not that different from scales does not mean one is a later version of the other or that they are both an extension of a common ancestor. Why is similarity so persuasive to the evolutionist?

    Like I said, this is only one part of the story. Homology alone wouldn’t be enough. But you have to start understanding this stuff somewhere. And yet you’re so resistant to starting anywhere before you declare it all pointless the second anyone tries to explain anything to you. It makes an utter mockery of your claim that we’re working with the same evidence. You don’t know what the all the evidence is. And you’re remarkably resistant to finding out.

    Feathers, genetically, fit into a clade with other skin features, and they fit beneath a clade of scales. When you look at their genetics, they are modified versions of the same developmental processes that produce scales: sub-types. Again, this alone is only suggestive. But when you place it with all the other features you can look at, all the other historical evidence, in sequence, all the genetic comparisons, it all makes for an unavoidable conclusion. Your problem is that you aren’t willing to put in the work to examine all this stuff. You’re ready to dismiss every part individually as insufficient without every having a coherent picture of the whole.

    Instead, you have a grab bag of random quotes. But a handful of quotes is not the same thing as understanding the evidence. Especially when those quotes are grossly out of context.

    You don’t know what Gee is talking about. I very, very much doubt you ever read the book that quote came from. And Gee, in fact, has some strong words for you and what you’re doing here:

    Many years ago when the world was young I wrote a book suggesting that the traditional, narrative mode of evolutionary story-telling had been surpassed by the new, rigorous and above all scientific discipline of cladistics.

    I was warned that when I said that to place a lot of fossils in a line and draw arrows between them is no way to create a credible model of evolution, I’d be jumped on by creationist quote-miners, and so I was. My apparent support for creationist rubbish is all over the web like a cheap suit.

    Just because Gee notes, in grand language, that origins of any one fossil are obscure doesn’t mean he believes that that’s that: that we can’t then learn more about them and how they relate and so on. He’s a cladist for goodness sakes!

    Carrol is the same: you’re trying to understand what he’s saying from a thought that you don’t even allow to be completed in your quote. You have no idea what he’s actually arguing.

    As for similarities, you simply didn’t listen to what I was saying. It isn’t mere similarity that’s important. It’s a very specific pattern of similarity and dissimilarity: a pattern of nested clades, traits that are sub-types of sub-types, and all of which appear in a very particular order throughout life and throughout history.

    It’s not surprising that, in the face of that, the primary weapon of deniers is to simply make all sorts of allegations about dogma and being blind or jumping to conclusions.

    So why are scientists who conclude intelligence ridiculed?

    Simply put: because their arguments suck.

  25. Of course you keep putting stuff and stuff together. That doesn’t mean the findings leap to your conclusion. Hey Bad- did you know that there are more educated scholars who have conducted a greater amount of research than you, either directly or by reading other’s findings, and even THEY don’t come to your conclusion? Enough of the “learn more and then you’ll understand” mantra.

    It’s not MY complaint about mere functionality, it is the complaint of many who have looked at this issue. Please stop trying to imply that those of us who are more selective in regards to evolution and who happen to not guzzle the whole jug- well we’re not roaming around wearing burlap sacks and sleeping on rooftops.

    Stuff doesn’t inexplicably arise out of nowhere? Excellent- I can’t wait for this. Do tell how we arrived at matter from non-matter. Do explain your intelligence which was compiled from un-intelligence. Rationalize that there is no rationale, and that order came from chaos. I want to hear this.

    I’m so glad that you brought up weathermen- trained people with tons of equipment and ways to interpret the data, and yet STILL they get it wrong all the time- and that’s present day interpretations! Your faith in the human mind is misplaced. We get short-term business future projections and the weather wrong all the time, all the while using a shit-load of data, evidence, etc. But you’re sold solid on how it went billions of years ago (all the while scrutinizing a Bible that was completed only 2,000 years ago and has been affirmed by generations of pioneering scientists, theologians and historians).

    You literally said “to imagine” single cell…at least you’re being honest now. You’re also projecting.

    And that lung question is still not answered. As something is being built, it does not function at every stage. Dawkin’s explanation for the eye in stages is unbelievable fantasy.

    You cannot admit that I accept many observations of evolutionists, I just don’t leap to their conclusion. Please stop trying to frame this as if I’m afraid of observation and an understanding of nature’s DESIGN.

    I love how in your feathers paragraph, it again makes for an “unavoidable” conclusion. Unavoidable to you. Many outspoken scientists have MADE it about Something Greater, even saying that evolution dictates ethics, and if you’re going to deny the reach of evolution as currently taught, then you are living in an igloo somewhere in the Arctic.

    Do you know what ALL the evidence for evolution is? And since you don’t, can you speak to its authenticity or do you have to wait until every sentence of every journal is read? Exactly. This idea of criticizing me for not having your grasp, and that therefore my conclusion is flawed- holds no water at all.

    Clades. Don’t you realize that you have completed adopted the framework designed by man (clades, specie designation) and then circularly use that to say “see it all fits”? Man lumped nature into groups based on their criteria and then acted as if that grouping proves something larger.

    Your “very specific pattern” of similarity and dissimilarity is a perfect example of man saying “a is like b, now let’s associate the two.”

    Your last sentence is very telling. You are confirming how closed you are to alternative viewpoints. That ain’t the scientific way. As for me- evolution may well be grander than I am willing to admit. Let’s hear you say that about the likelihood of God.

  26. Bad says:

    Hey Bad- did you know that there are more educated scholars who have conducted a greater amount of research than you, either directly or by reading other’s findings, and even THEY don’t come to your conclusion?

    You keep appealing to authority like this, and I keep not understanding why I should take it seriously. I know the people you are talking about. I know their arguments specifically. And I think their arguments don’t hold water, as do countless other people just as well educated and informed as they. Both sides have presented their arguments in ways that anyone reasonably informed can judge. And I have.

    I’m not, in fact, in any case entirely sure that any of the big names in question of ID (other than Behe) has done a greater amount of research than myself into biology specifically (and, of course, Behe accepts common descent).

    If you want to present some of these learned arguments, by all means do so. But don’t assume that just because someone is smart that they can’t be wrong. If being smart were all it took in science, we wouldn’t have any need of peer review, or really even the scientific process at all in the first place.

    Do tell how we arrived at matter from non-matter.

    It becomes very hard to have a discussion with someone who keeps altering the context and subject of discussion mid-debate. Nothing in any of these posts has had anything to do with physics or the origin of matter.

    Do explain your intelligence which was compiled from un-intelligence.

    Exactly how intelligent thought works is still a mystery. But nothing about that mystery in any way problematizes evolutionary mechanisms or functional explanations of things. We just don’t know enough yet. Of course, as I’m fond of pointing out: just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we don’t know anything. We have a lot important insights and understandings about the mind and how it works, all of which constitute a way forward in answering these questions that no other discipline or type of answer has offered or delivered in any measure.

    Rationalize that there is no rationale, and that order came from chaos.

    We don’t know what the ultimate structure of the universe is: how ordered, how chaotic, so this question is premature. What we do know is that “chaos” and “order” are far from the distinct things we often think of them as. Take a look into chaos theory, and you’ll likely be quite surprised at just how much order seeming chaos can deliver.

    I’m so glad that you brought up weathermen- trained people with tons of equipment and ways to interpret the data, and yet STILL they get it wrong all the time- and that’s present day interpretations!

    This complaint is unfounded. Weathermen cannot predict too far into the future because overall weather is altered by tiny fluctuations in things like local temperatures that we have no plausible way to track in detail (though we’re getting better and better at it over time). None of that invalidates the well verified understanding we have of how weather systems work, what forces drive them, basically rain cycles, and so on.

    But you’re sold solid on how it went billions of years ago

    The amount of time is relevant to the question: it’s the amount and type of evidence we have. And I’m afraid that, no, I don’t have any reason to believe that the Bible is an especially, let alone supernaturally, affirmed source.

    You literally said “to imagine” single cell…at least you’re being honest now. You’re also projecting.

    I’m trying to get you to think.

    And that lung question is still not answered. As something is being built, it does not function at every stage.

    We’ve already explained why it wouldn’t have to, and certainly not if you mean function 100% AS a lung.

    Dawkin’s explanation for the eye in stages is unbelievable fantasy.

    Saying so is not the same thing as showing that it is really implausible.

    You cannot admit that I accept many observations of evolutionists, I just don’t leap to their conclusion.

    Admit it? No, what I don’t do is concede it. You may well accept many observations. But you don’t understand them, don’t know of most of them, and don’t seem to care to know most of them.

    This idea of criticizing me for not having your grasp, and that therefore my conclusion is flawed- holds no water at all.

    Of course it does. Understanding a subject well enough to have an informed opinion on it is quite important. I don’t claim to be the biggest expert on biology. But that doesn’t mean that you can understand either evolution or biology just from a couple of pat phrases and quotes either. It does take a decent amount of work, and understanding a decent amount of stuff about the various relevant disciplines.

    Clades. Don’t you realize that you have completed adopted the framework designed by man (clades, specie designation) and then circularly use that to say “see it all fits”?

    You are welcome to try and organize life without running into this pattern over and over, inevitably. Really: do try! Long before anyone had even heard of Darwinian evolution, creationist biologists were running into these patterns and were baffled as to why they would exist.

    Your “very specific pattern” of similarity and dissimilarity is a perfect example of man saying “a is like b, now let’s associate the two.”

    Not at all: you just aren’t seeing what that pattern is of, and how where and when we find it in a historical sense is a distinctive match for what wold otherwise be a very very peculiar pattern: that of ancestral relation.

    Your last sentence is very telling. You are confirming how closed you are to alternative viewpoints.

    If thinking that arguments are terrible is proof that I’m close-minded, then I guess I must believe in Islam then! After all, their arguments are terrible, but by golly, I wouldn’t want to be “closeminded” by thinking that you need good arguments and evidence to prove something!

    As for me- evolution may well be grander than I am willing to admit. Let’s hear you say that about the likelihood of God.

    I can imagine countless possible things incredibly grand, some with Gods, and some without. Some could be true, for all I know. But possibility is not the same as reason to believe something is an actuality, and here I am, stuck needing reasons to believe something before I think it’s so.

  27. Alright Bad- let’s pick this back up early next week. Deal?

  28. Biggety-bad:

    You’re right, smarts don’t equate to truth, but I was sensing that you were telling me to literally “wise up” on the topic, so I wanted to offer that as a counter. I have no way of substantiating you vs. Behe and other ID proponents in regards to accumulated wealth of research and knowledge, so I’d rather just take your word for it.

    I was not altering the discussion as an attempt to slime my way out of this current course, it was a way of challenging what seemed to be a can of worms that you were opening up previously. We certainly don’t have to go into origin, intelligence from randomness, chaos theory, etc, and I do appreciate your willingness to admit to the mystery and lack of knowledge in those areas (or lack of a confirmed conclusion). That was part of my intent- to get you to soften up a little on some of this. Now we’re getting somewhere.

    I think you follow my point about weathermen even though it does not fit snuggly with our overall discussion. You made my point for me- we have a clear understanding of how and why weather behaves as it does, and even still we cannot hit the nail on the head when it comes to predicting it because there are so many variables. Nature has a tendancy of doing that. That is exactly how I feel about the leaps in conclusion made by grand, overarching evolution- again not a fear or necessary dismissal of the observations and understanding of function, etc, but rather the often-considered “obvious” conclusion that comes from such evidence.

    As for your Islam point, it’s clever on the surface but not sufficient to answer my point. Islam never intended to be science. It is clearly a rational (or as many see it irrational) progression and execution of faith-based principles. So you don’t weigh Islam in the same way we discuss science or scientific speculation. “What is the moral result” is a great question for methods of faith, but doesn’t do much as a way of chasing scientific comprehension. And before you jump at me by throwing my “don’t use the radical wacknuts to weigh core principles” point- these two ideas are not in contradiction. To ask and look at the result of a religion is quite valid while I see it as a futile exercise to only scoff at the “religious gone wrong” as a means to justify one’s dismissal (basically your point in the Maher crockumentary post).

    I am wanting to bring this discussion to a stop only because it can be so time consuming if we keep at it, and I feel like I’ve made some points as well as considered what you have to say. But I don’t want to be that chickensh*t that rants and then runs away. That being said, I will happily review one key piece of research that you think challenges my points. Just give me some time to do so. Furthermore, you have made another fan of your blog. I appreciate your approach if not your conclusions, so you can expect me to chime in on a more regular basis. I’m not sure if you read that as good news or bad.

    until the next,

    ian

  29. Bad says:

    I don’t think I’ve softened up any by noting that we don’t know everything. That’s the core ethic of science after all, and one I talk about quite a lot. But as I keep saying, that we don’t know everything doesn’t mean we can’t or don’t know anything. and likewise, I don’t think you can make an informed judgment about the quality of the evidence if you don’t know the big picture: all the key things that fit together.

    As for weathermen, the analogy still works better in my favor: the point is that we can have large scale understanding of weather systems, climates, water cycles, and so on: the big picture worked out quite well. It’s true that we cannot model every single detail, and thus any projections involve incomplete models. But again, that doesn’t invalidate the very very certain bits of knowledge we have about many things related to how weather works.

    I don’t really understand what you’re getting at with the Islam discussion. My point was simply that someone having and employing argument and evidence is hardly a good reason to declare them “closeminded.”

    I think the best way to proceed at this point would be for you to simply explain what you’re looking for in evidence. You don’t want to sit here while I put it all out on the table, and fair enough. So explain the kind of thing you’re looking for that you think evolutionary theory is missing. And keep in mind that science does not hold direct observation as the be all and end all of evidence: it’s just evidence period, of which first person eyewitness is only one type, and not even the most reliable. Also keep in mind that reproducing experiments are done to confirm the outcomes of certain specific claims. They do not mean that to study the sun and learn about it, we have to create a sun ourselves. Nor do they mean that to study the past history of biological life on earth, we have to recreate the entire thing.

  30. All one need do to stump a creationist is to ask what he would accept as evidence that life was not intelligently designed. You’ll get either silence because there is nothing he’d accept, or you’ll get an absurd and impossible to fufill requirement.

    In a debate on empirical, scientific issues, there is no point in beginning unless both sides speak the same language and both sides can articulate what they’d accept as conclusive evidence they are wrong. Evolutionists can do this all day long. IDiots cannot.

  31. Hey, look everyone- Grendel decided to interrupt the game by throwing some trash on the field from way up in the nose-bleed section. That’s a rather silly post. I can ask you the same question: what would it take to make you accept evidence for God and his intimate influence on nature? Something tells me you’ll refuse to be satisfied by whatever I present.

    And since you are implying a belief in nature’s arrival via total random godlessness, please prove to me that God doesn’t exist. You’re the one making or implying that claim, so lay out the solid, god-refuting evidence. What you’ve done is the typical Dawkins routine of shifting the debate by saying “the onus is on the God people because they believe” when in actuality- you believe just as strongly in your view, and therefore need to prove it in the same way that you ask the believer to prove God. And if you’re going to throw the lame rebuttal of “well you can’t disprove goblins or spaghetti monsters either” than save it. Goblins and spaghetti monsters have not been affirmed by generations of pioneer scientists, theologians and historians in the way that the Biblical account has been.

    You can’t prove “no God,” and neither can I prove God, but at least I am willing to admit to a faith based on evidence while you refuse to see the leap between natural scientific evidence and the philosophical conclusion of totally random, godless evolution from non-matter and the arrival of scientific laws without a law-giver. You are more than welcome to believe that, but drop the elitism and self-importance, and admit that you practice a faith in your conclusions as well. Then we can talk.

    Bad- I don’t want to nitpick your reply though there were things in it that we are still disagreeing on. Moving on- why don’t you show me some scientific evidence for the functionality of the evolving lungs in man. I want to understand how it functioned and formed during the gradual transition from the different system in the common ancestor.

  32. …late to the party, but here goes…

    The Broken Telegraph “Because feather are not that different from scales does not mean one is a later version of the other or that they are both an extension of a common ancestor.”
    Well then…it sure is odd that the fossil record groups them as such.

    “”Progressive increase in knowledge of the fossil record over the past hundred years emphasizes how wrong Darwin was in extrapolating the pattern of long-term evolution from that observed within populations and species…”
    Friends, we’ve got ourselves a quote mine, and it’s struck gold. Gold! (scroll down to “WHAT ABOUT THE HUNDREDS OF SCIENTISTS “OPPOSING DARWINISM” ?”. Quote mining is the single best way to get us to cross you off our Christmas card list.

    “Why do scientists try to prove evolution?”
    Scientists don’t “prove” evolution. The evidence does (although I wouldn’t use “prove”. Proofs are for math. Theories are more “the best explanation, pending evidence to the contrary”).

    “Aren’t they supposed to follow the evidence and conclusions wherever they lead to?”
    Yes. You can generally tell the ones that don’t, because their conclusions don’t fit or work (see Larmarckism, geocentricism, or homeopathy).

    “So why are scientists who conclude intelligence ridiculed? Is that the scientific way?”
    In part because, like Behe at Dover, they rely on majik to fill in the gaps of their own knowledge. ID fundamentally relies on arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity. The scientific way is admitting ignorance when confronted with a puzzle, making a hypothesis, testing it, etc. ID, when confronted with a puzzle, defaults to supernatural cause.

    “Do tell how we arrived at matter from non-matter.”
    That’s Big Bang. That’s Quantum Theory. One thing that is not is biological evolution.

    “Do explain your intelligence which was compiled from un-intelligence.”
    Do go look at our simian primate relatives. The most primitive ones (like lemurs) are entirely animal in nature, with very limited co-operation and no self awareness. As you move closer to us, their sense of “I” increases, as well as the complexity and order of their “tribes” (chimpanzees, for instance, have evolved to the point that they, to a limited extent, invent and use tools. Plus, they don’t freak out when they see themselves in a mirror). Once you get to us, homo sapiens sapiens hardly ever throw poo, which makes Christmas dinner much less stressful and poo-covered.

    “But you’re sold solid on how it went billions of years ago…
    Abiogenesis is weak, and probably always will be. There is so little evidence remaining that its gaps will always exceed its not-gaps by a wide margin.

    “…(all the while scrutinizing a Bible that was completed only 2,000 years ago…”
    This is the same book that says the world, if not the universe (depending on “yom”) was made in 4004BC (according to the Biblical timeline), that corruption and death didn’t exist until a man and his identical twin sister disobeyed their maker, that the entire world was covered in a flood, indeed, The Flood (complete with a family of eight, the only human survivors of said flood, taking care of a sample of “kinds” on an enormous boat that one man made for ten months), etc, right?

    “…and has been affirmed by generations of pioneering scientists, theologians and historians).”
    They lost the scientists after they, then known as naturalists, kept on digging up these crazy bones that didn’t fit into the biblical narrative. Also, the literal, world-wide flood doesn’t appear to have happened.
    Theologians can prove anything. Jewish theologians can prove that the Tanakh is the Work of God. Christian theologians can prove that the NT is the Word of God. Islamic theologians can prove that the Koran is the Word of God. Mormon theologians can prove that Mormon comma Book of is the Word of God, other theologians can do the same with the book or books of their choice. Also theologians of each sect/denomination can prove that their interpretation is the one True (capital T) one.
    Historians have shown that the Middle East, always a crossroads of empires, has been fairly consistently built up then plundered, yes. Exodus, not so much. Babel (as the origin of the multiplicity of language), not at all.

    “Dawkin’s explanation for the eye in stages is unbelievable fantasy.”
    I haven’t heard his argument, but the evidence for the eye is convincing, if imperfect.

    “…is a perfect example of man saying “a is like b, now lets’ associate the two.””
    It’s a good thing that comparative genomics supports the fossil record, then, doesn’t it? The history of life on Earth supports evolution. It fits into patterns of ancestry, and its gaps lead to predictions. Those predictions lead to finds. Those finds fill in the gaps, like that Tikitakimi (note: not spelled correctly) that “fits” a gap between fish and amphibians.

    “I think you follow my point about weathermen…”
    Weathermen don’t predict the past. The Theory of Evolution does. Weathermen predict the future. The ToE most emphatically does not.

    “the philosophical conclusion of totally random…”
    Who the hell believes that?
    Evolution is not random. Mutation is, but selection is not. That is not to say that it has a direction, as it can’t “pick” what will be needed for the organism to survive generations from now, but it’s not random.

    “godless evolution…”
    Evolution may not be godless, but supernatural intervention does not appear to be required.

    “from non-matter”
    Evolution from non-matter? What part of your ass did you pull that from?

    “and the arrival of scientific laws without a lawgiver.”
    Scientific laws reflect how the universe works. How the universe got to work the way that it does is, at least to me, a mystery. Of all the possible universes, we got this one. I’m sure that in the other possible universes, the other possible people are glad that their possible universes turned out the way that they did, because otherwise they couldn’t possibly be the possible people that they are (the same in the un-possible universes, with un-people remarking just how fine-tuned their non-universes are to permit their lack of existence).

  33. Ed Darrell says:

    Literal veracity of 2000-year-old Bible: With some nod to Mel Brooks’s 2000-year-old-man, defenders of a literal reading of the Bible should lay off of biology for a while and go after meteorologists — where are those storehouses of hail that God notes in Job? Can’t we get to them now, and with a few well-placed, air-launched cruise missiles, devastate those storehouses so we don’t have to worry about hail devastating our crops? Let’s be practical here: If the Bible is literal, Job offers us a way to reduce insurance payouts. Let’s do it.

    Arguments from limited authority: There are more scientists arguing for Marxist economics by a factor of 100 than ever argue against evolution. Doesn’t that mean Marx was right? Understand that there is a vanishingly small number of scientists who argue against evolution (there are about 80,000 professional, advance-degreed biologists in the U.S.; 800 would be 1%; of those “hundreds” who “oppose Darwinism” the vast majority are not biologists); and of those scientists, not one has published a contrary hypothesis for science to work from, not one has published a serious challenge to any facet of evolution theory based on real data. Ernst Mach didn’t “believe” in atoms (“No one’s ever seen one,” he’d say — which is, technically, still true!); Einstein didn’t “believe” in non-locality. Neither had the temporary insanity to claim all of science was wrong, however, since neither of them had any contrary data. Be careful of claims about what people hope to be true, which oppose what we actually observe in nature. Wasn’t it Haldane who said, “The universe is not only queerer than you imagine; it is queerer than you can imagine?”

    Godless evolution: Don’t conclude it’s Godless where God and science don’t say it is. Who are you to say God didn’t do it that way? You have genes from Joseph Smith or Mohommed? If you’re claiming to be a prophet, make your claim boldly.

  34. Bad says:

    TBT: perhaps the God issue is an important elephant in the room. In which case, I think I should note, as Ed did, that the point of evolution is no more to argue “No God” than it is the point of astronomy. I don’t think more evidence for evolution is less evidence for God, though of course, ANY evidence for any state of affairs is logically going to contradict some possible specific account of how the world is: classic creationism does have a great deal to fear from evolution. Theism as a general principle, however, does not.

    And you’re 100% right about the burden of proof. If Grendel were to assert that there was no God, it would be his responsibility to prove it. I don’t see where he has asserted that, and I’m not sure where that line of discussion came from. If you’re the only one on the field asserting a God claim, then that would mean that the burden of proof is on yourself. And, no, I don’t count “affirmations” as evidence of anything. Just because a belief is popular does not make it reliable.

    Moving on- why don’t you show me some scientific evidence for the functionality of the evolving lungs in man. I want to understand how it functioned and formed during the gradual transition from the different system in the common ancestor.

    Sure, although remember: in this specific case, what we’re looking at is more plausibility than known history. Ancient lungs do not leave many historical traces of themselves directly, since they are soft parts. As such, we do not currently know every twist and turn in the development of lungs in particular. We do know, however, more than enough to get a general picture.

    However, when I say “general picture” I’m talking about information and lines of evidence that could easily fill a book, and that book will still be just a summary of all the journal articles ever published relating to the subject. So I’ll run over a broad overview of a broad overview.

    The key lines of evidence in this discussion are thus: 1) fossil records that include either very rare impressions of soft tissue, or at least a general morphological structure that allows us to see the spaces in which organs like the lung reside 2) comparative genomics/evo-devo, in which we look at the modern species that are either closely or more distantly related to the ancient species we are interested in, both in their genes which form lungs, and how these genes play out in embryonic development 3) indirect fossil evidence about the environments in which certain creatures live.

    From #1, we know that lungs developed quite early in the lineage of what we think of as the first “fish” (though keep in mind that this term is a very vague and misleading one when it includes ancient animals: there is no taxonomic group “fish” that matches our common understanding of the word, and with good reason, but that’s another subject). What these early “lungs” appear as, as best we can tell, are merely outpouchings of the main “tract” that all chordates have running through their body.

    Developmentally (#2), you can think of this as a little bump in the wall of a tube that enlarges over time. The genes that make and regulate these “bumps” and where they appear in the main “tube” in the body of chordates are quite primitive (i.e. we find them and these processes at work in nearly every chordate, and from that conclude that they arose very early on, and then were widely exploited/experimented with by evolutionary change), and are likely implicated in the development of virtually everything along the main digestive track. When I say developmentally, I mean that this is what we see when we look at how chordates develop as embryos: this is the process we see at work. For the things that will become lung pouches, they are found in the posterior pharynx.

    At this point it’s probably important to note swim bladders. These are structures that many modern fish have that allow them to regulate their overall density by adding to or removing from a store of gas. When we look at how these organs develop in modern fish, we see that they develop, in fact, just like lungs do: pouching off the main tract.

    Gills are also, in a sense, special pouchings, though where and how they develop is a little more complicated. And we actually don’t know which came first: proper gills or the pouchings that would one day become lungs/swimbladders!

    In any case, we have these pouchings in early osteichthyans, and we have animals in which the tissues that allow a superior efficiency of gas exchange (over just doing it through the skin in general, as even earlier creatures did it) are less specialized and less specifically distributed in the same general area. But we do know that the two modern roles eventually developed for the “pouching” at this area both involve gas exchange: one from the water into the creature and back out again, and the other in and out of the creature into the bladder space.

    What does just a pouching allow? It allows these creatures to “gulp” and hold onto some quantity of air, much as you might catch a bubble of air under your palm in a swimming pool. Why is this an advantage? Because in the case of gas exchange proper, it means you can get a small but additional amount of it. You can also change your buoyancy profile, allowing you to float without moving at various depths.

    As far as the former function though, you might wonder why it is that fish who live in a (usually) well oxygenated place would need to gulp air. And that’s why it’s significant that, by #3, we know that nearly every ancient fish that we can discern to have had proper lungs is found in areas freshwater, or transitional areas where freshwater and saltwater meet (i.e. brackish). Freshwater and brackish habitats, unlike the ocean proper, commonly dry up for varying periods, to varying amounts, leaving isolated pools, or even leaving fish stranded in muddy, swampy areas with poor oxygenation in the water.

    The other feature common to all these creatures are two sets of nostrils: external, and internal. We are the same (though we don’t often think of the inside one as a “nostril”).

    So do you see now how the functionality profile/transition is plausible? Fish that lived in these particular environments would find great benefit in steady increases to the size and depth of their pouches/sacs for holding and gas exchanging open air. They still had gills (internal ones, mostly) at the same time, but they lived in environments in which being able to supplement this with surface gases could be a real advantage in staying alive in a habitat with a changing profile of oxygenated water to muddy floppings.

    Again, this is just the barest of overviews of the topic, and without going into the whole picture (for instance, changes in the circulatory system, all sorts of other anatomy, much more evo devo and even looking at the role and taxonomy of different genes) its sort of colorless. But even in a quick sum up, it is sufficient to refute the idea that there is something implausible about the development of lungs, given where when and how they developed over time.

  35. Modusoperandi- fossils don’t group themselves, we do. Circular reasoning on your part.

    The quote in question was not yanked off the internet, it was from an essay related to this topic. I have not been out scouring Answers in Genesis or ICR. Sorry.

    There are many like Dawkins who do try to persuade or prove evolution as a complete answer to life’s questions. They advocate on behalf of their “doctrine” as he admitted in Expelled (not a perfect movie- please don’t start there- and while we’re at it- neither was Dawkins’ laughable ‘Root of All Evil’ “Documentary”)

    Behe and Dover see an inevitable conclusion in the evidence, and yes one based outside of science. Have you read this whole discussion? I don’t think naturalism can answer for everything. It has its place. So does evolution (which I do accept on a limited scale). Evolutionists see a non-cause as the answer and that too is outside of science. Science merely tells us what, not why. One group is being more honest about their conclusion while the other is calling both the evidence AND the conclusion “science.” Let’s not go in circles; we’ve been talking about this aspect in this thread forever. If you disagree with me, fine. But you are a person of faith whether you like it or not. Faith in what- that’s the question.

    Don’t play dumb with me about origin. Quantum theory may not be biology but you KNOW that mainstream evolutionary teaching lumps origin in with the whole progression. Textbooks do this all the time. So while you and Bad and others more educated happen to know better, concede that “from non-matter to now” is an accepted and taught summary of the evolutionary view in many schools and books. I was addressing origin only because I saw Bad heading in that direction, and wanted to call out the fact that he had overstepped our discussion towards things that he too takes on faith (and graciously conceded as mysterious, but then said he didn’t concede anything). So don’t get down on me for responding to origin when it was first pointed at by Bad, and happens to be frequently absorbed into the evolutionary rhetoric.

    I’m not going to respond to your Bible objections for a few reasons: 1) this discussion is already becoming longwinded, and I’m not going to take extra time to discuss this evolution debate plus every Bible objection that you can think up and 2) because your points show a very shallow comprehension of the Bible, as if you’ve done what you’re accusing me of- go to an anti-Bible website and pulled some typical “this will make believers squirm” questions. I am not talking about theologians “proving” the Bible’s claims but rather the integrity of the various scrolls and remarkable similarity, the effectiveness of its history and use of markers, affirmed eye witnesses including from non-believing sources, etc. This is a HUGE other issue and I really don’t want to dive into it now.

    I read your eye link, and we’re still at the same dispute (and yes I get that it’s only a summary and that MUCH ELSE EXISTS TO AFFIRM THE EVOLVING EYE) but you see that as proof and I see it as raising a ton of questions. The differences between the significant stages of the eye as shown on that chart are HUGE. It’s not just a matter of drawing the differences but of actually getting from one to the other physically. Even the diagram admits that functionality was extremely limited in the early phases. How then did common ancestors thrive and be fit enough to continue living, reproduce and evolve with what is essentially blindness? Blindness or sight impairment is a significant handicap. The ‘rate of evolution’ segment was particularly hilarious.

    If selection is a directing force then you’re implying intelligence, author, foreman (or fore-it). Selection is benign. The fittest survive and not by way of an exterior influence or else you are heading down a rabbit hole of faith.

    Your last paragraph was a very glossy answer to a serious question. So we happen to be living in a time of great stability and symbiosis and yet it all got here without direction. The probability just isn’t there, and to say “but we are here, so it must be so” doesn’t answer anything.

    Thanks for the post. You had less venom than many do in such a discussion.

    Bad- I know you put some time into your reply so I’ll come back to it soon and read it thoroughly. You’re going to have to use restraint though- if you start answering my replies to other people on top of giving me paragraphs to read, I’ll be here all day and I honestly don’t want to invest that much time trying to hit a thousand tennis balls at once.

    Ed- you’re clever, but I’ve heard that all before. The Bible is reputable as it was intended to be taken. Revelation is not literal (many views as to how to take it), Christ used hyperbole, etc. This is why faithful folks wrestle and contemplate and discuss. If you bothered to read this entire thread (and I guess I don’t blame you if you didn’t- it’s now intimidating in length) you would see that I did not say “God did not author evolution.” I very clearly said comprehension (evolution vs. ID vs. rapid creation scenario vs. whatever else) will not be a savior. God’s grace saves. So yes we’re debating evolution but my objections are not based on what God would and wouldn’t do. I don’t think naturalism or darwinism reaches as far as many here think it does. That’s it. When some folks say “we don’t need God we have evolution” then I respond to godless evolution but I never said HOW God did it FOR SURE. I believe He did it one way, but am willingly agnostic about much of it, therefore leaving much of my mind open and God’s way up to Him. Much of those speaking for science DO say evolution is godless. You guys and your shell game. Always picking the best representative given the situation, regardless of where your majority stands.

  36. Pat says:

    TBT said:

    >”I said nothing about observing evolution in nature so don’t throw someone else’s point on >my shoulders.”

    and later

    >”please prove to me that God doesn’t exist. You’re the one making or implying that claim”

    >”Much of those speaking for science DO say evolution is godless. You guys and your shell >game.”

    TBT – You launched into this argument about godlessness in the creation of matter and everything even though no one else in this thread was arguing for it, and you might take to heart your own earlier request for Bad not to attribute opinions to you that you hadn’t stated. Also, as you mentioned, even if you have totally solid arguments on every topic that comes up in this thread, you probably can’t sacrifice the time it takes to discuss in depth more than a few of them. By bringing up points from your own personal laundry list of complaints with atheists in general, you are just making it impossibly time-consuming to defend all your claims, even if they do turn out to be things you and someone else here also happen to disagree on. Maybe you should just stick to your argument with Bad about whether or not evolution by natural processes can account for the diversity and complexity of life that we see today, and argue about God’s role in creating matter in the universe etc. later. More selfishly, I thought the former argument was much more interesting to read.

  37. Hey Pat- I’ll take your advice and admit I could have done a better job keeping myself on topic. More recently- others have peppered the discussion with cheap shots so i have responded to them, and you are correct- both of those things were off topic. Whether or not that’s fitting in the discussion or as interesting is up to you. I will tighten it up moving forward.

    Bad- I’m still going to get back to your latest reply; been answering everyone else and saving yours for later because you’re sortof the main event (and write the most which in turn takes the most time to respond to).

  38. Ed Darrell says:

    Quantum theory may not be biology but you KNOW that mainstream evolutionary teaching lumps origin in with the whole progression. Textbooks do this all the time.

    Name the textbook. Cite the page. I think you’re imagining things, or hallucinating.

    I don’t have all the biology texts published in the U.S. on my shelf, but I’ve been looking at them for more than 20 years. I’ve never seen a textbook do that.

  39. Ed Darrell says:

    I’m not going to respond to your Bible objections for a few reasons . . .

    I don’t have objections to the Bible, but I do have a few questions:

    1. Where in the Bible is there a claim that the Earth is young?
    2. What verses of the Bible say evolution didn’t happen?
    3. Which verses of the Bible are to be taken as literal fact, which are metaphor? Can you give me a general rule by which to make that distinction?
    4. Is there any verse in the Bible that actually talks about the age of the Earth?
    5. Which verses say that science is wrong, that nature lies about its age, and suggest that the Bible is authoritative over what we can observe in nature?

    Just curious.

  40. Ed Darrell says:

    When some folks say “we don’t need God we have evolution” then I respond to godless evolution but I never said HOW God did it FOR SURE.

    Did someone argue that in this thread? On this blog?

  41. The Broken Telegraph “fossils don’t group themselves, we do.
    Circular reasoning on your part.”

    Fossils do group themselves. One above the other. They’re supported, in turn, by evidence from other disciplines, like comparative genomics. Genes rule! Woo! Go genes!

    “Quantum theory may not be biology but you KNOW that mainstream evolutionary teaching lumps origin in with the whole progression. Textbooks do this all the time.” Wow. That must be the worst biology textbook ever. I can see it in an elementary school-level “history of everything” book. Will popups, hopefully.

    “concede that “from non-matter to now” is an accepted and taught summary of the evolutionary view in many schools and books.” No. I don’t remember any biology classes remotely like that.

    “and I’m not going to take extra time to discuss this evolution debate plus every Bible objection that you can think up and 2) because your points show a very shallow comprehension of the Bible, as if you’ve done what you’re accusing me of- go to an anti-Bible website and pulled some typical “this will make believers squirm” questions.” Actually, I read it. Not all of it (the books of the minor prophets are awful). The Torah plus Joshua plus the Gospels plus some of Paul’s Epistles plus enough of that book at the end to not want to ready anymore of it).
    My shallow comprehension of the Bible is a simple reflection of Biblical literalism/inerrancy. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s quite popular in America these days (although I doubt very much that the “bible-only” of the modern fundamentalist is quite what Calvin meant).

    “I am not talking about theologians “proving” the Bible’s claims but rather the integrity of the various scrolls and remarkable similarity,”
    That doesn’t make them true, by the way. 14,000 mostly similar copies of Dumbo doesn’t mean that there was actually a flying elephant. Elephants, yes. Flying, not so much.

    “…the effectiveness of its history” Well, some of it is at least quasi-historical, where it does match what little evidence remains. The historical evidence for the big tales of the Torah, from Abraham to Moses and Exodus, is virtually nil.

    “and use of markers,”
    If by markers, you mean locations and some names, yes. That their is a Sinai doesn’t mean that 2,000,000 early Hebrews spent 40 years wandering around it, however. That there were a Jerusalem and Herod (Roman elected King of the Jews, no less) doesn’t make Jesus the son of God, either.

    “affirmed eye witnesses including from non-believing sources, etc.”
    Josephus – redacted. Most of the rest came decades or centuries after the fact.

    “This is a HUGE other issue and I really don’t want to dive into it now.”
    That the big events don’t match up with the evidence casts doubt on the rest, IMO.

    “I read your eye link, and we’re still at the same dispute (and yes I get that it’s only a summary and that MUCH ELSE EXISTS TO AFFIRM THE EVOLVING
    EYE) but you see that as proof and I see it as raising a ton of questions.”

    Stop saying that! It’s not “proof”! It’s evidence for common descent/evolution. As for your questions, there will always be questions. Scientists love questions, as it gives them stuff to look at (most weren’t looking at the humble flagellum until some daft fool declared that they were complex, and irreducibly so).

    “The differences between the significant stages of the eye as shown on that chart are HUGE.”
    Indeed they are. There will always be gaps, but a perusal of all the eye-spotted to eyed creatures (with everything in between), as well as their genes, supports evolution. Sure, a God (or anonymous supernatual entity) could be, on the geologic scale, constantly dipping in and tinkering, changing large enough subgroups of populations, but one doesn’t appear to be required. What Newton (and his descendants) did for the cosmos, Darwin/Wallace (and their descendants) did for the diversity of life on Earth.

    “It’s not just a matter of drawing the differences but of actually getting from one to the other physically. Even the diagram admits that functionality was extremely limited in the early phases. How then did common ancestors thrive and be fit enough to continue living, reproduce and evolve with what is essentially blindness? Blindness or sight impairment is a significant handicap.”
    Sight impairment is only sight impairment when there are better eyes to compare to. A blob with eyespots can’t tell what’s about to eat it (not that it could do much about it anyway), but it can tell when the sun is up. If there are two groups with eyespots, one which goes up to shallower water when the sun is up, while the other goes deeper, and there’s is more food or less predation for/of that species (whether deeper or shallower doesn’t really matter). One group may end up with an advantage, moreso when you compare those groups with their eyespotless predecessor, who just sits there. If the floaters have the advantage, they will be more “fit” and outbreed the others. Same for the sinkers. Same, even for the eyespotless ones. Evolution is not really survival of the fittest, it’s survival of the fit enough.

    “The ‘rate of evolution’ segment was particularly hilarious.”
    You’re mistaking “not knowing much” for “knowing nothing”. The early Cambrian is a poor place for fossils (soft things rarely survive relatively intact to do so. Small soft things fare even worse). “May” and “could”, on little direct, from-the-time evidence plus other data, like evo-devo, is better than washing your hands of the whole thing after declaring that the Designer did it. One will keep you looking for the answers, while the other sounds like one, but isn’t.

    “If selection is a directing force…”
    No. Getting eaten by a tiger because mutation gave you stumpier legs over your neighbour (who got away) isn’t a directing force. It’s causal, but undirected. Mutation/natural selection had no way of knowing that the tiger would enjoy eating whoever it caught.

    “Your last paragraph was a very glossy answer to a serious question…”
    In High School, I was voted ‘Most likely to be glossy’. True story.

    “…and yet it all got here without direction. The probablility just isn’t there…”
    Well, considering that we only have a sample pool of one universe, any answer (glossy or otherwise), could be the correct one.

    “…and to say “but we are here, so it must be so” doesn’t answer anything.”
    Agreed. “God did it” is no answer either. The most honest answer is that I don’t know. Perhaps we’ll figure it out, or perhaps not. Big Bang cosmologists and Quantum Theorists can probably give you somewhat of an answer. One thing I can be sure of, the Quantum Theorists’ answer will blow your mind. Quantum theory makes no sense at all (it’s probabilistic, rather than causal).

    “You had less venom than many do in such a discussion.”
    Oh, I got venom! This snake’s got fangs, baby!

    “…Revelation is not literal…”
    So, what’s the metaphorical interpretation of the “begets” and Jesus’ lineage and some bible math making for the first man *bamphing* into existence in 4004BC (ah, the Ussher calculations. So exact. So total. So wrong.), and other oddities, like everything being vegetarian before The Fall?


    Pick up copies of Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body and The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. They explain things better than I ever could. People say that I mangle english. I deny such accusations, of course, but I do. I use my powers for evil, mostly.

    Lastly, this site needs a preview button for posts. I have nightmares about forgetting to close a tag. I also have nightmares about angora sweaters. The two are unrelated.

  42. Bad says:

    Inner Fish is a great little book: I just finished it a little bit ago. Very much aimed at new readers, and very digestible.

    I wish I could add a preview button, but I’m stuck with whatever options wordpress allows… and that isn’t one of them. Quite odd I think, personally. Anyway, a space between your italic quotes and your responses would make things easier to read, if possible.

  43. Um…yeah, about the space between italics and my witty, illuminating and irreverent comments. I forgot it, this time. Also, I’m delusional about my comments. They’re working on a pill to treat that, I hear.

  44. Sorry, I missed this earlier…

    The Broken Telegraph “The quote in question was not yanked off the internet, it was from an essay related to this topic.”
    None the less, in the paper from which the Carroll quote was mined (and, yes, where you got it is moot).
    As Bad pointed out in one of his comments, they don’t mean what you seem to be implying. That is the essence of quote mining.
    Carroll is not arguing for ID, he is pointing out that there is more to evolution than simple mutation and natural selection (as is was in Darwin’s day. For some, it probably still is). He’s arguing (taken verbatim from a summary of the paper. I’d have read the actual paper in its entirety, but I’m not paying for it. I’m cheap, dagnabit!):

    New concepts and information from molecular developmental biology, systematics, geology and the fossil record of all groups of organisms, need to be integrated into an expanded evolutionary synthesis. These fields of study show that large-scale evolutionary phenomena cannot be understood solely on the basis of extrapolation from processes observed at the level of modern populations and species. Patterns and rates of evolution are much more varied than had been conceived by Darwin or the evolutionary synthesis, and physical factors of the earth’s history have had a significant, but extremely varied, impact on the evolution of life.

    Quote mining is dishonest, as well as a too common creationist tactic (apparently, to some, bearing false witness only in court).

    “I have not been out scouring Answers in Genesis or ICR. Sorry.”
    No need to apologize, just don’t do it again. In the very least, try to find out the context of the quote. We’ve seen enough quote mines about Einstein’s belief in God, where creationists conflate their personal God with his Spinozan/deist one, that we’re sensitive to such nonsense, and give those who use quote mines (and the quote mines that they quote) short shrift.

  45. Crap! That should be “the quote from the Carroll paper was mined”, not “in the paper from which the Carroll quote was mined” (which probably makes sense to me. I haven’t asked myself yet. I’m afraid of what the answer will be.

  46. Alright, let’s do this.

    First up is 60 Minute’s Ed Darroll ;)- I have read and seen several textbooks that do exactly that, and you’ll have to forgive me for not being able to cite the edition and page number. Seriously, who has school textbooks lying around (besides you). So you can feel free to dismiss my point as “hallucination” or you can trust me (or look into it yourself again).

    Did you miss Pat’s post? Let’s stay on topic. You and I can agree to debate the merits (and your questions) related to The Bible another time. I have said nothing in this thread about the age of the earth. I am agnostic in regards to that matter, and open to any conclusion. As for “does the Bible debunk evolution” you are asking me to repeat myself and are also indicating that you haven’t read this thread very carefully. As I said, Christians vary on origin and design. “Evolution” covers a lot of ground too, and some of that ground I accept, which you’d know if you didnt’ hop into the game prematurely. However, the Bible does paint an intimate picture of God’s hands in creation, and you can see it all over the Old Testement. Start with the book of Isaiah. Furthermore, my ability to sufficiently answer your questions has nothing to do with the actual validity of the Bible. It’s more about you lobbing semi-thoughtful Qs at me from your armchair and then waiting for me to dance for you. No thanks- as I said: another time. I am growing quite bored of this discussion, because as Pat correctly pointed out- it’s now about me answering questions that take immense explanation and we’re continuing to stray off topic. So Ed- you’ll have to accept that I’m moving on from you. I’m sure we’ll chat again.

    Modusoperandi- fossils do not group themselves. Are you talking about the layer of strata that they’re found in? We can absolutely chat about the almost entirely bogus geologic column if you want. But the point was about the sorting of fossils based on progression or proximity to another species from the ‘ol evoTree.

    Hey- now we’re getting somewhere! I agree the similarity and historical confirmation of the Bible does not prove its claims. Wow- lookey lookey. What it does do is establish the book as reputable and worth consideration. Clearly- Jesus calls people to FAITH. Even in HIS day, people thought he was everything- from savior and God’s son to heretic and criminal. Thomas doubted his resurrection until he had physical proof that it was in fact the Jesus who he knew and had died on a cross. So you’re absolutely right- 16,000 copies of dumbo does not mean that he flew (cool analogy BTW). But it does ask for your serious consideration. From there, you can make a decision about Christ based on your response to his life, words and sacrifice.

    “Josephus- redacted.” LOL whatever you say, man. What are your sources? Consider the following- Rev. Earl Palmer is a theologian from Princeton Theological Seminary, and is one of the most educated pastors in the nation. Along with John Medina, he lead a series on this very issue . It is worth your consideration. MP3s at:

    http://www.upc.org/worship.aspx?id=1196#how

    Even though I can tell that you’re actually reading this thread vs. Armchair Ed, I should keep things fair and put our Biblical discussion to rest for the time being.

    Back to science-ish:

    The flagellum is humble? oohkay.

    Your line about “sure there are gaps but all the examples of everything from spots to full eyes supports evolution”- that is exactly the problem. I totally disagree with you and have stated why several times already in this thread.

    Your little bedtime story about blobs with eye spots is nice, but it’s absolute wishful speculation. Because you can describe it in a very acceptable way does not mean that it a) happened like that or b) even could. One “may” end up with an advantage? So in your hopeful scenario, we “may” get a clear leader- something “fit enough”? That’s it? If you want to be persuaded by stories that snap to your presuppositions, then feel free.

    I agree with your assessment of natural selection and would caution those in your thought camp to do the same, because many walk a fine line between acknowledging it and giving it intelligent/directing status.

    Your most likely to be glossy comment was the funniest so far. Perfectly absurd.

    I appreciate your honesty about origin.

    And dude you need to relax about quote mining. You evolutionists act so delicate sometimes. People misuse others quotes ALL the time- forget historical, you can watch Hillary and Obama do it on YouTube. It was from an essay that I found compelling, and no it wasn’t from Dr. Dino either :) I have not been saturating this thread with quotes from a creationist grab bag. Lighten up.

    I’ll put “inner fish” on my to-get list. At this point, I think we’ve heard each other (and I’m honestly just about finished with this little marathon). I know where you’re coming from but we’re not going to reconcile every disagreement. Thanks for throwing in, though.

    Now to Bad’s post…

  47. Bad- thanks for your patience.

    I appreciate your two first paragraphs. However, you do live in the real world, and must admit that many evolutionists (Dawkins is always first in mind) use evolution as a springboard to attack religion and the likelihood of God. Fair enough? Even in this discussion someone said (in summary) that it appears that we don’t need God to get here. So you can see how slippery that slope is once we accept that naturalism can answer every question.

    NOW we’re getting somewhere. Thank you for admitting to plausibility vs. actual evidence. Do you see why I’m a little skeptical? Evolutionists have the advantage of TIME to hide quite a bit of what’s required to satisfy skeptics such as myself “well we don’t have those (truly) transitional fossils” or “of course we don’t have physical proof of the evolving lung.” I am relieved to see you admit that scientists are filling in the blanks.

    Some Qs to your points (and I’m asking sincerely here): how can the impressions of soft tissue on fossils be enough to account for a lung diagram or full understanding as related to that specie? Isn’t that like taking a tooth and building a whole transitional frame around it?

    2- is it not circular reasoning for man to assign kinds of animals to groups and sub-groups based on similarity and then compare differences to establish development patterns? Is the geologic column still being used to date rocks and fossils or have we moved beyond that fantasyland. What is the current standard for establishing dates? (Just tell me- I don’t want to launch into a whole new debate about the validity of carbon and radiometric dating).

    3- As environments CERTAINLY lead to adaptation (micro-evolution) is that a reputable avenue for looking at what would essentially amount to transitional changes from one kind to another? Now we get stuck in this whole “what defines micro/macro” thing but I’m still curious.

    I follow your explanation which was interesting to read. As for these outpouches- how would they hold even a smaller amount of air if they are largely open to the inner track you described. Am I visualizing this incorrectly? You made it sound almost like an observation point along a highway- a little U-shaped shoulder which leaves at least some of it exposed and open (unlike your bubble which holds air because it is entirely closed and therefore able to do so). I realize lungs (though they vary) are never entirely sealed, but this earlier form sounds quite open. Maybe you should clarify.

    The embryo thing doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me as a valid comparison. Evolving species were not in a state of constant and rapid development as embryos are. Embryos- we’re describing GROWTH not evolution. These primitive ancestors would be functioning, reproducing and surviving for thousands of years on this clunky and very limited framework. How does that compare?

    As for the dried up lake bed scenario- that seems speculative and quite so. Why do we still have creatures that thrive in such areas today if selection moved earlier ancestors away from the swamp and into more ideal locations?

  48. The Broken Telegraph “We can absolutely chat about the almost entirely bogus geologic column if you want.” & “I don’t want to launch into a whole new debate about the validity of carbon and radiometric dating”

    Oh. My. God.
    Geologic column? Bogus? You’re more Gish than you let on. You, sir (or madam. This is the interweb, after all), disappoint me.

    “From there, you can make a decision about Christ based on your response to his life, words and sacrifice.”
    I can. I don’t mind Jesus (most of the NT statements that have aged poorly come from Paul or Peter. Luckily, Paul didn’t speak for God, right? Right?). Jesus the man who told people not to be shitty to one another? Sure. Jesus the Son of the Jewish God (who is also Him)? Not so much.

    ““Josephus- redacted.” LOL whatever you say, man.”
    Well, Josephus in on Jesus. Also, Josephus in doubt. Also, most everywhere else on the internet that talks about the Testimonium Flavianum that isn’t an apologist/bible site. (I am listening to that mp3. It’s slow going. mp3’s run in real-time. Why can’t people speak as fast as I read? Now that would be a miracle!)
    The first thing that should raise a flag for you, reading those little passages from Josephus about Jesus being the Messiah and the Messiah saying “follow me” is that, well, when did he convert?

    “What are your sources?”
    I almost exclusively rely on divine revelation. Hey, it worked for Moses, Jesus, Paul, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, Hubbard…

    “The flagellum is humble? oohkay.”
    I meant that in the context that they weren’t interesting enough to study further, up until someone decided that the Designer made them. They’re kind of cocky, actually. They’re all “Oooo! I’m all flagellumy ‘n’ shit!”. Then they hop on their motorcycles and ride, ’cause flagella/flagellums gotta be free, man.

    “Your line about “sure there are gaps but all the examples of everything from spots to full eyes supports evolution”- that is exactly the problem. I totally disagree with you and have stated why several times already in this thread.”
    And I totally disagree with you! So, it’s a divorce, then! I’m taking the dog! Etc!
    You’re applying a higher (far higher) level of evidence for ToE than you are for your own theory/hypothesis (whatever the specifics of that may be). Yes, our long history has gaps. Yes, there are areas that we cannot see. No, that doesn’t default to ”*majik*”. Nor should it. Majik is the most consistently wrong answer. Science gets a little closer to right (without ever reaching absolute and perfect truth) when new things are discovered. Thor, meanwhile, isn’t in charge of lightning anymore. Neither is it God’s wrath, nor the the machinations of that devious Devil. It turns out, that observation of the evidence consistently leads to the dismaying conclusion that the natural world is natural, rather than the plaything of the Designer, and that, if the supernatural are messing with us, they’re doing so in a manner completely indistinguishable from the natural world. Deism looks more and more like the only plausible supernatural entity (and that’s only because it doesn’t care/want to be found), while the Untinkered Tinkerer keeps getting smaller and smaller gaps to hide in.

    “If you want to be persuaded by stories that snap to your presuppositions, then feel free.”
    If you want to be persuaded to ignore the pattern by your presuppositions, then feel free. Just keep it the hell out of science class. Also, no food in class. You’re messy. You got some hamburger in the dissected frog yesterday. We thought it had cancer.

    “And dude you need to relax about quote mining.”
    Quote mining = lying. I can’t explain it any more concisely than that.

    “People misuse others quotes ALL the time- forget historical, you can watch Hillary and Obama do it on YouTube.”
    Does that make it okay? On a side note: do you find the idea of Hilary and Obama doing it on YouTube as erotic as I do? Oh. It’s just me, then. *cough* (pause). Sooooo, how about that weather?

    “I know where you’re coming from but we’re not going to reconcile every disagreement.”
    Hopefully that book will help, if only a little (remember: there’s always the biology section of that “library” thingy, too). We will never have perfect A-Z evidence, perfect “proof”, of ToE, but it explains the evidence best. From geology to genetics, physics to paleontology, it just “fits”. While majik fits too, that’s mostly because defaulting to that doesn’t actually teach you anything.

  49. Modus…-

    i am similarly dissapointed- in your paragraph about majik. Some here are saying “keep the discussion to evolution; no one is talking about origin or God” but you clearly are. The Thor argument is LAME. Pet theories do not belong on the shelf with Christ. Has Thor changed history like Jesus? Did Thor revolutionize Europe and drive what eventually became the western world? Has Thor been affirmed by generations of theologians, historians and pioneering scientists? Have billions of people been positively effected by Thor? You guys are standing on the shoulders of giants, and you want to act as if the giants are either irrelevant, or never existed, and you have the nerve to say you’d be in the same place without what came before you. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [shallow Dawkins rhetoric] ZZZZZZZZZZZZ (that’s me falling into a deep slumber from your craptastic paragraph).

    Furthermore, you R-E-F-U-S-E to see that your conclusions are rooted in philosophy and faith, and yet you have the nerve to criticise the faith of those willing to be honest about their views. If you think naturalism can explain how we got laws, matter, energy and life as we know it, well…you have a ton of faith, only you worship at a different altar. Oh I forgot- Quantum Theory will BLOW MY MIND (rated R).
    As Senator Clay Davis from The Wire says, “sheeeeeeeeeeeeee-it!”

  50. “i am similarly dissapointed- in your paragraph about majik.”
    Well, that’s what ID is, isn’t? An agent that, over billions of years, makes numerous appearances, tweaking things to be just so. If that isn’t real majik, I don’t know what is.

    “Some here are saying “keep the discussion to evolution; no one is talking about origin or God” but you clearly are.”
    From Expelled to The Wedge (if memory serves), evolution is the least of the argument.

    “The Thor argument is LAME.”
    Hey! Don’t be dissing the Thor argument. I could’ve used Yahweh, and it would have been exactly the same. The same being awesome. Granted, I am my own worst critic.

    “Pet theories do not belong on the shelf with Christ.”
    You must have big shelves. Does it take long to dust Him?

    “Has Thor changed history like Jesus? Did Thor revolutionize Europe and drive what eventually became the western world?”
    None of that is Christ. All of that is Christians. Also, try swapping Muhammad in there, and it works almost as well (not now, obviously. Before. You should’ve been their. Pinnacles of science, law and civilization, they were).

    “Has Thor been affirmed by generations of theologians, historians and pioneering scientists?
    No. Thor, like all of the other interventionalist gods fails to show up when people have their cameras ready. It’s unknown at this time whether prayer to Thor is statistically comparable in effectiveness with prayers to any other of the gods, but he couldn’t to much worse.

    “Have billions of people been positively effected by Thor?”
    No. Thor was a bit player. Small time. That hammer was all he had in the whole world. He loved that hammer, you know. Cried like a baby when it left him. He would’ve had better luck in the Hindu pantheon (still quite a popular group, from what I gather); more room for advancement. Or, he could’ve gone Buddhist.

    “You guys are standing on the shoulders of giants, and you want to act as if the giants are either irrelevant, or never existed, and you have the nerve to say you’d be in the same place without what came before you.”
    When did we deny the giants. Newton rocked. Einstein rocked. Darwin rocked. We don’t deny them because two were varying degrees of Christian and one was a secular Jew. They didn’t let their baggage get in the way of finding out how shit worked (well, Newton apparently defaulted to majik when he found that his math didn’t quite balance, but I’ll let that slide).

    “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [shallow Dawkins rhetoric] ZZZZZZZZZZZZ (that’s me falling into a deep slumber from your craptastic paragraph).”
    High praise indeed. Kudos! Now go read Your Inner Fish and the Making of the Fittest.

    “Furthermore, you R-E-F-U-S-E to see that your conclusions are rooted in philosophy and faith,”
    I do no such thing. I freely admit that I don’t believe in the supernatural (though I don’t deny the possibility thereof). When the supernatural (specifically the type of supernatural that’s regularly messes with the natural world) gets off its collective ass, and shows up as more than a statistical anomaly or a series of incompatible anecdotes…then you’ll have something. Until then, you’ve got a book, a feeling and a history. Get in line. Everybody seems to have one of those, and none of their books/feelings/histories have any more real evidence than yours.

    “and yet you have the nerve to criticise the faith of those willing to be honest about their views.”
    When their views contradict, ignore or twist the evidence and they want those views in science class, hell yes I have the “nerve to criticise”.

    “If you think naturalism can explain how we got laws, matter, energy and life as we know it, well…you have a ton of faith, only you worship at a different altar.”
    Rational investigation of the natural world moved us farther ahead in 300 years than theology did in the preceding 3,000. Filling in the gaps in our knowledge with the supernatural is not good enough anymore.

    “Oh I forgot- Quantum Theory will BLOW MY MIND”
    It will. What little I’ve read on it makes no sense at all. At all. We evolved in a causal world. Our whole psyche is based around cause and effect. Quantum theory isn’t causal, it’s probabilistic. That, clearly, is a mindf*ck of the highest order.

  51. thanks for sparing with me, Modus. You may now return your oversized Q-tip to the nearest American Gladiator.

  52. I told you this kitty had claws. Or fangs. Or something. Enjoy the books. Evolution is pretty cool. It’s like chess; simple to learn, but ages to master. Lateral gene transfer alone is like an olympic sized swimming pool, but instead of water it’s filled with fascinating and bizarre. Granted, “fascinating” and “bizarre” aren’t generally nouns, but I’m a rebel. A language rebel. This probably explains why my english teachers always asked me what I was rebelling against (my answer: “What have you got?”. Obviously).

  53. Bad says:

    Forgive me TBT, but I think I’m going to have to put off responding until the weekend, to do things justice and still fulfill some other obligations (work this week and trying to keep posting a bit). I promise I won’t forget to get back to this by the weekend though, and if I do, feel free to steal a Q-tip and prod me with it.

  54. i completely understand. These types of discussions can be comsuming.

  55. Correction:
    “We don’t deny them because two (Newton & Darwin) were varying degrees of Christian…”
    Wups. Darwin was agnostic (after 1851).

  56. Robert says:

    The work on the bacteria is not evidence of macroevolution. After 40,000 generations the bacteria are still single-cell organisms, still arguably E. coli bacteria. What they have done is adapt. That’s microevolution.

  57. Robert “After 40,000 generations the bacteria are still single-celled organisms”
    Yup. And so?

    “still arguably E. coli bacteria”
    A new strain, yes. What a horrible term. If I was a single-celled organism, I would be insulted.

    “That’s microevolution.”
    So, we can see a multitude of pennies, but the dollar doesn’t exist?

    Minor individual changes (over generations), spreading across populations (each individual therein also potentially having other mutations that also spread across populations), build up (over more generations) to make something different. No sight to light sensitive cells to various variation on the eye (simple, compound, camera), etc. Currently, these E. coli can eat something that their E. coli ancestors could not eat. Soon, they will get interweb connections. Later, perhaps, they’ll start blogging…about poop, probably. Damn those E. coli!*

    *Note: It’s a bit different for asexual, single-celled life, as questions like “Can this generation interbreed with that generation?” are moot when trying to define a species-level boundary. They still have oddities like bacterial conjugation, lateral gene transfer and transduction to spread genes among populations, but it (and anyone here feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) appears that the individual is the “fittest” in the single-celled world, rather than the population, which may help explain why it took so long for the asexual reproduction of prokaryotes (approx 3.5 billion years ago) to make way for the sexual kind of most eukaryotes (approx 1-1.7 billion years ago) and above*. I think I just blew my own mind.

    * Also note, but later: The study of the evolution of multicellularity looks fascinating.

  58. Bad says:

    Robert Says: The work on the bacteria is not evidence of macroevolution.

    I’m not sure what that word means to you, since creationists never really use it as it actually means, but it’s certainly evidence that helps verify the overall picture of just how things evolve, as well as being an example of macroevolution, depending on how you define bacterial species.

    After 40,000 generations the bacteria are still single-cell organisms, still arguably E. coli bacteria. What they have done is adapt. That’s microevolution.

    Bzzzt. No.

    First of all, whether or not they are “still single celled organisms” is irrelevant to whether it’s macroevolution or not (as silly and irrelevant as saying “well, maybe cats and dogs evolved from the same thing, but they’re still just multicellular organisms”).

    It’s doubly irrelevant given that the evolution of multicelluarity is entirely different subject, and one which, yet again, I think you’d be surprised by how much we know (and have observed), as well as just how much of a gradient there is between single and multicelluarity.

    In any case, in asexual bacteria, the only real ways to define species are things like a vague level of degree of genetic similarity and dissimilarity, or them evolving a new lifestyle. And that’s just what happened here.

    But if you prefer, we just say that this is a sub-species of E Coli. too. That, however, is precisely how macroevolutionary change works: new species are specialized subsets of their ancestor groups ones. And in this case, the bacteria developed several independent mutations which all together allowed them to do something entirely new for their species. That’s is, indeed, adaptation: adaptation that happens precisely as evolution suggests it does.

  59. Bad says:

    TBT: for the sake of sanity, I’m just going to address the post and points you addressed to me rather than jumping in on other debates.

    The Broken Telegraph Says: I appreciate your two first paragraphs. However, you do live in the real world, and must admit that many evolutionists (Dawkins is always first in mind) use evolution as a springboard to attack religion and the likelihood of God. Fair enough?

    Certainly. But just as many evolutionists use evolution as a means to justify their wonder at what they see as God’s creation, as well as think new thoughts about theological possibility, like Francis Collins and Ken Miller.

    As I said though, I think there is a real possibility here of confusing debates over specific theological beliefs (like a 6000 year old earth) with the philosophical idea of God in general. Evolution most certainly can contradict the former. Nothing (evolution included) in science or any knowledge about anything can contradict the latter, because the latter could mean just about anything, and no matter what we know, it’s always possible to say that behind all of that, there’s this being God that can do or be ultimately behind anything.

    Dawkins et al actually do not deny this. What they point out is that such a belief is unwarranted and is equally likely to be unnecessary, for all we know.

    And they’re right about that, in my opinion. Nothing prevents you from believing in a God, no matter what, and if you already believe, from continuing to believe. You’re not going to run into anything in reality that says “ah, well, oops that clinches it: no God.” It’s just that evolution does indeed undercut the common use of the natural world to try to prove that there is a God. Some theists consider that a crucial weapon in their arsenal that they can’t afford to give up. Others aren’t really bothered by it, because they believe for other reasons entirely.

    Even in this discussion someone said (in summary) that it appears that we don’t need God to get here. So you can see how slippery that slope is once we accept that naturalism can answer every question.

    Would you have the same complaint if someone said that we don’t need God to “get” to, say, an explanation of the internal combustion engine? Because if not, this really seems like special pleading for just those aspects of knowledge you think threaten a particular theology that you have about how a hypothetical God must be and must act.

    But the problem with all “non”-natural explanations is that they could be anything at all. You having expectations about what they are or what they should do, isn’t justifiable. If you want to bring in “non”-natural explanations into the game, then two can play, and suddenly I can explain away literally anything just as easily as you can.

    As for “naturalism” all we really mean is “we need to have some evidence.” If you want to refute naturalism as a basic presumption of science, then you need to explain how you’d do science, or indeed know any truth from any falsehood, without any basic laws or restrictions on anything.

    NOW we’re getting somewhere. Thank you for admitting to plausibility vs. actual evidence. Do you see why I’m a little skeptical?

    Not really, honestly. Plausibility is built on “actual evidence” so I’m not sure I see the distinction you are drawing. It’s like this: just as we don’t know every exact event that happened at the Battle of Gettsyburg, we don’t know absolutely every event in the history of life on Earth. But we do know quite a bit about both of these things: more than enough to get a solid, reliable overview and sense of how things happened.

    The challenges you pose are all directed at areas in which we are lacking a fully definitive record. And then you assert that some particular thing is implausible. It’s like pointing at the Battle of Gettysburg, and asserting that this General couldn’t have been in this place at this time, because he was too far away from that location an hour ago. And thus, perhaps, a supernatural sorcerer must have teleported him across the distance.

    This is a challenge of plausibility. My response would be simply that he had a horse (and we know that he had one at the battle, say). I can’t necessary find any historical record of him having ridden his horse from one location to another, but but pointing the horse out, I’ve overcome your challenge that it’s implausible.

    Evolutionists have the advantage of TIME to hide quite a bit of what’s required to satisfy skeptics such as myself “well we don’t have those (truly) transitional fossils” or “of course we don’t have physical proof of the evolving lung.” I am relieved to see you admit that scientists are filling in the blanks.

    The frustration for us, though, is that we do in fact have so many of the blanks filled in. But as long as there is a single blank, people claim that THAT blank, THAT proves that we don’t know evolution could have happened. This strikes us as quite silly. Especially when we find the piece that fills in this blank, and suddenly now the critics turn around and say that there are two MORE blanks, on either side of that piece of evidence.

    Some Qs to your points (and I’m asking sincerely here): how can the impressions of soft tissue on fossils be enough to account for a lung diagram or full understanding as related to that specie? Isn’t that like taking a tooth and building a whole transitional frame around it?

    We don’t have a perfect lung diagram, and we don’t have a full understanding as related to each and every species. But we don’t need to to observe that these are the same structures evolving through time: there are just so many different elements of them that match up…

    …and actually, that’s my other point. For so many of these things to fit together in precisely the way they do by chance, and not because they are ancestrally related via evolution, we’re talking about a coincidence that’s many greater orders of magnitude than the phony ones creationists often throw around.

    2- is it not circular reasoning for man to assign kinds of animals to groups and sub-groups based on similarity and then compare differences to establish development patterns?

    It’s both similarities and dissimilarities that are used in both cases though, and again, you don’t even have to know of or think about evolution to see the patterns emerging when you do this. Not only is it not circular, but it works even without having any goal in mind. All the early taxonomists (who were old-school creationists), prior to any hint of evolution, for instance, developed these methods and ideas about how to group that we can still use today, and get evolution out of. That’s because the groupings are in some sense unavoidable once you look at the sum total of all the traits in all the creatures you can.

    If you simply lay these things out in the order of their existence, you see basically a flip book of progressive development almost anywhere you look. Certainly not every page is there, but far more than enough such that we can pretty much guess what the missing pages would look like… and then oftentimes we go and find a transitional fossil that has all those expected features. This is precisely what happened with Tiktaalik and the evolution of whales, for instance.

    Is the geologic column still being used to date rocks and fossils or have we moved beyond that fantasyland.

    That was never an accurate account of things to begin with. We did and do still use the geologic column as a quick and cheap way to date things, but the reason we do that is because this method has proven so reliable when compared against all the other absolute measures at our disposal. And we did and do still use those other methods of dating to cross-confirm things as well.

    There are actually tons and tons of ways to calculate the age of the earth and measure earth history back in time. And they all match up: in surprising detail. The fact that people in field, who don’t necessarily have a lab with them at the moment, use the column out there to quickly gauge age is a result of evidence confirming the general reliability of this, not a circular assumption, as creationists have portrayed it. And just because we have and still do use that method doesn’t mean that the overall evidence is circular, because we do use all sorts of other methods to check that work.

    What is the current standard for establishing dates? (Just tell me- I don’t want to launch into a whole new debate about the validity of carbon and radiometric dating).

    We still use radiometric dating, with isochron analysis being the gold standard. And these methods are themselves checked against all sorts of other factors. Carbon dating, for instance, is checked against ice core samples and petrified tree rings that, by matching up, can take us pretty far back in time. And in fact, pretty much every feature of the natural world has to line up with the general timeline for it to make sense. The magnetic reversal “barcode’ has to match up everywhere, the rate at which the continents move has to roughly track against the kind of rock that forms in trenches as well as the dates at which various species would have been able to cross freely from one continent to another (and hence the patterns of evolutionary change should be connected, and they are), and on and on and on and on.

    3- As environments CERTAINLY lead to adaptation (micro-evolution) is that a reputable avenue for looking at what would essentially amount to transitional changes from one kind to another? Now we get stuck in this whole “what defines micro/macro” thing but I’m still curious.

    You’ve probably heard this before, but adaptation, if it involves genetic changes, is all that macroevolution is. Macroevolution is just change above the species level, but the species level is merely defined by however much genetic drift it takes to make two populations reproductively compatible. Speciation is basically inevitable once you accept that allele frequencies change over time.

    So in general, I don’t think that’s really what skeptics of evolution are really talking about when they talk about transitional changes.

    I think the real confusion in this case comes from the common misunderstandings of taxonomy. No “kind” B which scientists claim is descended from another “kind” A is actually a different “kind” on the same level as kind A. Kind B’s are subgroups of A, not different things from A in the way that A is different from all other “kinds” living at the same time as it.

    The word “transition” is misleading, because it gives people the sense of one thing turning into another. But in fact, evolution is far better thought of the diversification of a particular kind into successive variations, on and on. Never leaving what it was to become something else. That seems strange in part because people often think of creatures just in terms of modern animals. So, for instance, they think of the claimed ancestors of land animals, the lobed-fishes, as “fish” in the same sense that they think of fish today. Thus they think of a fish turning into a human, and that seems silly.

    But human beings, and all land life, are variations on that original form: and distinctly identifiable as such against all other life on the planet.

    I really do recommend “Your Inner Fish” as a good read on this topic, because it explains things in far more detail than I can.

    I follow your explanation which was interesting to read. As for these outpouches- how would they hold even a smaller amount of air if they are largely open to the inner track you described. Am I visualizing this incorrectly? You made it sound almost like an observation point along a highway- a little U-shaped shoulder which leaves at least some of it exposed and open (unlike your bubble which holds air because it is entirely closed and therefore able to do so). I realize lungs (though they vary) are never entirely sealed, but this earlier form sounds quite open. Maybe you should clarify.

    The air is gulped from the surface though the mouth, swallowed, and then comes to sit in the pouch because of buoyancy. It can be expelled in much the same way. In a sense, modern lungs are really still just a variation on this. It’s swim bladders that go the full step of closing off.

    The embryo thing doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me as a valid comparison. Evolving species were not in a state of constant and rapid development as embryos are. Embryos- we’re describing GROWTH not evolution. These primitive ancestors would be functioning, reproducing and surviving for thousands of years on this clunky and very limited framework. How does that compare?

    The embryo comparison is meant to demonstrate the basic unity of how these different shapes and organs are formed. For something like an organ to be constructed by cell layers simply moving around and expanding and contracting and folding and so forth, it has to go through certain steps, embryonically. When we look at these steps, we find that certain features go through much of the same process, only with slight variations (that can lead to big ultimate changes). That’s how we can tell that certain structures are related in evolutionary terms: because despite seeming like different endpoints, they actually are based on the same underlying construction process. This basically just serves to reinforce the apparent homology of structures: not only can we identify them as variations of the same thing, but we can even see where and how they diverge during their development.

    Again “Inner Fish” does a better job on explaining this than I can. It gives a lot of great examples of how certain features in our own body are the way they are because they are modifying certain basic tetrapod developmental features (for instance, the way our organs form and move in position).

    As for the dried up lake bed scenario- that seems speculative and quite so. Why do we still have creatures that thrive in such areas today if selection moved earlier ancestors away from the swamp and into more ideal locations?

    None of these locations are necessarily more or less ideal in any objective sense. They each have their own opportunities and downsides. And just because there are rewards for being a pioneer to a new niche doesn’t mean that the old niche is now useless, and that there aren’t still rewards there either.

    As for it being speculation, again, I think there is a lot more to look at when trying to discern lifestyle and habitat from fossil and genetic evidence than we’re getting into.

  60. Hey Bad- i’m a few weeks late on getting you a reply and while you’re probably not holding your breath waiting, i wanted to respond so that you didn’t feel as though you wasted your time with the last comment. I’ve been sick and sicker so blogsville has been pushed to my back burner recently.

    Anyway- I think now is a good time to close up this conversation (we were probably there already). We are at an impasse somewhat. While I have been given “food for thought” by your articulation, there continues to be fundemental problems with much of what you assert. You will likely see that as ignorance on my part, and then urge me to dig deeper, learn more, read your list of books. I do plan to look into some of your recommendations BTW as I don’t fear the level of evolution that you assert; I just don’t subscribe to it to your extent.

    We seem horn-locked in a couple of ways- I see you answering speculation with more speculation, and you see my interpretation of that as being due only to the fact that I haven’t seen the evidence in totality that you have. Meaning- for you the parts are puzzle pieces that fit to form one picture, and I continue to argue that the parts are insufficient to achieve that picture. So we are repeating ourselves to an extent.

    Also, I understand your presentation of naturalism but that does little for your argument as I am convinced that we cannot observe/test or evidence our way to many of life’s questions. I demonstrated this earlier and you had been gracious to admit that much about life is vague and unknown (though inconsistently you push for naturalism as a means to explain everything).

    So- I enjoyed the debate. Thanks again, and I’ll be around your blog to throw my two cents in here and there.

  61. Bad says:

    I don’t inconsistently push for natural as a means to explain everything. I demand evidence as a method to establish the truth of something. If you have a “supernatural” alternative way of providing evidence that actually works (i.e. is demonstrably more than just bold, arbitrary assertions ), I’d like to see it.

    I think you are always capable of asserting skepticism and saying that what I’m talking about is mere speculation. But at some point, that starts to become more and more absurd. You can still assert it, of course, but only by retreating into ever more elaborate and unlikely scenarios yourself, and yours without evidence. The odds of genetic and morphological clades matching up to the degree that they do merely by chance is astronomical. After awhile, the number of things you would have to claim are merely coincidences becomes too much to bear.

    In science, we don’t merely speculate: we go out and try to find evidence that nails this or that down. And we’ve done that over and over and over again, and continue to do it. Dismissing that as if it were merely sitting in an armchair making stuff up is far from fair, I think.

  62. “The odds of genetic and morphological clades matching up to the degree that they do merely by chance is astronomical.” What an ironic admission coming from you. Evolution requires that chance and only chance achieve the intelligence, diversity and symbiosis that we see throughout the world and nature today! Natural selection and beneficial mutations are undirected forces or else you’re letting an Intelligence in the door.

    If you demand evidence then I suppose you’re agnostic in regards to origin, the existence of scientific laws and energy? Observing the latter two does not explain how, or where they came from. Be consistent.

  63. Ed Darrell says:

    Evolution requires that chance and only chance achieve the intelligence, diversity and symbiosis that we see throughout the world and nature today!

    Do you believe that? Seriously?

    Well, of course. You believer that indeed. Your opposition to evolution is completely based on belief, on faith, contrary to the evidence.

    There is precious little chance in evolution. It’s called “evolution by natural and sexual selection,” in more precise terms. “Selection” is the opposite of “chance.”

    We’ll never reason someone out of a position they didn’t get into by reason. ::sigh::

  64. Bad says:

    Of course I’m agnostic in regards to those things. No one has any idea how they came to be or even if “came to be” is a concept that makes sense for them. They are almost certainly beyond the scope of evidence or empiricial knowledge in any case.

    Of course, keep in mind that when we talk about “the” origin, we’re really talking philosophical ontology. We don’t actually know, however, that the specific things and limits we know of now are “the” origin. There could be ways to know the origin of the particular laws of our universe, or the origin of energy, because there could be higher order laws that preceed them that allow us to have evidence of where those things came from and how.

    That’s not to say that this means its a way around my general ontological agnosticism. It’s just that agnosticism by its nature cannot definitively say that “we cannot know X” when X is a specific thing like the start of the Big Bang (rather than just an ontological term like “origin”) Because saying that we can’t know anything about X requires knowing something about X, which is a self-contradiction. All we can say is that we don’t know anything about X, and leave it at that.

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