Tuesday, January 15, 2008

More on Natural Selection

It is rare that an anonymous commenter will write something worth responding to, but one such anonymous comment did occur here. Unfortunately, the other anonymous commenters went the usual path of obstruction. I will therefore first post the entire relevant comment so you don’t have to suffer, and then refute it.

Anonymous said:

Natural selection is really not such a hard concept to "get". I am no scientist, and yet I can see why a pack of wolves charging a herd of caribous will preferably go after the weaker individuals, hence reducing their chances to pass on their genes to the next generations. It’s a logical behavior motivated by the harsh requirements of their subsistence. (No need to invoke a mysterious force behind it.) Changing environmental conditions, including competition with other predators and preys (who themselves keep evolving) will keep changing the parameters of the equation, and lead to fortune reversals. For example, under certain conditions, it may be advantageous for a given species to become larger. Should the environment change (e.g., isolation of a population from the mainland), the opposite may become true. The fact that natural selection favors one evolution trend under certain conditions, and another (perhaps opposite one) under other conditions, hardly makes it irrelevant.

To go back to the moth example, maybe it’s true that natural selection will lead to the extinction of the slow white ones, given the evolutionary pressure they are facing (see the dodo for a real life example). But let’s not forget that it’s also natural selection that caused them to be slow and white in the first place. They are now at a disadvantage simply because something has changed in their environment. Being fast and dark is temporarily the winning combination of attributes, until something else changes yet again.

As for the relative stability of species, I would venture that fitness to a particular environment is always a matter of optimization under (many) constraints, and the capacity to adapt is one of critical components of success. Many species have become too "perfect" for their own good, and ended up extinct.

First off, I would agree that Natural Selection is not a hard concept to “get” but that is precisely because, as my original argument stated, Natural Selection is trivial. In fact, Darwinists play on their loose defining of this term to their advantage (and we see many examples of this in Anonymous’s post). But let us survey some of the popularist Darwinists. First, let us consult the glossary that Mark Ridley has in his textbook, Evolution to give us the starting framework (note, in all quotes that follow, the italics is in the original):

natural selection The process by which the forms of organisms in a population that are best adapted to the environment increase in frequency relative to less well adapted forms over a number of generations (Ridley, 2004 p. 686).
This leads us to look at the definition of “population” which is:

population A group of organisms, usually a group of sexual organisms that interbreed and share a gene pool (Ripley 2004, p. 687).
Compare this to the definition for fitness:

fitness The average number of offspring produced by individuals with a certain genotype, relative to the number produced by individuals with other genotypes. When genotypes differ in fitness because of their effects on survival, fitness can be measured as the ratio of a genotype’s frequency among the adults divided by its frequency among individuals at birth (Ripley 2004, p. 684).
Now these definitions are fairly dry, but they serve an important purpose. First, they are about as precise as you will ever see a Darwinist define the terms. But how precise is that? Look at the definition for Natural Selection once more. There is nothing in that definition that is inconsistent with Creationism. All Natural Selection is, according to Ripley, is when one population (which is a shared gene pool) increases in number (frequency) because it is the most adapted to the environment while maladapted organisms decrease.

And this is a problem for Creationism because…?

This definition will hardly do for the Darwinist to stake his claims. Let us therefore look at what Ernst Mayr wrote:

Almost all of those who opposed natural selection failed to realize that it is a two-step process. Not realizing this, some opponents have called selection a process of chance and accident, while others have called it deterministic. The truth is that natural selection is both.

At the first step, consisting of all the processes leading to the production of a new zygote (including meiosis, gamete formation, and fertilization), new variation is produced. Chance rules supreme at this step, except that the nature of the changes at a given gene locus is strongly constrained.

At the second step, that of selection (elimination), the "goodness" of the new individual is constantly tested, from the larval (or embryonic) stage until adulthood and its period of reproduction. Those individuals who are most efficient in coping with the challenges of the environment and in competing with other members of their population and with those of other species will have the best chance to survive until the age of reproduction and to reproduce successfully (Mayr 2001, p. 119).
First I must note that if it is true that “[a]lmost all of those who opposed natural selection failed to realize that it is a two-step process” it is equally true that Ripley failed to realize this. In reality, Mayr is synthesizing two aspects of Darwinism together and fusing it all under the term Natural Selection, which is improper. Only the last paragraph of what Mayr wrote actually deals with Natural Selection. That is, selection is a winnowing process; the “first step” Mayr proposes is actually a separate entity, namely chance mutation.

But what is most interesting about this quote is the fact that Mayr seeks to demonstrate that Natural Selection is “deterministic.” And this deterministic pressure is on every stage of the organism, from larva (or fetal) up through reproduction. However, just 22 pages later, Mayr writes:

Much of the differential survival and reproduction in a population are not the result of selection, but rather of chance. Chance operates at every level in the process of reproduction, beginning with the crossing-over of parental chromosomes during meiosis to the survival of the newly formed zygotes. Furthermore, potentially favorable gene combinations are undoubtedly often eliminated by indiscriminate environmental forces such as floods, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions before natural selection has had the opportunity to favor specific genotypes (Mayr 2001, p. 141).
So which is it? Is it deterministic, or is it chance? Darwinists are hardly clear on this issue, so it’s no wonder their followers cannot speak cogently on it. One thing is certain: Natural Selection cannot be teleological!

Another widespread erroneous view of natural selection must also be refuted: Selection is not teleological (goal-directed). Indeed, how could an elimination process be teleological? Selection does not have a long-term goal. It is a process repeated anew in every generation (Mayr 2001, p. 121).
(Note that this quote on page 121 demonstrates that Mayr is fully aware that Natural Selection is only “an elimination process” and not his two-step process he claimed on page 119.)

So, while Mayr seeks to synthesize two aspects together under the term Natural Selection when it suits him, he is quick to keep them separate when it does not suit him to combine the ideas.

With this in mind, let us return once again to Anonymous’s comments. He said:

I am no scientist, and yet I can see why a pack of wolves charging a herd of caribous will preferably go after the weaker individuals, hence reducing their chances to pass on their genes to the next generations.
I assume that anonymous meant the reduction in chances to pass on genes to the next generation occurs for the “weaker” caribou and not the wolves that pursue them…

In any case, the language of this sentence requires us to ask an immediate question. What does this term “weaker” mean?

It is actually wrong for Darwinists to use the term “stronger” or “weaker” in describing organisms during the process of evolution. In evolution, we are only interested in one thing: the fitness of an organism. The fitness of an organism has nothing to do with ideas of strength (reread the definition provided above) but is only about reproductive success. Indeed, if it did refer to strength and weakness then Darwinism would be teleological after all. It would have a progression. Yet Gould points out:

Darwin waged such a long-standing internal battle over the idea of progress. He found himself in an unresolvable bind. He recognized that his basic theory of evolutionary mechanism--natural selection--makes no statement about progress. Natural selection only explains how organisms alter through time in adaptive response to changes in local environments--"descent with modification," in Darwin's words. Darwin identified this denial of general progress in favor of local adjustment as the most radical feature of his theory. To the American paleontologist (and former inhabitant of my office) Alpheus Hyatt, Darwin wrote on December 4, 1872: "After long reflection, I cannot avoid the conviction that no innate tendency to progressive development exists." (Gould, 1989 p. 257)
Therefore, it is quite improper for the Darwinist to use terms like “weaker” to refer to those who die out, for that term implies progress, which Darwinism cannot do. However, Darwinists constantly slip into this error.

So we see that what is really going on is that predators must go after those animals that are less fit. But how do we know which animals are less fit?

Well, fitness is defined as those animals that survive to produce offspring. So the only way to tell if an animal is less fit is if it dies before it produces offspring.

Of course, we could use a different term. We could say that those that die are “less adapted” to their environment. And how do we determine which organism is most adapted?

Adaptation is a completely a posteriori phenomenon for a Darwinian, that is, it is based on the inductive assessment of facts. In every generation, all individuals that survive the process of elimination are de facto "adapted" and so are their properties that enabled them to survive. Elimination does not have the "purpose" or the "teleological goal" of producing adaptation; rather, adaptation is a by-product of the process of elimination (Mayr 2001, p. 150).
This, however, leads to an immediate problem, one that Gould recognized even if Mayr didn’t:

Arguments that propose adaptive superiority as the basis for survival risk the classic error of circular reasoning. Survival is the phenomenon to be explained, not the proof, ipso facto, that those who survived were "better adapted" than those who died. This issue has been kicking around the courtyards of Darwinian theory for more than a century. It even has a name--the "tautology argument" (Gould, 1989 p. 236)
Note that Gould was a Darwinist and yet he made the same claims that I have made. If survival is the proof of adaptation, then we are left with a tautology. Gould then informs us of how we can avoid this problem:

In fact, the supposed problem has an easy resolution, one that Darwin himself recognized and presented. Fitness--in this context, superior adaptation--cannot be defined after the fact by survival, but must be predictable before the challenge by an analysis of form, physiology, or behavior. (Gould, 1989 p. 236).
Note first that we have to redefine the term “fitness” to no longer mean “The average number of offspring produced by individuals with a certain genotype, relative to the number produced by individuals with other genotypes.” No, now we define it as “superior adaptation” which is a rather convenient way to resolve a problem—define it away! But note even if we grant this, Natural Selection must therefore become “predictable.” That is, we must be able to predict beforehand “by an analysis of form, physiology, or behavior” which organisms would survive.

I must ask: how does what Gould write differ from what I wrote in my original post?

In any case, Gould immediately admits:

But if we face the Burgess fauna honestly, we must admit that we have no evidence whatsoever--not a shred--that losers in the great decimation were systematically inferior in adaptive design to those who survived. Anyone can invent a plausible story after the fact. For example, Anomalocaris, though the largest of Cambrian predators, did not come up a winner. So I could argue that its unique nutcracker jaw, incapable of closing entirely, and probably working by constriction rather than tearing apart of prey, really wasn't as adaptive as a more conventional jaw made of two pieces clamping together. Perhaps. But I must honestly face the counterfactual situation. Suppose that Anomalocaris had lived and flourished. Would I not then have been tempted to say, without any additional evidence, that Anomalocaris had survived because its unique jaw worked so well? If so, then I have no reason to identify Anomalocaris as destined for failure. I only know that this creature died--and so, eventually, do we all. (Gould, 1989 p. 236-237).
So even granting everything in the redefinition, the Darwinist is not helped out at all.

Once more we see that Darwinists play shell games with the term “Natural Selection.” It means one thing in one context, but it evolves to mean something else when they need it to mean something else. There is no precision in the term Natural Selection (because a precise term neuters it—a precise definition of Natural Selection is agreeable to the Creationist, after all!).

Now that we have seen this, the rest of Anonymous’s comment falls in short order. But to be complete, let us go through it now:

For example, under certain conditions, it may be advantageous for a given species to become larger.
This is a tacit admission that we are concerned with fitness, not whether an organism is “stronger” or “weaker.” After all, what is advantageous in one environment is not in another. Yet if this is the case, then Natural Selection must remain a tautology: those organisms that survive are those that survive. There is nothing of substance to Natural Selection after this admission by our anonymous commenter.

The fact that natural selection favors one evolution trend under certain conditions, and another (perhaps opposite one) under other conditions, hardly makes it irrelevant.
The use of the term “favors” in the above is smuggling teleology in through the back door. There is no consciousness in Natural Selection. It cannot favor anything. Instead, we only have “certain animals survive in certain environments, and we call this Natural Selection.” Very illuminating…

To go back to the moth example, maybe it’s true that natural selection will lead to the extinction of the slow white ones, given the evolutionary pressure they are facing (see the dodo for a real life example). But let’s not forget that it’s also natural selection that caused them to be slow and white in the first place.
Again, only objects that exist can “cause” anything. Natural Selection is not an object. It does not have any existence. It doesn’t cause anything. Saying Natural Selection “caused them to be slow…” is to once again attempt to smuggle teleology in through the backdoor. Everyone knows that teleology is there, but to admit it is to deny Darwinism. That is why we have to smuggle this stolen concept in.

As for the relative stability of species, I would venture that fitness to a particular environment is always a matter of optimization under (many) constraints, and the capacity to adapt is one of critical components of success. Many species have become too "perfect" for their own good, and ended up extinct.
Except the reason I brought up the stability of species was to demonstrate that even granting Darwinist views of Natural Selection as an actual entity that works in nature, it doesn’t mean Darwinism is true. Darwinism has far greater hurdles to mount, and Darwinists use the trivial portions of their theory as the capital for assuming the rest.

Indeed, allow me to propose an analogy of how Darwinism works. Suppose that Chuck Darwin, Charles’s great-great-great-great-great grandson, read a book by Tommy Malthus entitled “An Essay on the Principal of Physical Motion.” In Tommy’s essay, he provides overwhelming evidence that Newton’s Laws of Motion are correct, specifically noting that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Tommy proposes that this means when you step on the accelerator of your car, the tires of your car are actually pushing the Earth backwards.

Chuck examines his vehicle and sees that it is so. Then he realizes something else and makes a connection no one else has done yet. The Earth is rotating, see. But why is it rotating?

Well, if every force has an equal and opposite reaction, then it is most certainly possible that if you had enough cars accelerating over enough time in the same direction, a stationary Earth would eventually begin to spin.

Chuck pens a book entitled: “On The Origin of Earth’s Rotation by Means of Vehicular Acceleration.” In this book, he proposes that over the last several billion years, there have been cars that always go in the same direction which provide just enough kick to get the Earth moving at the rate it is currently spinning.

Naturally, there are skeptics. Chuck is not dissuaded. “Park a car on gravel and accelerate. You will see the gravel spray out behind the vehicle.” And indeed it is so. Of course, we cannot test the entire Earth for this…but that is a simple extrapolation from the available test. Soon, Chuck’s theory is accepted by every scientist. After all, if all the elements were just right, the theory would actually accomplish what it says. And we have scientific proof in the form of watching cars accelerate right now that is consistent with Chuck’s theory. And to top it all off, the theory is based on Newton’s laws which only the Einsteinian fundamentalists have any problems with!

And so in the space of just a few generations, Chuckians use “evidence” that is trivial to prove a theory that is absurd. So goes the course of science…

33 comments:

  1. BTW, one other thing I noticed as I just re-read this is the following. As I mentioned in the body of the post, Gould redefines fitness to mean “superior adaptation” so he can pretend Natural Selection is predictive. Yet how do we know if an adaptation is "superior"?

    Only if the organism survives. This redefinition actually only moves everything back one step, brushes some dirt over the path, and pretends to say something new.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous,

    Your "goddidit" comments add nothing to the discussion. I will continue to delete them from this post. Provide an argument if you wish to interact. Otherwise, go away.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for posting the Gould and Mayr comments. Just goes to show how real scientists criticially examine their own reasoning and presuppositions

    ReplyDelete
  4. Its interesting how postmodern Christian apologetics continues to get. The bottom line these days seems to be that "we have an absurd set of presuppositions, materialists have an absurd set of presupposisions, so you might as well believe ours. If we cannot persuade outsiders, at least we can prevent people that share our presuppositions from losing them"

    ReplyDelete
  5. I believe that most anonymous posters are incapable of reading.

    In any case, how in the world do you get a postmodern apologetic out of anything I have written, anonymous?

    ReplyDelete
  6. So Mr Pike,

    I agree...Natural Selection = bunk.

    Please explain how things REALLY work in the world around us.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous,

    First, no one buys your act. You're the same "goddidit" freak as before.

    Second, I don't have to answer what really happened in order to know Darwinism is false. That's like telling the accused that he's de facto guilty until he can prove who really did it. It's an absurd standard.

    Darwinism is not the default that is beyond reproach. It has a burden of proof to meet, and it hasn't done so. I don't have to put forth ANY counter theory to demonstrate Darwinism doesn't prove what it asserts.

    I'm not going to play your game. Either you can defend Darwinism or you can admit it's wrong.

    BTW, I've never said Natural Selection is bunk. I said it's trivial. It doesn't prove Darwinism because when you actually define Natural Selection you see it's true even in Creationism.

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  8. So Mr Pike,

    I am agreeing with you, Natural Selection is trivial...so very!

    You have no counter-theory or ideas about how we can to be? I am so shocked that a man of your considerable intellect and word-smith abilities doesn't have something to add to the discussion, but only is there to take little jabs at the moronic ideas like Natural Selection.

    I so wish I could hear your TRUE explanations for origins, and this all came to be.

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  9. chuck_d, you're a 100 pur-cent FEWL!!!!

    God did done mek the world, and that's all der is to it!

    How's dem apples?

    ReplyDelete
  10. So I take it no one actually has a defense for Darwinism.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I gots a defens for Creation-ism.

    Its in the book baby!!!!

    God said it. That does it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. "BTW, I've never said Natural Selection is bunk. I said it's trivial. It doesn't prove Darwinism because when you actually define Natural Selection you see it's true even in Creationism."

    Natural selection in itself does not in and of itself cause evolution. Evolutionary biology does not claim this. However, when you add the factors of genetic mutations (such as you see whenever a person gets cancer, although that is almost always detrimental to species survival) and the long expanses of biological time that natural selection is allowed to work under, you get evolution by natural selection. Its quite a simple concept. Evolution-denying creationists are to Christianity what FARMS is to Mormonism.

    ps. Don't delete my post, buddy. It reflects poorly on your camp's ability to handle criticism.

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  13. I've done quite a bit of reading at www.icr.org, specifically in the research section and there is much there to debunk your evolutionary, old-earth theory. Creation science research continues to debunk your theory and bolster the Truth of God's Word. Simple, yet hard to believe for most.

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  14. CuriousSaint said...
    "Creation science"
    Excuse me WHAT???

    CuriousSaint said...
    Creation science research continues to debunk your theory and bolster the Truth of God's Word.
    Are you talking about Allah, El Elyown, YHWH, Ahura Mazda, Brahma or other creation research science?
    You better start lobbying to get rid of all those nasty biologist and researcher who incorrectly believe that evolutionary principles work and who false use our money to develop life saving drugs. Surely you are not using modern evil medicines.

    BTW, Can you given an example how your "Creation science research" has benefited mankind?

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  15. Peter (not Pike),

    Haha, how have Darwinist ideas benefited mankind?
    Medical advances!!!
    I fail to see how such is relevant to evolution. Perhaps you could offer an argument along those lines if you believe it.
    Social Darwinism!!!
    Couldn't've said it better myself. Oh wait, I *did* say it myself...

    And debunking false ideas about origins, things that lead people at least indirectly to atheism, is a great boon to mankind.

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  16. lyosha07 said:
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    Natural selection in itself does not in and of itself cause evolution.
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    No kidding.

    You said:
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    Evolutionary biology does not claim this.
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    But Evolutionary biologists do.

    You said:
    ---
    However, when you add the factors of genetic mutations (such as you see whenever a person gets cancer, although that is almost always detrimental to species survival) and the long expanses of biological time that natural selection is allowed to work under, you get evolution by natural selection.
    ---

    And when you let cars accelerate in the same direction for long expanses of time you get rotation too...

    BTW: what is "biological time"? Are you just making up terms now?

    Finally, cancer doesn't relate to evolution at all. As Mayr said:

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    "Evolution is change in the properties of populations of organisms over time." In other words, the population is the so-called unit of evolution. Genes, individuals, and species also play a role, but it is the change in populations that characterizes organic evolution. (Mayr, What Evolution Is, p. 8, emphasis added).

    An understandingof the nature of populations is of the utmost importance for an understanding of evolution, because all evolution, and particularly selection, takes place in biopopulations (ibid, p. 117).
    ---

    Cancer cell mutations occur in individuals, not in populations. Therefore, attempting to link cancer to the way that evolution occurs is fallacious.

    You said:
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    ps. Don't delete my post, buddy. It reflects poorly on your camp's ability to handle criticism.
    ---

    Simply repeating claims that have been disputed as if they haven't been challenged isn't "criticism."

    ReplyDelete
  17. BTW, the only posts I've deleted are the ones that consist of "HAW HAW HAW" and "goddidit."

    If you're so concerned about getting that point across, atheist wannabes, go start your own blog.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'll go for now, Pike.

    Your ignorance is clear.

    Typical neocon republican drone.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Come back when you have an argument, anonymous. Until then, we will all bask dumbfounded in the flow of your "logic."

    ReplyDelete
  20. An analogy can be drawn to this analysis of natural selection and economics. First, some of what you are objecting to from Gould and Mayr is simple anthromorphization. A less exact, simplified form of writing is to be expected in works written for the general public – which of course was who the books you quoted were written for. Drawing sweeping conclusions from individual word choices may work in theology, but applying this against popular science books is kind of pointless. In reality when a biologist refers to natural selection doing this or that it is no different from an economist saying the market is directly making actions or causing people to behave in certain ways. The term market being an abstraction for the behavior of an enormously complex system. There is no “market” as an entity or force only the collective actions of millions of people. Similarly, there is no force of Natural Selection aside from the collective sum of the results of billions of organisms competing to survive. Likewise factors that influence markets are well known. However it is impossible from economic analysis, outside of trivial cases, to either predict prices or explain past price behavior outside of similar tautologies (i.e. prices went up therefore demand increased). One can make reasonable guesses why, say, the price of oil is higher than it was 5 years ago but you cannot translate that into why it is $95 dollars a barrel as opposed to $40 or $140. Nor can you really parse out the importance of one factor over another. Similarly with natural selection one can make a reasonable guess that if a warm climate suddenly got very cold then certain cold-blooded animals would likely not survive but to Gould’s point about the Cambrian extinction, there is no data to really judge one way or another.

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  21. Thank you for your candor, Steve (not Hays) ;-)

    So on the one hand we have Darwinists telling us that Natural Selection is simple to understand; but when push comes to shove, what really happens is a great deal more complicated. In fact, it's completely unpredictable except in trivial cases (which was sort of my point all along).

    Further, we are told: "Drawing sweeping conclusions from individual word choices may work in theology, but applying this against popular science books is kind of pointless."

    So anything done in the name of science is okay? We can distort the truth because the "public" just won't get it anyway? Is that how it goes?

    I totally disagree. And I also note that I hold theologians to stricter standards than you do too.

    Sloppy thinking is sloppy thinking regardless of who says it. And when Gould, Mayr, etc. are used as the authorities of their view, then what does it say when they write so sloppily?

    But you also forget I quoted Ripley's textbook. Was the textbook Ripley wrote a "popularist" book? And how can you square Mayr and Gould with Ripley's clinical definitions and still retain meaning? I'm waiting.

    By the way, you mention economics as a parallel to Natural Selection. Yet surely you are aware of the vast conflicting views of economic theory, yes? From capitalism to socialism to communism, people have different theories about which works best.

    Would you say that economic theory is just as proven as Einstein's General Relativity? How would various economists feel about that?

    If you think Darwinism is a science like economics is a science then surely you can see this is nowhere near as firm a science as physics, and because of that the dogmatic assertions made by Darwiniacs are little different than the claims of Stalin, Marx, or Adams.

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  22. Like economics, evolution is the best we got. Certainly scientists (like theologans) like to believe their models can actually determine the truth, but in reality there are limits and everyone should be much more ready to say simply "I don't know". Evolution does work better than any other alternative and does make falsifiable predictions (for example that geographically isolated areas should have unique species or that a bacteria should develop antibiotic resistance). On the other hand creationism / ID explains nothing and provides no insights into nature. The worst one could say about evolution is that it is analogous to Ptolemaic astronomy - it fit the data - but the data was crappy. The problem with reconstructing the natural history of the Earth is that you only have say, 0.0001% of the data, which makes only very general conclusions robust

    The fact that economics (which is not science) cannot do a perfect job explaining something like the Depression, does not then mean that "Goddunnit" is an acceptable alternative hypothesis. There is a reasonable case for evolution just starting from the premise that every living creature had a parent bolstered by the observation that life on Earth is far older than any single plant or animal species currently inhabiting it. That God would somehow continuously be stepping into the world to spontaneously generate new species seems ridiculous in the face of Evolution's much more simple (and elegant) explanation. Its a cliche and I know it will not fly here, but it is a greater act of creation to make a self-sustaining and self-organizing system than to simply mold some creatures out of clay. In terms of physics, most would agree that the universe sustains itself without the need for constant supernatural tweaking - it is not so much of a leap to see that life can do so as well.

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  23. Steve said:
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    Like economics, evolution is the best we got.
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    That's begging the question. Unless you know reality (which goes against everything else you've written) it is impossible for you to know if your theories on evolution are "better" than any other theory.

    Steve said:
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    Evolution does work better than any other alternative and does make falsifiable predictions (for example that geographically isolated areas should have unique species or that a bacteria should develop antibiotic resistance).
    ---

    Except that A) no one can scientifically define what a species is in the first place and B) antibiotic resistance is only evolution in yet another trivial sense.

    Regarding A) I think David Raup said it best: "A species is a species if a competent taxonomist says it is. Although a bit cynical, this is the operational definition most widely used in biology and paleontology" (from Extinction: Bad Luck or Bad Genes, p. 14). Ripley gives no less than six definitions of what might constitute a species.

    Regarding B) no new species are created (regardless of the definition of species you come up with). For instance, if E. Coli develops resistance to penicillin, it still remains E. Coli. If HIV mutates to thwart the B-cells of the immune system, it still remains HIV. In none of these cases do we have any evolution that would not fit into a Creationist worldview just as easily as a Darwinian worldview.

    Steve said:
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    On the other hand creationism / ID explains nothing and provides no insights into nature.
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    Even if this were true it wouldn't mean Darwinism explains anything or provides insights into nature. My post has already demonstrated how Darwinism explains nothing because it relies on a trivial truth that is true for both Darwinism and non-Darwinian theories (which means it doesn't establish Darwinism), and I've shown Darwinism cannot predict anything. The only insights that are found are trivial insights that do not necessitate a Darwinian worldview in order to be true.

    Steve said:
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    The worst one could say about evolution is that it is analogous to Ptolemaic astronomy - it fit the data - but the data was crappy.
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    Except Darwinism doesn't fit the data at all. If Darwinism were true, we'd expect to see much more evidence of it in the fossil record, using bacterial experiments, etc. The fact of the matter is, E. Coli is a rapidly reproducing organism that easily mutates. In fact, E. Coli causes itself to mutate. Yet no one has ever observed E. Coli evolve into another species of bacteria.

    The inherent stability of organisms is why Mayr was forced to conclude that all species are already basically optimized for their environments and that any mutations must lead away from the optimal phenotype. Thus, Natural Selection works not to create new species but to keep species in the status quo. As a result, the very mechanism that Darwinists promote as the means of creating new species is used to explain why "squirrel-like" Diatomyidaes look like they have for the last 11 million years. In other words, evolution is propelled by Natural Selection, but the status quo is maintained by...Natural Selection.

    These types of explanations do not answer the data, Steve.

    Steve said:
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    The problem with reconstructing the natural history of the Earth is that you only have say, 0.0001% of the data, which makes only very general conclusions robust
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    And this thereby means Darwinism can never be scientific. Since you brought up economics, you are hopefully aware of mathematical statistics. As a result, you ought to be able to understand that when you look at a small sample and compare it to a larger sample there will be several characters that the small sample has in common at a higher rate than the larger sample. This makes it impossible to determine whether any specific character trait shared by the smaller sample is a causal character or simply an accidental trait that is shared in common. I wrote about this problem here.

    Since it is impossible to determine which traits are correlation and which are accident, one will never be able to determine why any specific organism lives and why one dies. As a result, you will never be able to test whether or not Natural Selection occurs, even if we pretend it's not tautologist in the first place.

    Once again, I refer you to my analogy in this blog post. Darwinism takes something that is trivially true and extrapolates a wild claim from it. You yourself have admitted that we do not have that much information about the world. Darwinist runs off on a wild tangent, yet it is regarded as "science." Unfortunately, people are wising up to the fact that Darwinism isn't delivering on its promises.

    Steve said:
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    The fact that economics (which is not science) cannot do a perfect job explaining something like the Depression, does not then mean that "Goddunnit" is an acceptable alternative hypothesis.
    ---

    "Acceptable" for what? Is science supposed to be primarily interested in the truth or not? If the truth is not scientific, then is it acceptable to reject science?

    If you think there are no truths that are unscientific, you can start by asking if it's a scientific fact that there are no truths that are unscientific. I think you'll see the problem.

    Furthermore, the only people I've ever seen stipulate "Goddunit" have been atheists who do not wish to actually defend their position. They seem to think that Darwinism is defended if you mock Christianity, all the while forgetting that even if Christianity is false that wouldn't make Darwinism true.

    Steve said:
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    There is a reasonable case for evolution just starting from the premise that every living creature had a parent bolstered by the observation that life on Earth is far older than any single plant or animal species currently inhabiting it.
    ---

    Once again this is merely assuming what needs to be proved. You can start by actually defining what a species is, for example. Secondly, Darwinism requires that one be able to show how one species evolved from a previous species, so not only must you define what a species is you must show how the current species are actually descendents from the previous species. Simply saying, "Older species existed" does not mean that new species evolved from them anymore than the fact that Abraham Lincoln preceded me in history means I'm one of his descendants.

    Steve said:
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    That God would somehow continuously be stepping into the world to spontaneously generate new species seems ridiculous in the face of Evolution's much more simple (and elegant) explanation.
    ---

    Why should I care about what "seems ridiculous" to you? Are you the standard of truth? Secondly, there are many simple, elegant explanations that are destroyed by ugly facts. Third, Darwinism's so-called explanations are in dispute--you can't appeal to them as evidence here because that's simply begging the question yet again.

    Steve said:
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    Its a cliche and I know it will not fly here, but it is a greater act of creation to make a self-sustaining and self-organizing system than to simply mold some creatures out of clay.
    ---

    How could you possibly know this? Are you God?

    Steve said:
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    In terms of physics, most would agree that the universe sustains itself without the need for constant supernatural tweaking - it is not so much of a leap to see that life can do so as well.
    ---

    An appeal to popularity is not an argument. And I doubt that "most" people agree with that in the first place. Most people in the world are theists of some stripe, after all. I'm quite certain most people do not believe the universe would have any laws for a microsecond if God were not supernaturally making matter behave in a lawful manner. But you don't see me presenting that as if it's an argument, do you?

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  24. Mike Mahimahi1/18/2008 10:24 AM

    Pike?! You appear to be "Floundering"!!! Pathetic. Why don't you just pack it in?

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  25. What a brilliant defense of Darwinism! I stand in awe! Ad hominem is such a wonderful persuasion technique! Why don't they ever teach that brilliant way to win arguments in Logic classes?!?!

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  26. bultmann and robin1/19/2008 10:34 AM

    It's hard to kick against the goads... admit it, Pike, deep down you know evolution is true. Bultmann is right, it's impossible for us to really believe silly religious fairy tales in this day and age. "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to believe." -Bob Price

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  27. Like survival of the fittest is so hard to understand. The issue isn't whether or not Christianity can employ some of Darwin's concepts; the issue is that a choice has to be made concerning the fossil record. Does it match the biblical one, or the evolutionary one? So if there is a God out there, it seems he doesn't keep good records.

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  28. Hi Mason,

    You said:
    ---
    Like survival of the fittest is so hard to understand.
    ---

    What is it with you atheists thinking that the problem is a misunderstanding of Natural Selection? Demonstrate where I've misunderstood it.

    You can't. I've quoted your "authorities" on it already. On the other hand, none of you have bothered to try to define it. Thus far, only one person here has shown the ability to interact with what the top Darwinists have been saying, and that person is me.

    Mason said:
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    The issue isn't whether or not Christianity can employ some of Darwin's concepts; the issue is that a choice has to be made concerning the fossil record.
    ---

    The fossil record has nothing to do with Natural Selection. It is impossible for the fossil record to tell us anything about why any organism lived or died (in a "survival of the fittest" sense), since selection takes place in populations and fossils are, presumably, individuals scattered over millions of years. Try studying Darwinism sometime.

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  29. It's easy to understand that an organism lives because it is fit to utilize the resources in its environment that enable its survival. All others are at a disadvantage, and will probably be eliminated.

    Contrary to what you claim, the fossil record has quite a bit to do with natural selection. It tells us about the interaction of the environment with the physical and mental abilities that led to the survival of some organisms and the elimination of others.

    It's worth noting that the transition species, Tiktaalik roseae, was discovered because researchers pinpointed the specific time period at which the fish should have come about. Behold, they were right! And after only a few months, total, of looking in the rock formed in the expected time period, they found exactly what they expected to find. In addition, no organisms outside the expected evolutionary order were found in the same rock. There's a reason that evolution theory is able to predict and the bible can't.

    Why not throw in the towel and become a evolutionist theist? There's room enough for you, too.

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  30. Mason said:
    ---
    It's easy to understand that an organism lives because it is fit to utilize the resources in its environment that enable its survival. All others are at a disadvantage, and will probably be eliminated.
    ---

    This remains trivial. You've yet to interact with that. Simply repeating yourself isn't an answer.

    Mason said:
    ---
    Contrary to what you claim, the fossil record has quite a bit to do with natural selection. It tells us about the interaction of the environment with the physical and mental abilities that led to the survival of some organisms and the elimination of others.
    ---

    No it doesn't. All it tells us is that an organism died. We don't even know how that organism died. (Even in the famous fossils of two dinosaurs fighting, for instance, we do not know how they died because both got fossilized.)

    Fossils do not tell us anything about the environment other than showing us a few of the countless organisms that were alive during that time.

    Think about how quickly environments on Earth change. For a simple example, I live in Colorado Springs which is currently covered in trees. If you saw pictures of Colorado Springs from just 100 years ago, you'd see very few trees anywhere. Yet now we have thousands of trees all over the place.

    Now suppose that tomorrow afternoon Colorado Springs is burned up in a forest fire. Suppose that the residents decide not to rebuild the town and so no one replants these trees. In 65 million years, will there be any evidence that Colorado Springs had trees for 100 years during that time?

    The fossil record is not detailed enough to provide us with anything but the bare-bones sketch of what the environment might have looked like. And that is not enough for the fossil record to demonstrate any theories of Natural Selection.

    Again, the parts of Natural Selection that can actually be tested are trivial--they are true in Creationism as well as Darwinism. You stipulate that these changes could, if given enough time, create the diversity of life we see around us (just as I stipulate that, given enough cars moving in the same direction, the Earth's rotation is explained); but the fossil record does not contain enough for you to validate that claim. We cannot tell why any individual organisms died, let alone why entire populations when extinct.

    Mason said:
    ---
    It's worth noting that the transition species, Tiktaalik roseae, was discovered because researchers pinpointed the specific time period at which the fish should have come about.
    ---

    Except "transition species" is a myth. Go ahead and put Tiktaalik roseae in an unchallenged cladogram, Mason.

    Mason said:
    ---
    There's a reason that evolution theory is able to predict and the bible can't.
    ---

    I do have to point out the irony here. Even if we assume Mason's concept to be valid, a prediction is, come to think of it, a PREdiction. That is, it deals with something that will occur. And yet you're pointing to things in the past as if they are predictions.

    It is this kind of abuse of language that Darwinists are forced to resort to.

    Mason, a valid prediction would be to say, "In x number of years, organism y will become extinct because of factor z." THAT is a prediction. It is not predicting anything for me to say, "Someone between 1800 and 1900 was named John Smith and was six feet tall and walked with a limp." That's a historical statement, even if neither of us has demonstrated that that person actually did exist yet. If I discover this person five years from now, it will not have made my statement into a prediction either. And even if I change it to: "I predict that I will find John Smith in the future" that prediction is about my searching abilities and not about any theory I am attempting to support by saying John Smith existed.

    Mason said:
    ---
    Why not throw in the towel and become a evolutionist theist? There's room enough for you, too.
    ---

    You mean because of your great and wonderful assertions that it must be so?

    I've challenged Darwinism on many points and you think simply repeating dogma is a counter-argument. I'd be a fool if I changed my mind due to that.

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  31. Peter, you're quite entertaining.
    The constant eqivocation is itself worth visiting this site to witness.

    Using the bible, we can't PREdict where or in what type of rock formation we will find types of life. In fact all types of evidence of life found in all types of rock are totally explainable via evolution. If, as demonstrated above, I want to find a fish that has legs, I can PREdict what type of rock I will find it in according to that age in which the rock was formed. Bingo! And, in addition to that, I won't find any unexpected species? Why is that? Why can't we find a single mammal in the same strata? Not even ONE?

    In addition, evolution is a powerful theory in the study of biology, just as theories exist to explain phenomena in astronomy. Their predictive ability is validated by their accuracy in explaining the natural order (what we ACTUALLY have found and WILL find). You can complain about that all you like, but until you have a more accurate alternative, it's quite a powerful tool.

    And regarding your claim that there are no transitional species, you can claim that all you like. However, we can't find the later species you claim co-existed with the earlier species in the same rock.

    I think it's time to become a theistic evolutionist, Peter. You won't be alone, and you'll feel so much better having shed the cognitive dissonance. You already have accepted that the earth revolves around the sun, right?

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  32. Mason said:
    ---
    Using the bible, we can't PREdict where or in what type of rock formation we will find types of life.
    ---

    Who said you could?

    BTW: that doesn't mean you can do it using Darwinism either.

    Mason said:
    ---
    If, as demonstrated above, I want to find a fish that has legs, I can PREdict what type of rock I will find it in according to that age in which the rock was formed.
    ---

    Show me.

    Mason said:
    ---
    In addition, evolution is a powerful theory in the study of biology, just as theories exist to explain phenomena in astronomy. Their predictive ability is validated by their accuracy in explaining the natural order (what we ACTUALLY have found and WILL find). You can complain about that all you like, but until you have a more accurate alternative, it's quite a powerful tool.
    ---

    This is an assertion in lieu of an argument. By the way, you've yet to address any of my arguments. You just make assertions. It gets tiring.

    Mason said:
    ---
    However, we can't find the later species you claim co-existed with the earlier species in the same rock.
    ---

    When have I made that claim?

    Mason said:
    ---
    I think it's time to become a theistic evolutionist, Peter. You won't be alone, and you'll feel so much better having shed the cognitive dissonance. You already have accepted that the earth revolves around the sun, right?
    ---

    A) When the evidence for Darwinism actually proves Darwinism I'll accept it. It doesn't. Therefore, I don't.

    B) Physics and astronomy are vastly different from Darwinian theory. I've documented and demonstrated this. You're comparing apples and oranges.

    C) There's plenty of room in the ID camp. Why don't you join?

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