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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Macroevolutionists and Myth

Back in the saddle again! (Cue Aerosmith or Gene Autrey, depending on your musical tastes).

Before I was struck down by some rather nasty little microbes of a viral nature, I had begun to address, point-by-point, some areas of contention between creationists and macroevolutionists. Looks like I shall resume the discussion tomorrow. But for today, a couple of things:

What is a macroevolutionist?

I thought I had answered this, but here goes again. I had used the term Darwinist for those who believe in macroevolution but I was asked not to do so by some of those so termed and their reasoning was sensible, so I quit doing it. However, some have now questioned this term as well.

Creationist

A creationist believes that God created the world and all things in it, in fact, the entire universe. Whether he believes this primarily on scientific observation, religious belief, or a mixture of both (and it is usually the third case) he does believe in a world that has been designed by God. Most creationists do not believe in macroevolution yet there are those who do. Some believe that God created and then allowed for the operation of macroevolution to more or less finish the job.

Intelligent Design

Many have said that the Intelligent Design movement was started by creationists as a kind of a "stealth" way to get teachers to begin teaching both possibilities of the origin and disposition of life without involving religion. It appears that there is some truth in that statement. It is also true, however, that many scientists have become skeptical of the idea that life evolved from non-life and that complex life evolved from simpler forms of life. Many scientists have seen design inherent not just in organisms, but in the systems operative throughout the Universe. For many of these scientists, who are not willing to believe in a Creator God, the Intelligent Design hypothesis makes sense. It is a way of simply ignoring the Creator and concentrating on the evidence that things were created and then going forward from there.

Make no mistake about it, I am a creationist and not simply an ID guy.

Microevolution

I cannot call people who believe that "that life evolved from non-life and that complex life evolved from simpler forms of life" evolutionists because all scientists agree that microevolution takes place. We see it in operation. It is the ability of the gene pool to adapt to changing conditions or be manipulated by mankind that allows for animal husbandry, for instance.

Microevolution is the process by which natural selection culls out the traits less viable in an environment within the gene pool. It is very logical, actually, and Natural Selection itself is not a force. It is our description of the way life works. Within every single living organism is the very complex genetic code which determines what trait offspring will display. All organisms have various choices, for instance longer or shorter bills on birds or thicker or thinner fur coats on wolves. In the case of a wolf, those living in the far north are more likely to live if they have thicker fur. Therefore the wolves with thicker fur survive to mate more often and have more offspring. The offspring of those with thicker fur are also more likely to have thicker fur and so it goes.

All scientists agree that this is a standard operation seen in organisms of all kinds.

Macroevolution

Macroevolution takes this process a step farther. For macroevolution to work, the choices available in the gene pool are not enough. Every choice in every gene pool among wolves will produce a kind of wolf. You can have big ones, white ones, ones with thick fur, thinner fur, black ones...but all are wolves. So, in order for an organism to evolve into a different organismthere must be mutations. Not just any mutations, mind you. The mutations must be beneficial to the organism so that natural selection will operate to select that mutation over other traits and allow it to become part of the gene pool. Oh, and the mutation must of course be a change in the DNA that can be passed on or there is no way for it to move forward. Of course, since organisms are highly complex it could take hundreds of successful mutations before a change was outwardly observed in the organism.

One problem inherent in this point of view is that most mutations are not beneficial, they more often than not cause the death of the individual or at least make it less likely to survive, and on top of all that most mutations are not carried down by the DNA or not encoded in the area of DNA where it is going to be passed on to another generation.

I certainly would have difficulty referring to people who believe this process takes place or has taken place as "evolutionists" with accuracy, because pretty much everyone understands that microevolution takes place all the time. In order to be clear, I refer to those who believe in this process as macroevolutionists. Now you know why.

MYTH

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from
Flatland.


Flatland is an interesting read, certainly, but mainly I posted it to help macroevolutionists understand the "opposition" so to speak. I also posted it so they could see my point of view a bit better. Alas, some just don't get it or don't want to get it. I am still told that I am adapting a form of mythology in place of science when I adhere to creationism as an answer to the origin of all things.

Yes, plenty of creationists don't know a mole from a molecule and probably don't care. This is also true of macroevolutionists. It appears that the public at large knows very little about the science or the evidence behind the discussion. While I am certainly not the source of all wisdom, my beliefs in creationism are based on evidence and not blind hopes or fairy tales. Going back to the Flatland analogy, I would say that the Sphere and Spaceland are analogous to God and the spiritual dimension and that He has communicated to us through the Bible, Jesus Christ, and the words of prophets inspired by Him down through the ages. We cannot be in a four-dimensional frame of reference and really "see" or "hear" God (unless He interjects Himself or a representative into our world) since He lives outside of our state of being. Yet if one takes the Bible as evidence rather than a fairy tale and then compares it to what we find in the fossil record, the geological table, the operations of physical laws, the makeup of organisms and the historical record of mankind you see that the Bible makes a great deal of sense and is far too accurate in wide-ranging ways to have been the production of simple shepherds and priests who had generally never ventured more than a few hundred miles from the place of their birth.

I was kind enough to quit referring to people as Darwinists. I would ask all of you to quit referring to the Bible as being mythological. Oh, you won't hurt my feelings but you are simply setting up a strawman to attack and it is just annoying. It also is a way of giving up, since it is an easy way to ignore the facts involved. You denigrate the most read and published book in human history when you denigrate the Bible. Consigning the Bible and a Creator God to the world of myth allows you to ignore the very good arguments one can make for a Creator and a created Universe without having to stoop to factual evidence or good reasoning. But for those of us who know better, it is rather a lame way to go.

Tomorrow - Creationism Point Two

Second, the large amount of historical records and the evidences of carvings and figurines and drawings is evidence that dragons and sea-monsters and firebirds were actual living beings - dinosaurs.

27 comments:

Juggling Mother said...

ummm, just a quick query.

"It is also true, however, that many scientists have become skeptical of the idea that life evolved from non-life and that complex life evolved from simpler forms of life."

Can you let me know which reputable scientists who previously "believed in" macroevolution have bcome sceptical of this idea and now don't believe it?

I know you've given a list of ID scientisis, but none of those (to my knowledge) were previously macroevolutionists.

It's a misrepresentation to say the scientific world is moving away from macroevolution.

creeper said...

"It is also true, however, that many scientists have become skeptical of the idea that life evolved from non-life and that complex life evolved from simpler forms of life."

No, this is not true. As I said in a comment on a previous post, the debate over the mechanisms by which macroevolution occurs is not the same as the debate over whether macroevolution occurs in the first place. This is why the question "what is a macroevolutionist" is significant. Complex life evolving from simpler forms of life is what is known as common descent, which is virtually unquestioned among scientists. That is where YECs occupy a small and indefensible niche.

Macroevolution is large-scale evolution occurring over geologic time that results in the formation of new taxonomic groups. It is not large-scale evolution occurring over geologic time that results in the formation of new taxonomic groups by any specific mechanism - so when you say macroevolutionist, you include most IDers, as well as theistic evolutionists. The only ones you expressly exclude are YECs, because they don't believe in common descent by any mechanism whatsoever.

"So, in order for an organism to evolve into a different organism there must be mutations. Not just any mutations, mind you. The mutations must be beneficial to the organism so that natural selection will operate to select that mutation over other traits and allow it to become part of the gene pool."

No, the mutations don't need to be beneficial so that natural selection will operate - natural selection applies to all variations, beneficial and otherwise. The beneficial ones by definition will survive and reproduce at a better rate, while harmful ones will die off pretty much immediately.

"Of course, since organisms are highly complex it could take hundreds of successful mutations before a change was outwardly observed in the organism."

Even a single mutation can lead to an observable change - see the nylon-eating bacteria, for example.

"I refer to those who believe in this process as macroevolutionists. Now you know why."

Thank you for clarifying where you are confused here. What you actually mean is something like "macroevolution via natural selection"-ist, or something similar. It still doesn't explain why you use the term so sloppily as to use it in the context of geology, abiogenesis etc.

How about, say, "modern synthesist", used accurately in the appropriate context?

"Yet if one takes the Bible as evidence rather than a fairy tale and then compares it to what we find in the fossil record, the geological table, the operations of physical laws, the makeup of organisms and the historical record of mankind you see that the Bible makes a great deal of sense"

I still don't see how the notion of a young Earth is supposed to be compatible with fossils appearing predictably in certain strata. An old Earth and common descent predict this accurately and with great consistency, while it shouldn't even be possible according to YEC/global flood notions.

"I was kind enough to quit referring to people as Darwinists. I would ask all of you to quit referring to the Bible as being mythological."

I'm not sure if anyone here referred to the Bible as being categorically mythological, but I don't think your regular sparring partners here would agree with that assessment. The Bible does contain mythological elements, as well as historical ones, philosophical ones etc.

"Oh, you won't hurt my feelings"

Good, because both this and the discussion about the 'Darwinist' and 'macroevolutionist' monikers are simply about accurate description, not about ruffling anyone's feathers.

"but you are simply setting up a strawman to attack and it is just annoying."

What is the strawman?

"It also is a way of giving up, since it is an easy way to ignore the facts involved. You denigrate the most read and published book in human history when you denigrate the Bible."

Observing that the Bible contains mythological aspects is hardly denigrating it, nor is it "giving up". It is simply another way - and an entirely supportable way - to view the text.

"Consigning the Bible and a Creator God to the world of myth allows you to ignore the very good arguments one can make for a Creator and a created Universe without having to stoop to factual evidence or good reasoning."

Factual evidence and good reasoning already show us that a young Earth makes little sense and contradicts observable evidence.

"But for those of us who know better, it is rather a lame way to go."

"Those of us who know better" - the humility of revealed knowledge at work.

All of this seems to be based on you either misunderstanding or having a low opinion of myth and mythology in the first place.

A Hermit said...

Creationist

"A creationist believes that God created the world and all things in it, in fact, the entire universe. Whether he believes this primarily on scientific observation, religious belief, or a mixture of both."

What "scientific observations" would form the basis for a belief in God(s)?

Earlier you were telling me that the message of the Bible is only evident to those who come to it with an a priori belief in God; but that's not how scientific observation works, so I'm curious to know which observations (preferably peer reviewed and independantly replicated) you are talking about here.


Intelligent Design

A political movement, not a scientific theory; nice to see you acknowledging that fact.

As for the "many scientist..." bit see Mrs. Aginoth's comment above.

Microevolution

Lots of errors here;

Natural selection "culls out the traits less viable in an environment"...? Sort of backwards I think; natural selection is more correctly stated to be the process by which traits which are favourable to survival and reproduction across a population become dominant. It's just what happens when one thing works better than some other thing, and has nothing to do with "weeding out" anything. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I thinkits important to get the details right.

Organisms do not have "choices" about which traits to adopt; evolution is not a directed process. Variations in DNA expression produce varying physical traits among members of a population; those which are most advantageous have a better chance of surviving and passing those traits on to the next generation.


Macroevolution

This is just the logical consequence of millions of years of accumulated microevolutioanry events. Given 60 million years of microevolution and environmental pressures we can see a progression from Cimolestes to Miacidae to Caniformia and more assoretd canid radiations, the subgroup canis, and the modern wolf.

see Chronology of Wolf Evolution

Billions of little generations accross billions of reproductions, ove millions of years can add up to quite substantial changes. We're not talking about a fish suddenly growing fur and fangs here.

"One problem inherent in this point of view is that most mutations are not beneficial, they more often than not cause the death of the individual or at least make it less likely to survive..."


I don't know where you got this nonsense; most genetic variations are simply neutral.

Don't get distracted by arguments about "mutation". What we should be interested in when we talk about evolution is genetic variation; you need to learn about genotypes, phenotypes, chromosomal crossover, genetic drift etc.

Lots of people do this sort of work. I won't pretend to have any more than a passing familiarity with the general concepts, but I do understnad that not all genetic change is due to mutation, nor are most mutations harmful, and that genetic variation occurs every time an orgamism reproduces. Think abou thow often that happens across all species through the hundreds of millions of years that life has been evolving on this planet (3.5 billion years if we go back to the first single cell organisms).

Of course, this is why some creationists still try to deny the age of the Earth; when you start thinking about it this way macroevolution actually looks more inevitable than unlikely.

MYTH

Don't know why you should object to this; myths often contain a lot of truth, and there's not question that much of the Bible's content is mythological or allegorical in nature, but OK. We can refer to your Bible stories as "unsubstantiated anecdotal evidence" or something if you like...>;-}

Once again we're getting into this common Creationist fallacy of "special pleading". You want the rest of us to accept your subjective spiritual insights as evidence on a par with objective, replicable observations.

The problem with your "Flatland" analogy is that it doesn't really support your argument any more than it suports an argument for the North American Aboriginal tales of "Turtle Island". The possibility that we cannot perceive certain aspects of the universe just means there are some things we do not (and possibly cannot ever) know. This doesn't mean that the possibilities you imagine might fill in the gaps are any more valid than any other possibilities imagined by any other person. At this point we're not taling about evidence anymore, we're back to faith and feelings and subjective speculations. All very interesting, but not evidence of anything. When it comes to reaching an objective scientific conclusion about biological processes it's not useful at all.

"the large amount of historical records and the evidences of carvings and figurines and drawings is evidence that dragons and sea-monsters and firebirds were actual living beings"

This is true in the same way that the Transformers cartoons prove that our planet is being invaded by sentient shape-shifting robots...

Sincerely

A Saturday-Morning-TV-Addicted Hermit

Debbie said...

Radar,

I agree that in order to have a rational discussion you must first define your terminology. If the term micro-evolution is what everybody agrees can be seen in nature, that is adaptation to an environment through natural selection, why use the term evolution at all? The creature didn’t evolve into something it wasn’t to start with; it either adapts or becomes extinct.

You can’t call anti-creationists naturalists or anti-super naturalists. There is nothing natural about life coming from non-life. There is nothing natural about saying; “anything can happen if given enough time.” So you can’t use natural probability arguments.

All you have left to debate is what kind of super-naturalist is more reasonable, the creationist or the anti-creationist. The creationist has an extra source of information that the anti-creationist does not want to consider. The anti-creationist has the unobservable belief that there are infinite possibilities and infinite time and infinite probabilities. Whatever is, is, because it is. To a creationist that is illogical.

Whatever is, is, because of infinite possibilities, infinite probabilities and infinite time is not logical to the creationist because the creationist sees purpose and design in nature and understands the reason for imperfection because the source of the creationist’s information is the infinite God.

Juggling Mother said...

Debbie - infi nity has never entered into the discussion to my knowledge.

"Anti-creationists" give quite specific time periods backed up with observable scientific evidence. It is creationists tht say "it happened because I belive it happened".

creeper said...

What Mrs. A just said.

Debbie, if you could spare the time, please read up on what the theory of evolution is actually about. Then tell us what it has to do with infinity.

"If the term micro-evolution is what everybody agrees can be seen in nature, that is adaptation to an environment through natural selection, why use the term evolution at all?"

What exactly is the boundary for these small changes? How many small changes can you have in a row before an unspecified barrier applies? What is this barrier?

"There is nothing natural about life coming from non-life."

Who knows? Scientists explore this question; creationists label it a miracle. Which one serves to expand our scientific knowledge?

IAMB said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
A Hermit said...

I tell you, 'They're coming to get us! The evidence is overwhelming!

A-Nime Hermit

IAMB said...

[edited to remove a bad case of jumping to conclusions]

Oh, no... we can see "macro" evolution in nature as well. Especially where plants are concerned (I'll give you a short lesson if you'd like).

And don't say that what applies to plants doesn't apply to animals as well. Animals and plants have more in common than either do with the other life domains.

Radar, as others have said, you should consider the source when someone refers to the Bible as "myth" before you decide whether that should be insulting or not. There's a few definitions out there. Myself... I prefer the anthropological definition above others.

You denigrate the most read and published book in human history when you denigrate the Bible.

Totally irrelevant. The fact that it is these things does not make it any more correct than if it were only published or copied once. It just makes it more popular.

creeper said...

Now that you're back in fightin' form, Radar - any word on the next installment of the 'Darwin is Dead' carnival?

radar said...

"I know you've given a list of ID scientisis, but none of those (to my knowledge) were previously macroevolutionists.

It's a misrepresentation to say the scientific world is moving away from macroevolution."


I have actually published several lists. I think that the growth of creationist and ID sites on the internet and the growing controversy in schools reflects a growing disenchantment with macroevolution among scientists.

"Macroevolution is large-scale evolution occurring over geologic time that results in the formation of new taxonomic groups. It is not large-scale evolution occurring over geologic time that results in the formation of new taxonomic groups by any specific mechanism - so when you say macroevolutionist, you include most IDers, as well as theistic evolutionists. The only ones you expressly exclude are YECs, because they don't believe in common descent by any mechanism whatsoever."

If you cannot pick out a specific mechanism, it is like saying "I believe it, I just can't say for sure what it is!"

Yes, many ID'ers and some creationists, as I said, believe other than myself in at least some ways.

"I still don't see how the notion of a young Earth is supposed to be compatible with fossils appearing predictably in certain strata. An old Earth and common descent predict this accurately and with great consistency, while it shouldn't even be possible according to YEC/global flood notions."

Hey, macros studied the rocks and fossils and then came up with a hypothesis that matched what they observed. Since then, since Uniformitarianism in its pure form has been refuted, I would say that YEC notions match up better with the rock records, actually.

"Natural selection "culls out the traits less viable in an environment"...? Sort of backwards I think; natural selection is more correctly stated to be the process by which traits which are favourable to survival and reproduction across a population become dominant. It's just what happens when one thing works better than some other thing, and has nothing to do with "weeding out" anything. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I thinkits important to get the details right.

Organisms do not have "choices" about which traits to adopt; evolution is not a directed process. Variations in DNA expression produce varying physical traits among members of a population; those which are most advantageous have a better chance of surviving and passing those traits on to the next generation."


Semantics? Tomayto-tomahto? I think my description is a better fit personally. Natural selection has still only been observed to work within organisms rather than forming new kinds of organisms.

"Earlier you were telling me that the message of the Bible is only evident to those who come to it with an a priori belief in God; but that's not how scientific observation works, so I'm curious to know which observations (preferably peer reviewed and independantly replicated) you are talking about here."

I like Debbie's comment later on, but how about this? Both sides understand that life does not come from non-life. We both have to posit a supernatural act of some kind for life to have begun. YEC creationists, with the evidence of the Biblical account and the principle of abiogenisis, say that God created life. Those who deny God, in the end, just kinda say "well, we are here, aren't we?" and move on.

"Once again we're getting into this common Creationist fallacy of "special pleading". You want the rest of us to accept your subjective spiritual insights as evidence on a par with objective, replicable observations."

Nope, no special pleading allowed. The Bible is a document, one of the oldest known to man of any size and certainly the most comprehensive in terms of historical and genealogical data. I present this as evidence. Calling it mythology is a personal belief but does nothing to take away the evidence itself.

Derision is not evidence

Denial is not evidence

Denigration is not evidence


Calling the Bible a book of mythology is a cheap way to avoid perusing the information held therein and comparing it to what we see in the world today. I categorically deny accepting that any one part of the Bible is myth.

"You can’t call anti-creationists naturalists or anti-super naturalists. There is nothing natural about life coming from non-life. There is nothing natural about saying; “anything can happen if given enough time.” So you can’t use natural probability arguments.

All you have left to debate is what kind of super-naturalist is more reasonable, the creationist or the anti-creationist. The creationist has an extra source of information that the anti-creationist does not want to consider. The anti-creationist has the unobservable belief that there are infinite possibilities and infinite time and infinite probabilities. Whatever is, is, because it is. To a creationist that is illogical."


Roger that! I will get into this some more in the Friday evening posting in which we go to the next point in the discussion.

"Now that you're back in fightin' form, Radar - any word on the next installment of the 'Darwin is Dead' carnival?"

Well, Creeper old buddy, only one person has submitted anything so the Darwin is Dead Carnival is dead! No, really, it is on life support. But perhaps Matt and I can come up with something to post as part of the next carnival that will be of interest....stay tuned!

Yes, and as IAMB points out, a popular view is not necessarily true. That cuts both ways, of course!

Anonymous said...

"Calling the Bible a book of mythology is a cheap way to avoid perusing the information held therein and comparing it to what we see in the world today."

Been there, done that.

Calling the Bible (partly) mythology isn't a cheap anything, as long as you understand how we're using mythology (not old stupid stories, but, for example, among the deepest expressions of the culture, heart, beliefs of a people). Calling the Bible mythology actually preserves some sense of its value. Otherwise you're stuck on the great truth - silly lie axis, while we're off on the literal truth - mythological truth one.

"There is nothing natural about life coming from non-life. " (Debbie)

"Both sides understand that life does not come from non-life. We both have to posit a supernatural act of some kind for life to have begun. " (Radar)

I don't see this at all. We don't really understand abiogenesis yet, although there's lots of work being done. It's even possible, though depressing, that we never will. But none of the researchers imagine it to have happened outside of natural laws!

'Not happening at the current time' doesn't necessarily mean supernatural. Fire, language,, agriculture, complex civilization - none of these emerge de novo today. That doesn't mean their original appearances were supernatural!

The definitional thing is very useful.

The distinction you draw between micro and macro evolution - the production of new variation - is not the one used by science in the early part of the 21st century. Mutations, etc. play a role in microev just as they do in macro. For example:
"Microevolution happens on a small scale (within a single population), while macroevolution happens on a scale that transcends the boundaries of a single species. Despite their differences, evolution at both of these levels relies on the same, established mechanisms of evolutionary change:
*mutation
*migration
*genetic drift
*natural selection"

- Evolution at different scales: micro to macro

And feel free, anyone, to visit Evolution 101

" because pretty much everyone understands that microevolution takes place all the time."

But by the definition used by mainstream science, that's not actually the case. What you're calling microev is actually natural selection without any way of generating new variation. (slightly simplified, but hey . . .)

I thought some YEC's accepted a role for mutations, etc., although only within the (arbitrary) borders of kind. Was I wrong or is this a inter-YEC difference of opinion?


"How about, say, "modern synthesist""

Aren't those folks who play keyboards?

"This is true in the same way that the Transformerscartoons prove that our planet is being invaded bysentient shape-shifting robots..."

Yo, they're more than meets the eye!
So it must be true!

That wolf evolution link is awesome
(I want a bear-dog . . .)

and Iamb - yes, yes, short lesson!

-Dan S., to infinity . . . and beyond!

Anonymous said...

"Calling the Bible a book of mythology is a cheap way to avoid perusing the information held therein and comparing it to what we see in the world today."

Been there, done that.

Calling the Bible (partly) mythology isn't a cheap anything, as long as you understand how we're using mythology (not old stupid stories, but, for example, among the deepest expressions of the culture, heart, beliefs of a people). Calling the Bible mythology actually preserves some sense of its value. Otherwise you're stuck on the great truth - silly lie axis, while we're off on the literal truth - mythological truth one.

"There is nothing natural about life coming from non-life. " (Debbie)

"Both sides understand that life does not come from non-life. We both have to posit a supernatural act of some kind for life to have begun. " (Radar)

I don't see this at all. We don't really understand abiogenesis yet, although there's lots of work being done. It's even possible, though depressing, that we never will. But none of the researchers imagine it to have happened outside of natural laws!

'Not happening at the current time' doesn't necessarily mean supernatural. Fire, language,, agriculture, complex civilization - none of these emerge de novo today. That doesn't mean their original appearances were supernatural!

The definitional thing is very useful.

The distinction you draw between micro and macro evolution - the production of new variation - is not the one used by science in the early part of the 21st century. Mutations, etc. play a role in microev just as they do in macro. For example:
"Microevolution happens on a small scale (within a single population), while macroevolution happens on a scale that transcends the boundaries of a single species. Despite their differences, evolution at both of these levels relies on the same, established mechanisms of evolutionary change:
*mutation
*migration
*genetic drift
*natural selection"

- Evolution at different scales: micro to macro

And feel free, anyone, to visit Evolution 101

" because pretty much everyone understands that microevolution takes place all the time."

But by the definition used by mainstream science, that's not actually the case. What you're calling microev is actually natural selection without any way of generating new variation. (slightly simplified, but hey . . .)

I thought some YEC's accepted a role for mutations, etc., although only within the (arbitrary) borders of kind. Was I wrong or is this a inter-YEC difference of opinion?


"How about, say, "modern synthesist""

Aren't those folks who play keyboards?

"This is true in the same way that the Transformerscartoons prove that our planet is being invaded bysentient shape-shifting robots..."

Yo, they're more than meets the eye!
So it must be true!

That wolf evolution link is awesome
(I want a bear-dog . . .)

and Iamb - yes, yes, short lesson!

-Dan S., to infinity . . . and beyond!

Anonymous said...

sorry. browser said it couldn't get through, so silly me, I hit post again. Mea culpa.

-Dan S.

creeper said...

"I have actually published several lists. I think that the growth of creationist and ID sites on the internet and the growing controversy in schools reflects a growing disenchantment with macroevolution among scientists."

That's just avoiding Mrs. A's question:

Can you let us know which reputable scientists who previously "believed in" macroevolution have become sceptical of this idea and now don't believe it?

"If you cannot pick out a specific mechanism, it is like saying "I believe it, I just can't say for sure what it is!""

No, the "what" is agreed on: common descent and macroevolution are just about universally agreed to be phenomena that have occurred. YECs have not come up with an alternative that can explain or is even compatible with observable evidence.

There are several factors that can explain the "how", as Dan also pointed out, and there is some (very minimal) debate as to whether an intelligent influence is necessary.

"Hey, macros studied the rocks and fossils and then came up with a hypothesis that matched what they observed."

And this hypothesis led to predictions that were consistently confirmed over and over again by new finds. See the difference?

"Since then, since Uniformitarianism in its pure form has been refuted,"

We've touched on this before, and this was my response:

"Uniformitarianism is one of the most basic principles of modern geology, the observation that fundamentally the same geological processes that operate today also operated in the distant past. It exists in contrast with catastrophism, which states that Earth surface features originated suddenly in the past, by radically different geological processes than those currently occurring. Note, however, that many "catastrophic" events are perfectly compatible with uniformitarianism. "

"Today most geologists combine catastrophist and gradualist standpoints, taking the view that Earth's history is a slow, gradual story punctuated by occasional natural catastrophic events that have affected Earth and its inhabitants."


"Natural selection has still only been observed to work within organisms rather than forming new kinds of organisms."

Which is entirely unremarkable, since the forming of new kinds of organisms occurs over such enormous timespans that we would never expect to see it occur by whatever mechanism within the span of our brief lives.

"Both sides understand that life does not come from non-life. We both have to posit a supernatural act of some kind for life to have begun."

Um, no. Scientists involved in the field of abiogenesis certainly think there is a possibility that life can arise from non-life, via biological monomers to biological polymers to living cells.

Again, scientists continue to explore, creationists opt for a supernatural miracle instead. Which will advance the state of our scientific knowledge?

"Those who deny God, in the end, just kinda say "well, we are here, aren't we?" and move on."

Don't forget that some of them actually move on to explore this scientifically.

"The Bible is a document, one of the oldest known to man of any size and certainly the most comprehensive in terms of historical and genealogical data. I present this as evidence. Calling it mythology is a personal belief but does nothing to take away the evidence itself."

Dan has already covered some of this quite well. Keep in mind that the Bible is an anthology of sorts, covering different topics and written by a range of authors at different points in history. Some of it does contain historical and genealogical data, and some of that may even be reliable, but that doesn't mean that all of it is historically accurate, certainly not the parts that so clearly resemble other mythological texts, creation myths etc.

Also, FWIW, the definition we have in mind when referring to parts of the Bible as myth is this, the first one in the dictionary: "A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society".

"I categorically deny accepting that any one part of the Bible is myth."

I don't think anyone said that you do accept any part of the Bible is myth.



P.S. Dan, as the author of your comments you have the option of deleting them - there's a little trashcan icon at the bottom of your posts. No wait - you post anonymously, so that doesn't work for you. Why not get a blogger account? It's easy and you can still be anonymous.

Juggling Mother said...

"I have actually published several lists. I think that the growth of creationist and ID sites on the internet and the growing controversy in schools reflects a growing disenchantment with macroevolution among scientists."

No it doesn't. It just shows that a political movement is becomming more vocal amongst the public.

Show me a scientist who previously "believed2 in macroevolution and now believes in creationism. I'm sure there is one somewhere, but, can you show me "many" scientists who have done this?

Debbie said...

Infinite Possibilities, Infinite Probabilities, Infinite Time
Your own words


creeper said... "A commenter suggested that he could throw five decks of cards into the air and the combination that would fall to the floor, the order of those cards, would illustrate to me the reason I am wrong about statistics. The odds would be wildly against that particular order of cards to have occurred and would be completely unlikely to occur again should he devote his life to throwing cards up in the air. Yet it happened!...

The odds of any outcome are very different from the odds of a specific outcome, and the theory of evolution is not reliant on any specific outcome.

(DEBBIE: In other words Creeper is saying, The Infinite numbers of possible card combinations result in an Infinite number of probabilities given Infinite time any specific outcome will result. So you are really saying, whatever is, is because it is. )

Mrs.Aginoth said...
As for the statistics & a pack of cards analogy, you've really missed the point. Of course if you throw one pack of cards in the air, the chances of them landing in any sequence (let alone the "correct" one) is pretty remote.

BUT:

Try throwing up 10 billion packs of cards every second for a few million years, and then see how likely it is that one of them will land in the "correct" sequence.

Then for all the ones that did land in sequence, you can take out all the kings (that 'their advantage - natural selection), and repeat the whole process. For each pack that lands in sequence you take out the kings, or if they have already gone, you take out the queens.

Repeat. Take out the kings/queens/jacks

repeat for several hundred million years.

How likely is it that you will end up with LOTS of Aces?

(DEBBIE SAYS: How is it that “you” get to take out any of the cards? You still are saying that there are Infinite possibilities, Infinite probabilities and Infinite time. So that it all boils down to, whatever is, is because it is).


chaos_engineer said...
That's the point of the card example. The odds of getting some particular arrangement of cards is very low, but you're guaranteed to get *some* arrangement of cards.

It's the same with horses. 100 million years ago, the odds of horses evolving were low. But it was guaranteed that *something* would evolve.

(DEBBIE SAYS: Guaranteed SOMETHING would evolve? Where did the DNA come from in the first place? So you are really saying, Infinite possibilities, Infinite probabilities and Infinite time. That just boils down to, whatever is, is, because it is.)

Being a frequent reader of Radar’s blog but not a frequent commenter, I have read the comments of others.

(These comments were found on April 9th, Dogs and people and evolution math)

If you go back and read all the probability arguments from all the anti-creationists they all boil down to, Infinite possibility, Infinite probability and Infinite time. As a result, WHATEVER IS, IS, BECAUSE IT IS!

creeper said...

debbie,

this word "infinite" - it doesn't mean what you think it means.

Which unfortunately makes your whole comment and train of thought quite meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Dan S. said . . .


"(DEBBIE: In other words Creeper is saying, The Infinite numbers of possible card combinations result in an Infinite number of probabilities given Infinite time any specific outcome will result. So you are really saying, whatever is, is because it is. )"

Maybe I don't understand, but that seems to have relatively little to do with what Creeper is actually saying. In fact, he's saying that we don't require any specific outcome, only that there is an outcome, which changes things. He didn't mention anything about infinite time.

"(DEBBIE SAYS: How is it that “you” get to take out any of the cards?"

Because Mrs. A is natural selection. For the purposes of the analogy, anyway.

Or take Dawkin's WEASEL program (again), which aimed to produce the Shakespearean phrase "methinks it is like a weasel". It first produced a string of 28 random characters (letters/spaces). The odds, or so wikipedia tells me, of it getting it right just like this, producing random strings, are extremely low - 1 in 10^40, if I understand correctly? Infinite time would be enough, but short of that, "even given the entire lifetime of the universe to run," it's pretty darn unlikely.

But then what happens is that the program reproduced the phrase with some degree of random error, picked the 'offspring' that was closest to the target, froze the correct characters, reproduced it again - and so on and on and on, as below:

Generation 1: WDLMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P
Generation 2: WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZLMQCO P
Generation 10: MDLDMNLS ITJISWHRZREZ MECS P
Generation 20: MELDINLS IT ISWPRKE Z WECSEL
Generation 30: METHINGS IT ISWLIKE B WECSEL
Generation 40: METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL
Generation 43: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL


The original version got the phrase while Dawkins was out to lunch, within about half an hour. A later version in Pascal took 11 seconds. Not infinite time, not even by computer standards!

In other words, given a specific outcome, a simulated version of variation and selection reached that outcome far, far, far, far quicker than could be expected by random chance alone.

Is it a good simulation of evolution as currently understood? Not at all! As was pointed out, as far as 21st Century scientists can tell, there is no ultimate specified outcome that natural selection is aiming for (which doesn't mean there isn't one, but I have no special insight into this question). Instead of' trying' to come up with a specific combination of letters, so to speak, it's operating in terms of survival in the current environment. In other words, it's even more likely. (It's possible to imagine God pre-setting the parameters so that evolution would inevitably produce humanity - even Debbie - but as far as I know we would have no way of discovering this through science.)

chaos_engineer (who has some great comments) said "It's the same with horses. 100 million years ago, the odds of horses evolving were low. But it was guaranteed that *something* would evolve."
and
(DEBBIE SAYS: Guaranteed SOMETHING would evolve? Where did the DNA come from in the first place? "

But that's a slightly different question, and one that I frankly don't know enough to comment on in a meaningful way. If you're interested in reading a recent account of current research into that general question, you might want to read Gen-e-sis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins - it's supposed to be pretty good - or Life's Origin: The Beginnings of Biological Evolution. The actual discussion above takes life as a given, and goes from there. Imagine we rewind the VHS tape of life back - not even 100 milion years, but just to sometime in the Eocene, say, 50-someodd million years ago. If you happened to come across the cute little dawn horse Hyracotherium browsing amid the dappled dimness of the forest, nothing would tell you that it was somehow predestined to give rise to modern horses because, as far as science can tell, it wasn't. Instead, numerous events and changes - including alterations in climate, and the growth of the great grasslands, providing opportunities for creatures that were fleet of foot and tough in tooth - led to that result.

Were we to hit play from that point - a la Gould's similar thought experiment re: the Cambrian Burgess Shale fossils in his book Wonderful Life - it's possible that we might find things turning out differently (ultimately this is somewhat akin to the old 'If I could rewind my life and start again from point A (being the exact same person as I was at that point), would anything happen differently?

Have you ever seen the movie Sliding Doors? The main character gets fired at work and then misses the train home/catches the train home - and the film follows both of the wildly different outcomes that spring from that one point.* (I HATED the ending, btw. Hated, hated, hated!) It's a little like that. If you rewound life's tape to the Eocene and changed something - maybe something little, as in Ray Bradbury's great short story about dino hunters, "The Roar of Distant Thunder "(title?), maybe something big, like future climate shifts, who knows what today would look like?

Contingencies, y'know.

And as Creeper points out above, we're not talking about infinite anything. For example, ~4,500,000,000 years is a loooooooooooooong time, way beyond anything we can imagine. Heck, 50,000, 000 years is too! But it's not infinity.

* I have sorta borderline OCD, which usually just shows up as a kind of fussy cautiousness and a tendency to get stuck on small points or ideas, but given enough stress (say, watching an incompetent president and unquestioning press lead the nation into a obviously unjust and dangerous war) ends up with me having to budget in an extra hour to get to work on time, what with having to check and check and bloody check again that I didn't leave the gas on or leave something poisonous lying around where the cat might eat it, etc. - very irritating. (it's hard to explain - best I can do: ok, you might worry that you left the door unlocked as you walk away, but at most you only have to check and realize oh, it's fine. In this case, I'd check, see that it's locked and walk away, but the part of my brain that's worrying, oh no, I might have left the door unlocked!' simply hasn't stopped.) But anyway, sometimes I'll get stuck on what-ifs - sorta road-not-taken-itis, in a very boringly small and literal sense - what if I turn left here instead of right? Who knows what might be different? I was about to buy this book, but what if someone walks into the store after me who would have bought it, but doesn't have it to buy, and therefore doesn't have their life changed in some small way, and therefore . . .

One reason why I'm not overly fond of metaphysical speculation. Luckily, I also have ADD, and am easily distrac - hey, look at that bird!

(Yes, yes I'm sure everyone is so interested, . . .)

And y'know, I actually have a blogger account, but can't remember the password, and well, just haven't ever gotten around to either having them find it via other info or just getting a new one . . . I'm not even especially obsessed with anonymity, just . . kinda lazy, I guess. Oh well . . .

-Dan S.

Jake said...

Just fyi radar, I have a post up in response to this thread at my blog here

radar said...

Jake,

This is what I posted at your blog in the comments thread after having read what you had posted:

"I hope you simply misunderstood me. You cannot be someone who has read much of my blog to have posted something like this. I would otherwise find this entire post to be offensive. Because if you have read much of what I and my commenters have posted you could not write what you have written unless you wished to be deliberately deceptive. So I just hope we have a mistake here.

I was responding to someone who said that macroevolution predicted what was found and I said, no, they saw what was there and came up with a hypothesis that matched what they saw. In no way did I say or imply this was cheating. I merely pointed out that macroevolutionists didn't come up with the hypothesis and then say, "hey look, rock layers with fossils in them! We predicted that!"

I do believe that one should look at evidence, make a hypothesis based on that evidence, try to make falsifiable predictions and run tests in order to find out whether the hypothesis can withstand scrutiny. I have always supported this method in my posting on my blog.

I hope you will be kind enough to retract what you have written in view of this, thank you."


I give you credit for pointing me to your post. I hope you realize your error now and will prove to be ethical enough to retract your statement.

creeper said...

Radar, your statement was pretty nonsensical, and Jake was right to skewer it. I had pointed out:

"I still don't see how the notion of a young Earth is supposed to be compatible with fossils appearing predictably in certain strata. An old Earth and common descent predict this accurately and with great consistency, while it shouldn't even be possible according to YEC/global flood notions."

To which you replied:

"Hey, macro[evolutionist]s studied the rocks and fossils and then came up with a hypothesis that matched what they observed."

That's exactly what they're supposed to do as scientists, yet you say this here as a vague criticism as if they're not supposed to do that - and that's what Jake reacted to.

You also completely ignore the fact that not only did these scientists come up with a hypothesis that matched what they oberved, but then also based falsifiable predictions on them - and subsequently saw those predictions confirmed. And that's a pretty big thing to leave out. What happened was that they followed the scientific process successfully; what you did was select a part of that and, by singling it out, made it seem as if they cheated by first studying the rocks and fossils and then coming up with a hypothesis - as if they had looked at the answers before a test or something. But examining the evidence and then forming the hypothesis is the correct scientific approach.

If anyone owes a retraction here, it should be you retracting that misleading statement.

With regard to fossils in strata, not only can YEC/global flood notions not come up with a falsifiable hypothesis, they can't even make it plausibly compatible with their scenario.

Jake said...

I've responded to your post over at my blog, radar.

creeper said...

And it appears that Mrs. Aginoth's question at the top of these comments goes unanswered, not that that's surprising, of course.

radar said...

I refuted Mrs Aginoth previously, obviously, in two different posts. I listed several lists other than the ID list. I know of no lists that tell us what people used to believe, not much reason to do so. God love Mrs. A, but if you comment on an article that you obviously didn't read all the way through it tends to hinder your ability to comment constructively.

radar said...

Jake, you now have no credibility. Deliberately smearing me with lies! It makes you look bad. It may be easy for you to believe in lies but I have no respect for people who smear others in such a way.

I read and responded to your blog and you refused to acknowledge or apologize, then posted it in Skeptic's! You are truly a loser. Get lost!

creeper said...

"I know of no lists that tell us what people used to believe, not much reason to do so."

The reason for such a list would be to support your claim that "many scientists have become skeptical of the idea that life evolved from non-life and that complex life evolved from simpler forms of life", and that the scientific world is moving away from the theory of evolution, which does not appear to be the case. I know that that is the impression you would get from hanging around creationist sites, but you seem unable to back up your claim with any kind of evidence.

"God love Mrs. A, but if you comment on an article that you obviously didn't read all the way through it tends to hinder your ability to comment constructively."

You just said that you don't have such a list to back up your claim, so Mrs. A wouldn't have found it in the latter part of one of your articles. Therefore you can't conclude that she didn't read it all the way through.


Is this Jake's "I Think I Blew A Fuse" post? I responded to your response to Jake's post (just a few comments upthread from here), but you didn't respond to that.

But now I'm curious: What are these lies you mentioned?