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Monday, May 29, 2006

Taking a closer look at macroevolution

I would like to make the point that macroevolution, or Darwinism, or Neo-Darwinism, or whatever you call it, did not begin in a scientific manner. I truly do not believe that scientists with no idealogical point of view would ever have conceived of macroevolution at all. They would have accepted that God, whoever or whatever He is, Created and unless a way was found to prove or disprove the existence of said God, gone on their way.

I believe a great deal of effort to prove macroevolution and study same is terribly wasted. Great talent is misused. Science could be spending more time on, say, trying to figure out how to use the lizard's ability to reform a tail to help humans re-grow limbs and organs. More time trying to find a genetic solution to ending cancer. The possibilities are limited by the imagination.

However, armies of scientific minds spend time trying to find evidences of evolution in the macro sense.

My position is that life is far too complex and far too obviously designed to support the idea of macroevolution. It takes remarkable faith for a man to swallow such a concept and go on in pursuit of same if he knows much of anything about biology. I wonder that actual experts in the field can continue to ignore such evidences, and yet they do. I know many do so from an idealogical motive but still....

One can search this blog using the word "evolution" or "creation" or "huxley" or "behe" and find all sorts of posts and comment threads that concern the scientific evidences associated with both macroevolution and creation. We have covered a lot of ground and many common questions in the last months.

But let us begin to study the advent of macroevolutionary thought, the hypothesis of macroevolution which often carries the misnomer: The theory of evolution. Let's see where it came from in this modern era.

Darwin before Darwin

Sure, there have been scientists and philosophers who have abandoned God and creation and that is nothing new. But today's modern macroevolutionary bent is credited to Charles Darwin. Yet that is actually not quite true.

"Charles Darwin's grandfather, Erasmus Darwin(1731-1802), was a prominent and wealthy English medical doctor. An author and poet, his most famous publication was the book, Zoo-nomia (Latin for "law of life"). In this book he proposed (1) the spontaneous (chance) origin of life and (2) the gradual evolution of original simple plants and animals into more complex ones. Religiously, he was a pantheist (believing that God is everything and everything is God).

Josiah Wedgwood 1 (1730-1795) was Erasmus Darwin's closest friend. He founded the famous Wedgwood pottery industry and was a leader in the English industrial revolution Josiah's favorite minister was a Unitarian (Unitarians believe there is one God but deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Therefore, they do not believe that Jesus is God). Thus the Wedgwood family was strongly influenced by Unitarian religious views. Wedgwood hired a Unitarian minister to teach in his school at Etruria where his pottery manufacturing plant was located. In this school Erasmus's son Robert (Charles's father) and also Charles's mother, Susannah Wedgwood, were educated. It is easy to see why Unitarian theology spread through the Wedgwood and Darwin families and why the Darwin men were generally freethinkers.

Erasmus Darwin's son, Robert Waring Darwin(l 766-1848), was also a successful and wealthy physician. He married Susannah Wedgwood (1765-1817). Thus the Darwin and Wedgwood families became intimately connected. The Darwin and Wedgwood men were generally freethinkers (They wanted to be free from the orthodox faith in the God of the Bible). Robert Waring Darwin was probably an atheist. However, he made sure that his family maintained public connections with the Church of England (Anglican Church). This was the century of the Victorian Era (Queen Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901). In Victorian England professional men and other leaders of society generally protected their reputations for respectability by being members of or publicly associated with the Anglican Church. And that is what the Darwin family did, even though father Robert was really an unbeliever.

Robert told his son, Charles, that he knew scarcely any intelligent men who were orthodox Christian believers. He also said that religious faith resided mainly in the women, but that he knew a few of the more intelligent women who were skeptics (rejected the Bible faith). The father advised his son, Charles, that it was well for a husband to conceal his unorthodox be-liefs from his wife, because if he died first, she would suffer undue pain knowing that he died in unbelief."
- Charles Darwin: Influences On the Man, His Science, And His Theory by Robert E. Kofal, Ph.D.

Erasmus Darwin???

No one hears much about Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles. Yet he was a proponent of macroevolution before Charles was born and in fact passed away before Charles was born. But his writings and family influences lived on.

Russell Grigg writes this article:

"Darwinism: it was all in the family
Erasmus Darwin’s famous grandson learned early about evolution.

Many people erroneously think that Charles Darwin (who earned a degree in theology) was once blissfully content with the biblical explanation of origins—until, that is, as an unbiased naturalist, he stumbled across the idea of evolution by observing the ‘facts of nature’ in the Galápagos Islands in 1835. The truth is significantly otherwise. The concept of evolution had, in fact, been ‘in his family’ ever since his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, first suggested it in 1770.1

As we have often pointed out, evolutionists do not have any facts that are unavailable to creationists—it is how these facts are interpreted that is significant, and it is ideology which largely determines the interpretation. Charles Darwin himself said, ‘How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!’2

So we need to carefully consider the influences on Darwin’s mindset before he set out aboard the Beagle on his round-the-world trip in 1831. The key to understanding how he was predisposed to interpreting facts in favour of an evolutionary ideology goes back to the beliefs, writings and role model of his grandfather, Erasmus.

Scientist, inventor and doctor

Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802) was one of the most erudite, enthusiastic and dedicated scientists/inventors of his day. He completed a major translation from Latin to English of the works of Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), who devised the plant classification that forms the basis of modern botany. His many inventions included a speaking machine, a copying machine, and a carriage steering mechanism later used in cars. Indeed, ‘There is scarcely an idea or invention in the modern world that Erasmus Darwin did not originate or foresee, from evolution to eugenics, from airplanes to submarines, from antiseptics to psychoanalysis, from talking-machines to telephones.’3

He began his chosen profession of medicine at Lichfield in 1756. His reputation as a physician was established when he saved the life of a young man from a prominent local family, whom other doctors had declared to be incurable. Because his cures were ‘unfashionably frequent’ his practice gradually became the largest in the English Midlands. King George III asked him to become his personal physician in London, but Erasmus declined.

In about 1766, he co-founded the Lunar Society—a social club for the great scientists, industrialists and natural philosophers of his day. It has been called ‘the think tank of the Industrial Revolution’ and was the most famous English scientific society of the eighteenth century, after the Royal Society. Members included James Watt (of steam-engine fame), Joseph Priestley (the discoverer of oxygen), William Murdoch (the inventor of gas-lighting), Josiah Wedgwood (the great potter) and Samuel Galton (a wealthy industrialist). Others in America linked to the Society included Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

Epicure, free-thinker and poet

His love of food (particularly fruits, sugar, cream and butter)4 was matched by his dislike of exercise, and by the age of 46 he had grown so corpulent that a semi-circle had to be cut out of his dining table to accommodate his girth at meal times. Married twice, he sired 12 Darwin offspring and, in between marriages, a further two (known) illegitimate daughters by a Miss Parker. These girls were raised in his home with his other children, and later were the inspiration for a lengthy tract by Erasmus on female education.5

Erasmus was anti-Christianity, anti-slavery, and pro the American and French Revolutions. An outstanding poet, he often wrote his opinions and scientific ideas in verse, the most notable of which were The Botanic Garden (published in two parts, 1789, 1791), which consisted of 4,384 lines of perfectly rhyming couplets, and The Temple of Nature (published posthumously in 1803).

Sample:

‘Cold gills aquatic form respiring lungs,
And sounds aërial flow from slimy tongues.’6,7

Evolution à la Erasmus

Erasmus first tentatively suggested the idea of evolution in 1770. His family coat of arms featured three scallop shells, and to these he added the Latin words E Conchis omnia (‘everything from shells’). He had this motto painted on his carriage to publicize his theory ‘without anyone noticing’. However, notice they did. Canon Seward of Lichfield Cathedral wrote some satirical verses of his own, complaining that Darwin …


‘… renounces his Creator
And forms all sense from senseless matter.
Great wizard he! by magic spells
Can all things raise from cockle shells.’8

To avoid offending his rich patients, Erasmus painted over the motto on his carriage, and instead put it on his bookplate (1771).

In the next two decades, Erasmus was emboldened to state more and more of his evolutionary ideas. In The Economy of Vegetation (1792), he proclaimed that the earth was formed from a cosmological explosion:

‘When high in ether, with explosion dire
From the deep craters of his realms of fire,
The Whirling Sun this ponderous planet hurl’d,
And gave the astonish’d void another world.’9

In The Botanic Garden, he said that life began in the sea and progressively developed from there:

‘ORGANIC Life beneath the shoreless waves
Was born and nurs’d in Ocean’s pearly caves;
First forms minute, unseen by spheric glass,
Move on the mud, or pierce the watery mass;
These, as successive generations bloom,
New powers acquire and larger limbs assume;
Whence countless groups of vegetation spring,
And, breathing realms of fin, and feet, and wing.’10

His major work, Zoonomia or the Laws of Organic Life (two volumes, 1794 and 1796), was a huge medical treatise in prose, which included a comprehensive classification of diseases and treatments. Within 10 years, four British and two American editions appeared, and it was translated into German, French and Italian. It has been called ‘the first consistent all-embracing hypothesis of evolution’, and was published some 65 years before Charles published his version of evolution in On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Erasmus said that ‘millions of ages [i.e. thousands of millions of years] before the commencement of the history of mankind … all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament, which THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE endued with animality, with the power of acquiring new parts … and thus possessing the faculty of continuing to improve by its own inherent activity, and of delivering down those improvements by generation to its posterity, world without end!’ (I:505)11 Later, in The Temple of Nature, Erasmus extends this to read: ‘“all vegetables and animals now existing were originally derived from the smallest microscopic ones, formed by spontaneous vitality” in primeval oceans.’11 And he says:

‘man …
Should eye with tenderness all living forms,
His brother-emmets [i.e. ants], and his sister-worms.’12

Erasmus tried to appease the church-going culture of his day by referring to ‘THE GREAT FIRST CAUSE’, highlighted in capitals, but quickly affirmed that, once started, evolution needs no divine help, but proceeds ‘by its own inherent ability’. He was strongly anti-Christian, and included ‘Credulity, Superstitious Hope, and the Fear of Hell in his catalogue of diseases.’13

These ideas were widely denounced by writers such as the great poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who coined the term ‘darwinizing’, meaning speculating wildly, in reference to Erasmus’s evolutionary ideas.14 The Temple of Nature was generally condemned for its ‘total denial of any interference of a Deity’ and he was further assailed for trying ‘to substitute the religion of nature for the religion of the Bible’.15

Erasmus’s influence on Charles

Although Erasmus died seven years before Charles was born, Charles grew up in a household where his father, Robert, had imbibed Erasmus’s ‘free-thinking’ (materialist), anti-Christian ideas. So disbelief was an acceptable trait within the Darwin family—perceived not as ‘a moral crisis or rebellion’, but perhaps even as ‘a filial duty’.16

Charles read and ‘greatly admired’ Zoonomia when he was 18. Years later, when faced with the same sort of censure as Erasmus had faced, Charles tried to disown his grandfather’s book,17 claiming that, ‘on reading it a second time after an interval of ten or fifteen years, I was much disappointed; the proportion of speculation being so large to the facts given’.18 Nevertheless, in 1837, when Charles began writing his ideas in a notebook, he inscribed the word Zoonomia on the title page ‘to signal that he was treading the same path as his grandfather’.19

One of Charles’s chief arguments for evolution is based on the shape of the beaks of finches in response to the types of food available that he saw in the Galápagos Islands in 1835. Is it credible to think that he had not been influenced by what Erasmus had written on the subject? Namely: ‘Some birds have acquired harder beaks to crack nuts, as the parrot. Others have acquired beaks adapted to break the harder seeds, as sparrows. Others for the softer seeds of flowers, or the buds of trees, as the finches. Other birds have acquired long beaks … and others broad ones … . All … gradually produced during many generations by the perpetual endeavour of the creatures to supply the want of food (I:504).’20

Almost every topic discussed, and example given, in Zoonomia reappears in Charles’s Origin. In fact, all but one of Charles’s books have their counterpart in a chapter of Zoonomia or an essay-note to one of Erasmus’s poems.21 And Charles’s own copies of Zoonomia and The Botanic Garden are extensively marked and annotated.

So, Erasmus cast a long shadow which, via his grandson, has made atheism intellectually respectable and changed the worldview of Western mankind from belief in the Creator God to the worship of humanistic hedonism, free from any sense of accountability to the God who is ‘Judge of all the earth’ (Genesis 18:25).

The message for us today is to consider what we pass on to our children and grandchildren. We have the responsibility to teach them the true biblical worldview, which is foundational, not only to our need for salvation, but also to the way of it—through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His death and Resurrection. This will give meaning to their lives, so that they need not flounder in the sea of uncertainty of a man-made anti-God theory, which is now ‘the big lie’ of 21st-century thinking."


Funny thing, that the beaks of finches would supposedly inspire Charles to "tune-up" his grandfather's ideas and promote macroevolutionary thought. Yet the idea that the beaks of finches represent macroevolution has since been falsified! Ironic. You don't think so?


Finches No Macroevolutionary Rosetta Stone!


Finches: no net change!

After all the ‘hype’ about watching ‘evolution’, one reads with amazement that the selection events observed actually turned out to have no net long-term effect. For example, for a while selection drove the finch populations towards larger birds, then when the environment changed, it headed them in the opposite direction. The author says concerning this sort of effect (also seen in sparrows) that ‘Summed over years, the effects of natural selection were invisible’ (p. 108). So that when Darwin looked at the fossil record and found it ‘static and frozen for long stretches’ (p. 109), this was the reason. Consider, he says:

‘how much less visible these [natural selection] events will be in the strata of rock beneath our feet, in which the generations have been summed for many millions of generations.’

Evolutionists have long argued the opposite—that evolution is invisible in the short term, but would become visible if we had enough time. Yet according to Weiner, we can see evolution happening in the (very) short term, but any longer and it becomes ‘invisible’! The mind boggles at how evolutionists can be blind to this inconsistency.

Weiner quotes a researcher as saying that:

‘A species looks steady when you look at it over the years—but when you actually get out the magnifying glass you see that it’s wobbling constantly.’

Obviously, since macroevolution is supposed to be about long-term, directional change (even the creation/Flood model requires more directional change than the Grants documented) such ‘wobbling back and forth’ (fluctuation around a mean) over short time-spans, with no net change over longer time periods, is hardly supportive of the case for evolution. Yet instead of acknowledging this, the researcher goes on to say, ‘So I guess that’s evolution in action.’


I will, in the next few days, pursue the concept that Charles Darwin was not driven by evidence to conceive of his so-called "theory of evolution" but rather by idealogical bent. In fact, his real message is presented nicely by Dr. Carl Wieland.

Here is an excerpt from Darwin’s real message: have you missed it?

"...Harvard’s renowned Professor Stephen Jay Gould1 is a vigorous anticreationist (and Marxist), and perhaps the most knowledgeable student of the history of evolutionary thought and all things Darwinian.

I’m glad he and I are on the same side about one thing at least — the real meaning of ‘Darwin’s revolution’. And we both agree that it’s a meaning that the vast majority of people in the world today, nearly a century and a half after Darwin, don’t really want to face up to. Gould argues that Darwin’s theory is inherently anti-plan, anti-purpose, anti-meaning (in other words, is pure philosophical materialism). Also, that Darwin himself knew this very well and meant it to be so.

By ‘materialism’ he does not mean the drive to possess more and more material things, but the philosophical belief that matter is the only reality. In this belief system, matter, left to itself, produced all things, including the human brain. This brain then invented the idea of the supernatural, of God, of eternal life, and so forth.

It seems obvious why Christians who wish to compromise with evolution, and especially those who encourage others to do this, would not want to face this as the true meaning of Darwinism. Such ‘theistic evolutionists’ believe they can accept the ‘baby’ of evolution (thus saving face with the world) while throwing out the ‘bathwater’ of materialism. I will not here go into the many reasons why the evolution/long geological ages idea is so corrosive to the biblical Gospel2 (even if evolution could be seen as the plan and purpose of some ‘god’).

My purpose is (like Gould’s, but with a different motive) to make people aware of this very common philosophical blind spot, this refusal to wake up to what Darwin was really on about. Why is it true, as Gould also points out, that even among non-Christians who believe in evolution the vast majority don’t wish to face the utter planlessness of Darwin’s theory? Because they would then no longer be able to console themselves with the feeling that there is some sort of plan or purpose to our existence.3

The usual thing vaguely believed in by this majority of people (at the same time as they accept evolution) is some sort of fuzzy, ethereal, oozing god-essence — more like the Star Wars ‘force be with you’ than the personal God of Scripture. They usually obtain some comfort from a vague belief in at least the possibility of some sort of afterlife, which helps explain the success of recent movies like Flatliners and Ghost.4

Gould appears to deplore these popular notions as unfortunate, illogical and unnecessary cultural hangups. He, of course, starts from the proposition that evolution is true. He knows the real message of Darwin to be that ‘there’s nothing else going on out there — just organisms struggling to pass their genes on to the next generation. That’s it.’ In which case it is time for people to abandon comforting fairytales and wake up to this materialistic implication of evolution..."


If you are like Darwin and Gould, you actually believe that "...there’s nothing else going on out there — just organisms struggling to pass their genes on to the next generation. That’s it..." How terribly sad.

Stay tuned, there will be much more to come in the week ahead.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

"macroevolution, or Darwinism, or Neo-Darwinism, or whatever you call it, did not begin in a scientific manner."

No, the theory of evolution did in fact begin in a scientific manner. Ideas about evolution had been floating around earlier - indeed, as pointed out, in Darwin's very own family! - but they were largely philosophical musings. What Darwin did was give evolution, for the first time, a firm scientific foundation - not just in his initial insight, but crucially, through years of patient study and research. Later scientists were to build on this foundation, erecting ornate towers and soaring domes in fields ranging from genetics to embryology to population biology to paleontology.

In the comments to Amy's post here, Creeper quoted Pope John Paul II as saying " It is indeed remarkable that this theory [of evolution] has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory."

Indeed, this is a very important point. Our understanding of how life works has increased enormously since Darwin's day - remember, Mendel's work was only rediscovered and recognized as important in the beginning of the 20th Century, DNA was discovered in the 50s, and genome deciphering, roughly, in the 90s. And time and time again, major discoveries - often using techniques Darwin could never have dreamed of in fields that simply didn't exist back then - have supported (and expanded) the ever-growing theory of evolution. Darwin could have come up with descent w/ modification in order to get girls - it doesn't matter.

(hey, Charlie, I hear chicks dig guys with beards . . .)


" I truly do not believe that scientists with no idealogical point of view would ever have conceived of macroevolution at all. They would have accepted that God, whoever or whatever He is, Created and unless a way was found to prove or disprove the existence of said God, gone on their way."

But that is, in fact, an ideological point of view - that Hebrew scripture contains a (relatively) scientifically accurate account of the origin and development of life. And indeed, some great early figures in what would become biology more or less believed this, almost as a default setting, until this and other fields advanced to the point where it became clear that this was not supported by the evidence.

You see, the idea above is deeply misguided. Science, vitally, is not based on the idea that the Bible is scientifically correct. Nor is it based on the idea that the Bible is scientifically incorrect. The Bible is irrelevent to science. Science is not in the business of disproving God (or waiting to hear this). Science is not in the business of proving God. Science is in the business of doing science. God is irrelevent to science. (Which is not to say there aren't individual scientists for whom God(s) is/are very relevent (negatively or positively), but really, this is like saying that you don't believe that engineers with no ideological point of view would ever have conceived of skyscrapers at all - those giant downtown Towers of Babel).

It's been suggested that this very neglectful irrelevence is what drives creationists batty (Bats?! But bats show up in the fossil record fully formed!! Proof of Creation!! Proof that God exists!! You see, He does matter!! Try to ignore Him now, you lab-coated pencil-necked geeks!!). However, I've yet to meet a creationist that actually understands this. Indeed, such an idea seems to be literally unthinkable (since for them, God is so relevent, through and through) and so instead, as here, it must be all a big plot (consciously or not) to undermine religion and spread Godless materialism.
Hey, evolutionary biologists are the new Communists! Nifty!

As a result, a great deal of effort to disprove evolution is terribly wasted. Just think of the talent, dedication, and devotion represented by just the top few creationist organizations! Since hopefully many of them have some interest in science (however deformed and misrepresented), they could be testifying as to how the amazing discoveries of modern science are a testament to the glory of (since for them non-negotiable) God, much as how believers (could) see the intricate dance of planets around the Sun. Instead, it's like as if they were spending all this time and energy trying to poke holes in heliocentrism. I find it hard not to view that as sad, as a frustrating waste. Certainly from certain abstract and academic viewpoints (sociological, etc.) it indeed serves a function - but outside of such bloodless perceptions, it is . . . disappointing.

"I believe a great deal of effort to prove macroevolution and study same is terribly wasted. Great talent is misused."

Ok, that's what you believe. Can't argue with that. What I expect to see in the coming decades is science progressing, learning more and more about how life works, with more and more pratical applications coming from a growing understanding of evolution.

We'll see.

"My position is that life is far too complex and far too obviously designed to support the idea of macroevolution. It takes remarkable faith for a man to swallow such a concept "

Besides the fact that we live in a world where yesterday's bio-related inconceivably impossibility is today's grad seminar's topic - and tomorrow's Discovery channel's special and next week's high school biology textbook mention - the amusing bit here is that you would substitute for this supposedly hard-to-swallow concept the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful Being that created the universe, and furthermore that the religious writings of a few small, fairly insignificant Middle Eastern tribes, carried over into an initially despised and persecuted offshoot religion that arguably exists today in its present form, rather than as a rare, localized, even obscure curiosity, in part due to its adoption as a state religion by a formerly pagan emperor, contains a simplified but fundamentally accurate scientific account of these events.

The second claim is not supported by modern science. The first simply amps up the incredibility content to another level. Of course, there have been Christians who have argued (in another context) that one should believe not in spite of, but because of absurdity. This first belief is one, as you know, I don't share, but that is also a matter of belief, rather than evidence. Nevertheless, I hope you see the irony here.

"His love of food (particularly fruits, sugar, cream and butter)4 was matched by his dislike of exercise, and by the age of 46 he had grown so corpulent that a semi-circle had to be cut out of his dining table to accommodate his girth at meal times. "

I like this guy!

" For example, for a while selection drove the finch populations towards larger birds, then when the environment changed, it headed them in the opposite direction. The author says concerning this sort of effect (also seen in sparrows) that ‘Summed over years, the effects of natural selection were invisible’ (p. 108) . . . Evolutionists have long argued the opposite—that evolution is invisible in the short term, but would become visible if we had enough time. Yet according to Weiner, we can see evolution happening in the (very) short term, but any longer and it becomes ‘invisible’! The mind boggles at how evolutionists can be blind to this inconsistency.

Weiner quotes a researcher as saying that:

‘A species looks steady when you look at it over the years—but when you actually get out the magnifying glass you see that it’s wobbling constantly.’"

Of course, this inconsistency is imaginary, and gets at what I was trying to say in a comment on the last post - evolution isn't driven on by some inherent, intrinsic life force, but is an elaborate interplay between variation and conditions, a 'response' (if you disregard the unintentionally Lamarckian echoes) to the physical world. The weather turns drier for a few years, and the population, if such an option is present or presents itself, lurches a bit towards one direction (poorly phrased, sorry - evolution really doesn't fit well with the way we conceive of things). But if conditions change back soon enough, it'll lurch a bit back in the opposite direction.

These wobbles aren't intrinsic - they're that interplay between variation and conditions. Here back and forth-changing conditions are playing ping-pong, so to speak with variability. (Indeed, there are groups in which major overall features are such a good fit with the conditions they face that they've been playing this game for a very, very, very long time indeed.) But what happens when the dry spell lasts for a thousand years? Five thousand? A million?

Carl Zimmer has a interesting but disturbing post up on Manimals, Sticklebacks, and Finches, talking about
essentially the same issue:
The evolution of a new species can be a drawn out process, taking thousands or millions of years. First populations begin to diverge from each other. Later, those populations may become divided by significant reproductive barriers. Even after those populations have evolved into separate species, they may still be able to produce hybrids in the right conditions. In some cases, those hybrids may remain rare and the two species will remain intact. In other cases, the species may collapse back on each other.

The article looks at two animals in which speciation appears to be going in reverse. One is three-spined sticklebacks, which have evolved into two easily distinguished different species in 11,000 years in six separate lakes in Canada. (The papers are here and here.) In one lake, an introduced crayfish appears to be driving the two species into a single hybrid swarm.

The other example is Darwin's finches on the Galapagos (paper here). The medium ground finch has, on some islands, diverged into two forms, one with a big beak and one with a small one. But where they have come into contact with humans, they are blurring back into a single spectrum of beaks. Hybrids with average size beaks appear to be thriving because they can eat rice and other foods left by humans.
(links in original)

It goes on to discuss the possibilty that we're burning the candle of earth's biodiversity at both ends, so to speak - not just wiping out species left and right, but blocking the formation of new ones.
: (

For a less depressing read, look at his post on Adapting to Life in Yogurt - on his NY Times article reporting about " how the bacteria in its culture have been undergoing drastic genomic change since the stuff was invented some 5000 years ago."

Mmmmm . . . . yogurt.

[Long quoted bit about Gould (almost certainly misleading) and materialism]

As I mentioned above - none of y'all even seem to be able to deal with evolution on a strictly scientific basis - there's always this ideological stuff. I won't say that the practice of science - being done by people, after all - never involves ideology, but here, with creationism that's really all there is: the great big religious tail is wagging the teeny-tiny 'scientific' dog.

Besides the hopefully obvious bit about drawing metaphysical conclusions from scientific findings (even if Darwin was all on about ultimate meaninglessness, that means bupkiss, science can't get there. All that matters is whether his actual work - not any wild metaphysical speculation he may or may not have made -is supported by science) I want you to think about something.

Let's say we find someone who lost their faith due to learning about modern science, and has become a materialist, in the metaphysical or philosophical sense (is that all there is? yes!). What they're saying, essentially, is: Science's success in explaining things (from Newton to Darwin, and beyond) as mere matter governed by physical laws has convinced me -despite being by definition unable to establish such a thing - that that is all there is. Above us only sky, baby!

In other words, the faith that they lost was a faith of not having any better explanation. This is why so many theologians warn against any 'God of the Gaps' arguments, and a Vatican astronomer calls (literal) creationism a kind of paganism "that hark[s] back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events" (partly article's phrasing). . . here's Brother Guy Consolmagno in an interview with Astrobiology magazine:

"The trouble is that some people think they can use science to prove God. And that puts science ahead of God; that makes science more powerful than God. That's bad theology. In fact, some philosophers have said that's what led to atheism in the eighteenth century - the fallacy of the God of the gaps. You say, "I have no idea how this could have happened. It must have been God's design." And then fifty years later, somebody explains how it did happen, and you say, "I don't need God anymore." If your faith is based on science, that's a very shaky kind of faith.

My belief in God is not because of something I've seen in science. But I can turn it the other way around and say, "I believe in science because of my faith in God."

(Radar, you might like what he say next, about the historical basis of Western science. Not so sure I buy it, but hey . . .)

" you actually believe that "...there’s nothing else going on out there — just organisms struggling to pass their genes on to the next generation. That’s it..." How terribly sad."

I has always - perhaps overharshly, you decide - considered this rather intellectually lazy. Not the failure to adapt this supposed view - hey, whatever, but the failure to try to understand it. It's like modern kids who try to imagine what people could have done for fun in the old days, and can only come up with a family sitting around staring blankly at the space along the wall where a tv would go. In truth, as people would tell them, they made their own fun (I've always loved that expression - sounds like there's a recipe). Let's say there is no Ultimate Meaning, no Higher Purpose, no Grand Plan, as I happen to believe. Ok, so? We make our own meanings, our own purposes, our own plans. That's what people do - we can't not, any more than you can look at a three-hole electrical outlet and *not* see a little face looking out. It's as much a part of human life as breathing.

Aside from the whole issue of what it means if science sees "meaninglessness". After all, to science, love is just chemicals and evolutionary advantageous reproductive strategies. They're not wrong - but that's not all it is, because science doesn't and shouldn't deal with all that is. (Specialization, my friend - a lot more gets done that way.) There is a famous philosophical thought experiment dealing with the problem of qualia and notions of mind - as Wikipedia summarizes it (because I always get it all mixed up and mangled):

"Imagine that from birth, our hypothetical friend Mary is put to live in a room where no colors are shown. Her food, her books, and even the color of her skin are all in grayscale. Now imagine that Mary, a very bright girl, has a wealth of information at her disposal, and through concentrated study she comes to learn everything there is to know, which includes that colors are mental processes in the brain and how the brain produces them. But she has never experienced color.

If she is set loose and starts experiencing colors, will she have learned anything new
?"


(and the wind cries, Mary, look at the purple haze, all along the watchtower . . .)

Another, somewhat related thing: in the comment thread to the Amy Catholics&evolution post, she told me that were she given conclusive proof that evolution was real, she would reluctantly believe it.
My question: why reluctantly? In my view - without meaning to give offense - quite aside from the themes, values, meanings, etc., found in that source the setting of the literalistic biblically-based creationist account (from Adam to Noah) always seems kinda, well, small, parochial. I mean, it's sort of obsessively focused on the a few thousand years - not really all that many human generations - and after the initial bit, not only on a single planet, but on a small region on a single landmass of that planet - throughout the entire Bible, I'd say at its widest, based on references, we're talking about Italy to Iran (maybe a bit further), and down the Nile. You could probably tweak the details a bit, but the general point's the same: it's the world our forefathers (biological, spiritual, or cultural) knew. To me, it seems like a play - an amazing play (and some would add, more, much more than amazing) - but still, one being put on as a little community theater production, with so and so from the bookstore down the street playing the lead, and so on, and sets put together by Joe and some kids who like art and design . . .

And then we have the picture of the history of life, our earth, our universe, that modern science paints us - billions of years of time, the astonishing Big Bang, the sun not as a little light in the sky, but one of countless roaring nuclear furnaces, of planets coalascing out of dust, of life sparking into existence on one (just one?) small wet rocky planet, and over incomprehensible ages transforming into astonishing forms - of ancient lichen-crusted shores newly swarming with mites and liverworts, of a world of damp green shade populated by enormous dragonflies and huge amhibians, of T. rex and Triceratops, of giant flightless birds and giant sloths - of us. I was going to compare this to a broadway play (contrasted with that little production), but this is far beyond any play I've ever seen (even musicials with real helicopters). That we live in a world with hundreds of species of tardigrades (see also here - little microscopic animals (and yes, true multicellular animals, related to worms and insects) that live in worlds consisting of the film of water on a bed of moss, trundling around on little clawed legs, giving them the name 'water bears,' that can survive drying out, being deprived of oxygen, frozen, baked, subjected to hundreds of times the amount of radiation that could kill a person - is that not miraculous? In such a view, do we not truly
see a world in a grain of sand
and a heaven in a wild flower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour
(Wm. Blake, of course)/

And if you believe in God - which logically, has as much to do with accepting scientific findings on evolution as it does with accepting that lighting aren't thunderbolts, the earth turns round the sun, and germs, not God's wrath, cause disease - isn't this, finally, a fit stage for him?

Since the post was all about Darwin, let me close this comment with a famous quote from ol' Charles:

"There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

-Dan S. awful - that is, full of awe.

Anonymous said...

I really have to make better use of the preview button!!

-Dan S.

Jake said...

What *is* your fetish with "net change"? Where did you get the idea that it was necessary for something to be evidence of evolution?

creeper said...

What difference does it make whether Darwin (Erasmus or Charles) were perfectly pious Christians of your favoured ilk or not? The question is whether the evidence confirms the hypotheses and/or theories.

Not only does your opting for extended ad hominem attacks make your overall position look weak, but you don't even support the central allegation of your post, namely that these hypotheses were formed without prior observation of the natural world.

"believe a great deal of effort to prove macroevolution and study same is terribly wasted. Great talent is misused. Science could be spending more time on, say, trying to figure out how to use the lizard's ability to reform a tail to help humans re-grow limbs and organs. More time trying to find a genetic solution to ending cancer. The possibilities are limited by the imagination.

However, armies of scientific minds spend time trying to find evidences of evolution in the macro sense. "


I very much doubt that there are "armies" out there expending effort solely to find further confirmation for the theory of evolution - a few "creation scientists" expending effort on refuting it, perhaps, but biologists are simply expanding the borders of knowledge, and it's not really their fault that that routinely confirms the theory of evolution, is it?

"Funny thing, that the beaks of finches would supposedly inspire Charles to "tune-up" his grandfather's ideas and promote macroevolutionary thought. Yet the idea that the beaks of finches represent macroevolution has since been falsified! Ironic. You don't think so?"

Hardly, since microevolution and macroevolution are both part and parcel of the theory of evolution.

"Obviously, since macroevolution is supposed to be about long-term, directional change (even the creation/Flood model requires more directional change than the Grants documented) such ‘wobbling back and forth’ (fluctuation around a mean) over short time-spans, with no net change over longer time periods, is hardly supportive of the case for evolution. Yet instead of acknowledging this, the researcher goes on to say, ‘So I guess that’s evolution in action.’"

You're just in love with that fallacy of composition, aren't you?

A Hermit said...

All compliments reciprocrated, Creeper; well done.

radar said...

Dan S - eloquent, as always even without use of the preview. I don't wish to change the subject yet, however. There are two more parts to the Darwin puzzle remaining, at which time all will be addressed.

"Where did you get the idea that it was necessary for something to be evidence of evolution?"

We don't need no stinkin' badges? We don't need no stinkin' evidence? We just KNOW?

"...since microevolution and macroevolution are both part and parcel of the theory of evolution."

Nope, wrong answer. Microevolution is simply variation within kind. Macroevolution is an unproven suppostition involving changes from one kind of organism to another.

radar said...

"Besides the fact that we live in a world where yesterday's bio-related inconceivably impossibility is today's grad seminar's topic - and tomorrow's Discovery channel's special and next week's high school biology textbook mention - the amusing bit here is that you would substitute for this supposedly hard-to-swallow concept the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful Being that created the universe, and furthermore that the religious writings of a few small, fairly insignificant Middle Eastern tribes, carried over into an initially despised and persecuted offshoot religion that arguably exists today in its present form, rather than as a rare, localized, even obscure curiosity, in part due to its adoption as a state religion by a formerly pagan emperor, contains a simplified but fundamentally accurate scientific account of these events."

Funny how that whole scenario about going into the textbook moves along without compelling evidence, isn't it?

Somebody has been drinking "Dan Brown Koolaid." Christianity was in no way dependent on Constantine, just as it was able to withstand Nero. One or two rulers in the first few centuries agreed to some extent with Christianity, more ignored it and many tried without success to wipe it out. Government never propped up Christianity, but sometimes pseudo-Christianity propped up governments. During the Inquisition days, it was normally a matter of pseudo-Christians killing real ones in order to maintain political power. But along came Martin Luther at the head of a wave of Reformation to change that. No, Christianity has thrived despite government rather than because of it....and you know that I believe the existence of a Creator and the creation account in Genesis are far more plausible than the "I don't know how life started and I don't have any proof of macroevolution happening now but I believe it because we are here" macroevolutionist position.

creeper said...

"Nope, wrong answer. Microevolution is simply variation within kind. Macroevolution is an unproven suppostition involving changes from one kind of organism to another."

Wrong answer, eh? You want to claim that natural selection at the sub-species level is not part of the theory of evolution? Elaborate.

I appreciate that even YECs have capitulated on this point, but the fact remains that both microevolution and macroevolution constitute parts of the theory of evolution. Label them "suppostition" all you want.

What is a "kind", and how does today's variety of life fit into such a scheme of classification?

Your weak response to the question how certain fossils predictably appear in certain strata highlights what an embarrassing aspect of YEC this is - and why you have to resort to ad hominem attacks on Darwin and his family.

creeper said...

"I believe the existence of a Creator and the creation account in Genesis are far more plausible than the "I don't know how life started and I don't have any proof of macroevolution happening now but I believe it because we are here" macroevolutionist position."

Lovely strawman, Radar. Well, not really - surely you can do better.

Again, the word 'proof' in this context should be more properly replaced by 'confirmation'.

Confirmation of macroevolution happening? The fossil record, for one.

radar said...

Exposing Darwin for being a idealogue more than a scientist is the beginning of the understanding of macroevolution. You call it ad hominem all you want, the point is the science, or truly the lack thereof.

Funny how Linnaeus and Mendel somehow creaked along with an understanding of microevolution before Darwin published anything. Only we used to call it "variation within kind" and the principles of this variation have been used throughout recorded history to attempt to get fatter cows or dogs that will herd or hunt. Creeper, in this case you really don't know what the heck you are talking about, seriously.

If the fossil record is a confirmation of macroevolution, then a letter in the mail is confirmation that you have won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

Strawman? Where did life come from, Creeper?

creeper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
creeper said...

"Exposing Darwin for being a idealogue more than a scientist is the beginning of the understanding of macroevolution."

No, it is an attempt to distract from the science.

"You call it ad hominem all you want,"

I'll call it that as long as you're doing it.

"the point is the science, or truly the lack the evidence at hand."

Fine, then talk about where you think the evidence at hand contradicts the theory of evolution. See if you can do it without a deliberate misrepresentation or a strawman.

If the point is the science and the supposed lack of evidence, then why waste your breath on such a sideshow as Darwin's personal life?

"Funny how Linnaeus and Mendel somehow creaked along with an understanding of microevolution before Darwin published anything."

Mendel had something figured out that later turned out to be complementary to Darwin's theories. But neither of them had an understanding of Darwin's contribution of, say, natural selection.

"Only we used to call it "variation within kind" and the principles of this variation have been used throughout recorded history to attempt to get fatter cows or dogs that will herd or hunt."

Microevolution doesn't really explain the fossil record, and neither does the YEC/Noah's Ark scenario.

"Creeper, in this case you really don't know what the heck you are talking about, seriously."

That microevolution and macroevolution are not both part of the theory of evolution? Do go on.

"If the fossil record is a confirmation of macroevolution, then a letter in the mail is confirmation that you have won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes."

Only if you're still confused about the difference between the existence of macroevolution and the mechanisms behind macroevolution.

"Strawman? Where did life come from, Creeper?"

From non-life. We don't know how. It's a compelling question to which scientists are actively trying to find an answer.

Creationists also think that life came from non-life, and also don't know how. You can say "God did it", but you still don't know how it worked. The difference is that scientists will continue to explore the subject, leading to scientific advances, while "creation scientists" will continue to waste time trying to justify a literal reading of the Bible with misrepresentations of science.

Can you explain, in your own words, why evolutionary biologists consider it strongly confirmed that macroevolution did occur?

Jake said...

No radar. That "it" in the sentence of mine that you quoted refered to something specific: Net change. Where did you get the idea that net change was necessary for something to be evidence of evolution?

Speaking of deliberate misrepresentation...

cranky old fart said...

"Where did life come from, Creeper?"

May I call for a definition here?

What is "life"?

xiangtao said...

Also, still waiting for a solid definition of a kind as Creeper requested. You at one point (during your flood articles) stated that a kind was roughly equivalent to today's classification of a "family". I had pointed out that by this, it was then unnecessary for the ark to have contained chimpanzees as they could have evolved within their own kind from Noah's family. You never responded to this comment. Is this what you believe happened or are we in for another redefinition of terms?

radar said...

Jake, until you recant your lies about me I will consider you too unethical to be worth my time. You are the only commmenter on this blog who has disappointed me by being deceitful and unethical. Disagree with me? Great. Even say things that get me ticked off, or be ticked off by something I say? It happens. Lying about me and taking the lies to other sites? Shameful.

creeper said...

Radar,

just out of curiosity, what lie do you think Jake told?

Jake said...

Oh look at that, still no answer. What a surprise!

creeper said...

It would seem to me that accusing someone of a smear without being able to define the smear is a smear unto itself. The easier thing would have been for Radar to simply retract the statement.