Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sugar-coated Darwinism

Let me say at the outset that I appreciate the good faith effort which a couple of Darwinian commenters are making to rise to the challenge and lay out the evidence.

“FREDK SAID:
follow this bouncing ball. reposting this response does nothing to further your "cause". Your premise remains nothing more than a dose of sugar to help you swallow your creation story.”

It didn’t take FREDK long to run out of arguments. He shot his wad in the first volley.

Moving along:

ANONYMOUS SAID:

“So Steve, going by your quote, we have little more than a box of identifiable hominid ancestors from between 5-10 million years ago. What of the last 5 million years?”

Fair question. A couple of points:

i) Since evolution is descent with modification, a Darwinian needs to document the earlier stages as well as the later stages to establish that one fossil species is, indeed, a lineal descendent of an earlier fossil species.

ii) Yes, indeed—what about the last 5 millions years?

How many hominian fossils are we talking about? Where did they come from? How were they dated? What was their state of preservation?

Why were they classified as hominian? How are the fossils from one time and place aligned with fossils from another time and place to establish lineal descent?

“Seems from the links and tree you were provided there are a ton of hominid fossils in that time frame, and from my understanding most of the changes leading to what we consider modern humans from our primate ancestor happened relatively recently (last few million years).”

Two problems:

i) The tree I was given is not given in the fossil record. Rather, the tree I was given is 1 part fossil to 99 parts interpolation.

So, is this direct evidence for an evolutionary tree? Or is evolutionary theory picking out a few discrete data-points, then rearranging them into an evolutionary tree according to evolutionary projections?

We have a few fossilized pearls, but the string is supplied by evolution.

ii) To address my original question, we would also need direct evidence that at the time early man was losing his natural defense mechanisms, he had acquired enough brainpower to compensate by the invention of weaponry to repel natural predators and hunt natural prey.

Does the fossil record actually show us such a transition?

“Since our difference in strength is something I've thought a bit about before, I'm sure you could explore it if you wished. First, for some clue on what to look for you'd probably want to explore the structure of muscle on these species,” &c.

How is this relevant to my examples? An unarmed man is essentially defenseless against a leopard, or lion, or pack of cape hunting dogs.

I’m using examples of African predators since Africa supplies the evolutionary point of reference.

Now, one can make allowance for the fact that modern-day predators are not identical with predators concomitant with early man (assuming the evolutionary narrative). But the earlier predators are just as formidable, just as deadly.

Likewise, modern man is not identical with early man (assuming the evolutionary narrative).

But as soon as our evolutionary ancestors leave the safety of the trees, they are easy pickings for the major predators of that time and place.

And they don’t have the natural defense mechanisms of mandrills, baboons, or gorillas.

So, in order for them to survive, you would have to document two stages of development:

i) By the time they came down from the trees, they had the brainpower to invent weapons.

ii) And, in fact, they did invent weapons by the time they came down from the trees.

Do we have fossil evidence for this crucial phase?

Or does the Darwinian simply reason in reverse: given that evolution is a fact, then if our early ancestors survived, they must have had whatever adaptations were requisite for survival.

But why should I buy into that backwards reasoning? It assumes what it needs to prove.

“You could probably also find a way to estimate the interval of these changes and accumulation and map it with say, cranial size changes to see if there is a correlation.”

You would only have evidence of encephalization if you had prior evidence of lineal descent. Absent evidence of lineal descent, you have no evidence that the same species underwent encephalization.

Do you have a non-circular argument for your inference?

Moving along:

“Steve, I must admit that I'm quite puzzled at what you would accept as ‘show us viable intermediates in the fossil records’? You realize that this data, as I pointed out, is based on all hominin fossils? Real, actual fossils?”

Yes, we have genuine fossils. But why do you classify them as hominian fossils?

You could only classify them as hominian fossils if you could establish lineal descent.

But to line up a number of fossils, scattered in time and place, to form an evolutionary sequence, smuggles the conclusion into the evidence.

“You realize that this data, as I pointed out, is based on all hominin fossils? Real, actual fossils? And that their morphology can be correlated by physical anthropological methods, just like anything else in forensic science? You know anything about physical anthropology?”

i) So you’re claiming that comparative anatomy can establish common descent?

I thought that, according to convergent evolution, unrelated taxa (e.g. placentals v. marsupials) may be morphologically alike?

ii) Moreover, how are homologies evidence of common descent?

Why would they not be evidence of common design?

Since there are only a handful of efficient body-plans, we would expect many variations on a few basic designs.

So how do homologies single out common descent over against common design?

“They can literally take a single good bone and tell you a whole lot about the individual it came from -- age of death, evidence of disease, approximate size...”

No doubt they can. But I’d also like to know what bone they’re using for their extrapolations.

“This is how many missing persons are eventually ID'd -- via a few bone fragments that lead back to age, size, approx date of death, etc.”

Sure, but in that case, we already know that the skeletal remains belong to a member of our own species.

And where they don’t, that’s easy to establish as well.

“Learn something about the methods before you criticize them.”

If you think that comparative morphology is sufficient to establish lineal descent, then I don’t believe that I’m the one who needs to bone up (pardon the pun) on the finer points of evolutionary methodology.

“If you are actually interested in studying this out, rather than just debunking evolution (snort chuckle), you can always track down the primary literature cited in those TO articles I linked. They would contain images and modern fossils are always reconstructed very precisely using CAT technology.”

The problem is not with the fossils, but the way in which the Darwinian fills the gaps.

Where does the evidence end and the theorizing begin? What is the proportion of hard evidence to hypothetical interpolations or extrapolations?

Is the evidence shaping the theory, or is the theory shaping the evidence? That’s the question?

“In other words, let's say we have pieces of bones. Put these bones into a CAT scanner. Then, use a simple computer graphics program to generate a mirror immage symmetry of what you see. Then, attach the virtual fossil to the real fossil…Is that ‘not allowed’?”

Allowed for what? To reconstruct a complete skeleton from fragmentary remains?

But that’s not the issue. The issue is correlating fragments from one site with fragments with another to infer an evolutionary series.

One what basis to you intercalate these disparate remains? If you already had a continuous series of fossils, then, perhaps, you could drop these isolated and fragmentary remains into their appropriate slots, but you are attempting do to the opposite: work these remains into a continuous series to form a continuous series in the first place.

How can you sequence the fossils unless you already have the sequence to supply your frame of reference? So which comes first—the fossils or the framework?

Do you have a non-circular argument for your inference?

16 comments:

  1. You want answers, start here

    There's a nice list at NCSE.

    In the meanwhile, stick do your dayjob -- theologizing.

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  2. Anonymous is a secular fideist. The request was for something non-circular.

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  3. he doesn't want answers, anon. As my father used to say "don't confuse him with the facts, his mind is already made up".

    You say I ran out of arguments. This is far from true. However, You are not a biologist and neither am I. We may as well be discussing cellular biology and the theological implications of DNA. For me to argue back and forth with you lends credibility to your patently biased arguments that exist soley to prop up your theology. We all know you reject science because it goes against your magical book. Why don't we just leave it there? That is easy to accept. You psuedo-intellectualizing about it just makes you look silly.

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  4. anon:

    “This is how many missing persons are eventually ID'd -- via a few bone fragments that lead back to age, size, approx date of death, etc.”

    This is possible since we have collected significant amounts of information on the effects of age, time of death, etc. (from known samples it's critical to point out) to refer to when making these identifications. Forensics has taken (in Rumsfeldian terms) known knowns, collected the stats, then compared unknown knowns to it. Anonymous has turned a functioning methodology on its head and still expect it to work.

    fredk:

    For me to argue back and forth with you lends credibility to your patently biased arguments that exist soley to prop up your theology.

    As a doubter of Darwinian Evolution I would say the same about you.

    We all know you reject science because it goes against your magical book.

    As if we needed any further proof of your ideological bias or intellectual rigidity. As Steve said, it seems you've run out of bullets and have resorted to throwing sticks and stones. If this is the best you can do then, yes, by all means let's leave it there.

    Just so you know, fredk, many (if not most) people who believe God created all things believe that the Genesis creation story is poetry, not history. Therefore our "magic book" gives us almost no useful scientific information about how the diversity of life actually came to be. We of the magic book could easily accept any reasonable process and not have it cause us any consternation. We accept that God is First Cause, beyond that we look to science. If Darwin made sense and if the scientific evidence (across all disciplines) supported it I'd have no theological reason to disbelieve it. BUT IT DOESN'T. Even scientists who despise creation theory think so.

    Start here.
    And here.

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  5. Doesn't this guy believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that Noah brought dinosaurs on the Ark?

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  6. Anonymous said:
    Doesn't this guy believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that Noah brought dinosaurs on the Ark?

    *********************************

    Notice how Anon is trying to change the subject from the actual topic of this thread to YEC. But the topic of this thread is irrelevant to the YEC debate.

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  7. Steve,

    YEC is totally relevant here. If one is theologically committed to a YEC position, I can't think of a stronger bias against a fair reading of the arcahaeological evidence than that.

    That is, you have a fundamental, core theological interest in rejecting any archaeological evidence for man's ancient roots and developmental path. It's the "mother of all vested interests" in this inquiry. Such interests are totally fine to entertain, but they should be acknowledged as a matter of discclosure:

    NOTE: As a YEC I'm committed to a core theological position which cannot accept evidence of ancient tools or weapons.

    Etc. Assuming you are committed to A YEC theology.


    -Touchstone

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  8. Touchstone said...
    Steve,

    YEC is totally relevant here. If one is theologically committed to a YEC position, I can't think of a stronger bias against a fair reading of the arcahaeological evidence than that.

    That is, you have a fundamental, core theological interest in rejecting any archaeological evidence for man's ancient roots and developmental path. It's the "mother of all vested interests" in this inquiry. Such interests are totally fine to entertain, but they should be acknowledged as a matter of discclosure:

    NOTE: As a YEC I'm committed to a core theological position which cannot accept evidence of ancient tools or weapons.

    Etc. Assuming you are committed to A YEC theology.


    -Touchstone

    **************

    As far as full disclosure is concerned, I've often blogged on the YEC debate, so it's not as if I have a hidden agenda.

    But that is still irrelevant to the present thread. All you've done is to attempt to shift the ground to an ad hominem attack on my motives.

    There are several problems with that line of attack:

    1. You're assuming, w/o benefit of argument, that someone begins as a doctrinaire YEC, and then rejects any archeological evidence to the contrary--as if no one could start with the evidence and reason to YEC.

    It's naive for you to suggest that one's bias always comes first. It's possible to form a bias on the basis of evidence. It's always possible for the evidence to override one's bias. That has been known to happen, yes?

    2. It is possible to oppose evolution on a variety of grounds—scientific, philosophical, ethical, theological.

    Let's not oversimplify.

    I agree that one can have a theological precommitment to some form of special creation (e.g. YEC). Nothing wrong with that.

    This doesn't prevent one from having other reasons as well, which enjoy an independent degree of intellectual merit.

    3. Whatever your position, you have an incentive to look for flaws in the opposition position and a disincentive for find flaws in your own.

    This is true whether you're into YEC, OEC, theistic evolution, or naturalistic evolution.

    So your objection cuts both ways.

    4. If my alleged bias has blinded me to a fair-reading of the evidence, then it should be easy for you or someone else to point that out.

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  9. Steve,

    I'm OK with the attendant theologies that accompany YEC, OEC or TE, so long as they represent a serious view of scripture -- they do at least nominal justice to the witness from God's creation. So no, I don't think I'm on the same epistemic plane as a YEC, for example. YEC is a position that is manifestly dismissive of the available evidence, and can only be arrived at through theological grounds.

    That's not the case for OEC or TE. I'm aware of many "old earth" agnostics and atheists who argue with evolutionary theory. TEs, of course largely agree with the conventional science. I'm not aware of *anyone* who arrives at 6,000 years for the age of the earth other than for theological/scriptural interpretional reasons.

    If you are saying that YEC gets thrown out the window as soon as we start discussing archaeological evidence -- all of it dating way, way beyond the time constraints of YEC, I'd be amazed, but gratified to hear it.

    If one is convinced the earth is flat, it hardly makes sense to argue about the tides, right? How would you engage someone on the physics of tidal motion that was committed to a belief in a flat earth?

    Not saying you ascribe to a flat earth, but I am suggesting you ascribe to an epistemic which forbids even *consideration* of the evidence at hand as evidence, forget the interpretation of it.
    -Touchstone

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  10. "If my alleged bias has blinded me to a fair-reading of the evidence, then it should be easy for you or someone else to point that out."
    _________________________________

    When it is pointed out, you ignore it and/or throw stones at it. What scientific evidence would be acceptable for you to drop your YEC views, Steve? can you be honest enough to say that this evidence does not exist, can not exist?

    your bias is totally relevant to any conversation you have concerning any science that contradicts your religious beliefs if you from a theological basis reject anything that contradicts your interpretation of the bible. Any in-depth conversation with you is impossible because it just becomes an assertion war with you poo-pooing any and all science that goes against what you already believe.


    It is disengenuous for you to claim you reject 'darwinism' on scientific grounds when you are committed to rejecting this evidence if it contradicts your holy book.

    This is why you aren't being engaged in this conversation in any meaningfull way. It is a fruitless exercise that is repeated ad-nausem by amateur theologians and amateur scientists thruout the web, never bearing fruit. So Steve, believe away...we leave you to your YECism.

    r10b, nice thesis. However, you miss the point entirely. I couldn't care less whether the earth is 6000 years old or 6 trillion. this is not a problem for my worldview, and if it was I would adjust my worldview accordingly... so I remain open to the evidence. So far the evidence points away from YECistic claims, at least as I interpret it and as the vast majority of the worlds scientists interpret it. This blogger, Steve, is committed to a theological stance that must discredit all science that goes against his beliefs. You want to claim my bias is a problem? LOL at pot/kettle/black.

    By all means, yes...lets leave it here. I don't wish to insult anyone's beliefs nor do I wish to play intellectually dishonest games.

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  11. Steve,

    Here's a link (10 years old!) from Archaeology.org called "World's Oldest Spears":

    http://www.archaeology.org/9705/newsbriefs/spears.html

    Here's a quote:

    Radiocarbon dating has confirmed that three wooden spears found in a coal mine in Schöningen, near Hannover, Germany, are the oldest complete hunting weapons ever found. Some 380,000 to 400,000 years old, the six- to 7.5-foot javelins were found in soil whose acids had been neutralized by a high concentration of chalk near the coal pit. They suggest that early man was able to hunt, and was not just a scavenger. The development of such weapons may have been crucial to the settling of Stone Age northern Europe, whose cold climate and short daylight hours limited hunting.

    The spears show design and construction skills previously attributed only to modern humans. "They are really high tech," says Hartmut Thieme of the Institut f&uumlr Denkmalpflege in Hannover, who discovered them while excavating in advance of a rotary shovel digger used in the mine. "They are made of very tough Picea [spruce] trunk and are similarly carved." Their frontal center of gravity suggests they were used as javelins, says Thieme.


    So, that's 400,000 years ago, hominins using crafted spears. Now, if that's the case, what does that do for (proto-)man's capabilities? I'd say that a spear more than compensates for a pair of fangs, no?

    And, I'm wondering what more we need than this. There's plenty of other evidences to look at, but if we understand that hominins were crafting spears a half million years ago, don't we have more than we need to dismiss the idea that early man was defenseless?

    We can look at (proto-)man's social and collaborative organization, and the combat advantages of the brain itself, prior to even looking at available weapons. But, really, is anything more needed? If you say yes, I suggest this is one of those easy points to point out your YEC bias!

    -Touchstone

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  12. If my alleged bias has blinded me to a fair-reading of the evidence, then it should be easy for you or someone else to point that out.

    I'm still at a loss to figure out if you have ever had a reading at all, much the less a fair one, of the evidence.

    You were, after all, quick to quote mine in the first response. A surfeit of ignorance and deception is all you'll find digging there.

    Want to be a scientist for a day? Pick a fossil, Steve. Pick a real one. They have labels and numbers and dig sites and museums...

    *THEN* tell me what in the #@($@*@ you think it is, and why, and try not to get into whether it was made on day 6 or 7.

    The fossils that scientists call transitionals between humans and apes are real. What do you make of those? Just some quasi-ape, quasi-humans that God cooked up for fun, like the dinosaurs? On the same day?

    Funny how "flood geology" will come in at this point -- cause you'll have to explain why these fossils are *always* found in late strata.

    When you do go into flood geology, I have one simple request. One simple question. One question that in all my years of debating creationists not one has ever answered. I have written every "expert" at every creationist organization. I have written them all, and yet have gotten no response...

    -Which strata correspond to pre-flood, syn-flood, and post-flood history?

    A simple question, is it not? Once we identify this, we can start to dialogue about the significance of the stratigraphy, when things last lived on earth, that sort of thing.

    So I'll be waiting for you to pick a bone and pick it apart. And I'll be waiting on you to find a scientist who will actually finally tell us dumb "OE" geology people which strata were there before Noah's waters, which represent the time of the waters, and which show us history since that point.

    Don't worry, I won't hold my breath.

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  13. Anonymous is a secular fideist. The request was for something non-circular.

    Care to elaborate?

    Something unlike, "The Bible is true, because it's God's Word. We know it's God's Word because it says so." That would be circular, right?

    So what do you have in mind? Quoting YEC "creation scientists"?

    Right, because supporting a biblical idea with people committed to supporting it is not circular at all.

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  14. Hey Touchstone, Every Good christian knows those spears were used by Noah to round up the dinasaurs.

    Carbon dating......

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

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  15. Touchstone,

    I'd like to get your comments on this recent lecture from Fuz Rana. About halfway through he begins to talk about the view Reasons to Believe takes regarding the animals, before humans were created.

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  16. Hi Jeff,

    Listening, thanks. I'm not totally up to speed with Fuz, but I'm very familiar with Hugh Ross. Ross is someone I don't agree with on a lot of things, but a Godly, brilliant man all the same. Someone I admire very much.

    I've got two pending requests for a "Hugh Ross on Adam" critique, so just the little I've listened to suggests it's time to do a post on that.

    Check back on my blog for a post on it in the next couple days. Don't want to derail this thread but maybe I'll hazard a couple bullets here later.

    Best,

    -Touchstone

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