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  Topic: AFDave Wants You to Prove Evolution to Him< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 20
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: April 18 2006,06:20   

To answer corkscrew ... I agree with (1) and (2) except that I have never heard of a random mutation that could be considered beneficial.

The classic example here is the "nylon bug" bacterium, in which a single frame shift mutation has apparently transformed a well-documented gene for digesting sugar into an equally well-documented gene for digesting nylon. The interesting thing here is that the modified gene couldn't have existed before nylon was invented, as it completely destroys the bacterium's sugar-eating capability (which would, of course, be instantly fatal in the absence of nylon).

As for (3), I'm not aware of A SINGLE fossil that can be considered transitional ... my understanding of mesonychids and whales can be found here  To me the evidence of zillions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth fits the idea of a global flood quite much better than the alternatives.

Disclaimer: I have no interest whatsoever in attacking your religious beliefs. However, the scientific claims of flood geology that are made on the basis of those religious beliefs are, to the best of my understanding, complete mince. The idea is apparently that a massive worldwide flood somehow managed to sort zillions of fossils into exactly the order that would be predicted on the basis of potassium-40 and uranium-235 dating, and no other characteristic. For some unspecified reason, this corresponded very well with the arrangement that would be predicted by species, genus, etc - members of the same species, regardless of age, sex, size or any other factor, always end up in strata that return approximately the same apparent ages when dated.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no physical process that can achieve this. Of course, if you think God was directly involved then that's not a problem - but if you can't make testable hypotheses about how exactly God was involved then your conjectures can't be considered scientific.

Back to the whale evolution. The transition described here looks like:
- Sinonyx
- Pakicetus
- Ambulocetus
- Rodhocetus
- Basilosaurus (note especially that it had land-animal-like feet)
- Dorudon

The only gap there that's significantly bigger than that between a Great Dane and a Chihuahua is the one between Rodhocetus and Basilosaurus. I'm no palaeontologist, but apparently other similarities (such as inner-ear structure) are sufficient to demonstrate a close relationship.

Obviously I can't really reply to the entire Answers in Genesis article here (although if you have any specific questions I'll go away and do the research), but I'd particularly like to critique one comment they make:

Basilosaurus did have small hind limbs (certainly too small for walking), and Teaching Evolution says ‘they were thought to be non-functional.’ But they were probably used for grasping during copulation, according to even other evolutionists.

The claim here appears to be that the fact that Basilosaurus's legs had some purpose means that they can't be pointed to as being vestigial. This is bonkers. Of all the myriad different forms that such graspers could have taken (pincers, tentacles, hooks, suckers, etc.), Basilosaurus just happened to pick a variant that was massively similar in both appearance and structure to limbs used for a completely different purpose by other animals?

I don't quite follow (4)

I said:
4) We can even make and confirm non-trivial predictions based on the premise that life is limited to naturalistic evolutionary processes (e.g. the resemblance between one human chromosome and two chimp chromosomes, haemocyanin in stoneflies, Tiktaalik). In other words, it's extremely useful.

The hypothesis that species originate only through naturalistic evolutionary processes (rather than divine intervention) can be used to make predictions that can then be tested. Specific examples of these are:

1) It was noted that humans have 23 chromosomes per haploid whereas all our nearest relations have 24. We know from investigation that it's practically impossible to just lose a chromosome's worth of genetic material - that kills the organism quite fast. Thus it was hypothesised that one of the human chromosomes must have resulted from the fusion of two ancestral chromosomes. To test this prediction, a comparison was done of chimpanzee chromosomes and human chromosomes. One human chromosome turned out to be effectively identical to two chimp chromosomes (or, at least, to what they'd look like if they'd fused together)

2) Haemocyanin is used by the majority of non-winged arthropods to transport oxygen around their bodies. Winged arthropods use a different system involving tiny capillaries. Since, on other grounds, stoneflies were considered to be "primitive" in comparison to other winged arthropods, it was proposed that they might have vestigial features - such as haemocyanin. This was checked and found to be correct. IIRC, stoneflies are the only winged arthropods known to possess haemocyanin.

3) The recent discovery of Tiktaalik was a classic example of evolutionary predictivity. Based on their hypotheses about the evolutionary path from fish to amphibians, scientists were able to figure out exactly where they should look (in terms of location and strata) if they wanted to find a transitional fossil. They found a transitional fossil. To quote from Nature:
Tiktaalik retains primitive tetrapodomorph features such as dorsal scale cover, paired fins with lepidotrichia, a generalized lower jaw, and separated entopterygoids in the palate, but also possesses a number of derived features of the skull, pectoral girdle and fin, and ribs that are shared with stem tetrapods such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega.
(Quote taken from here)

In short, even if a chorus of angels appeared tomorrow and announced that God had indeed created the world in six days and that evolution had nothing to do with it, scientists would probably still keep using the evolutionary premise because it's so darn useful. In science, predictivity is king, and evolution has a heck of a lot of it.

I would agree with (5) that the evidence for a Designer is not scientific in the sense that you can demonstrate it in the lab.  The reasons I believe there is one are more like the reasons I believe George Washington existed.

That's fair enough. But, if you don't believe that there's necessarily scientific evidence for a Designer, why support ID? Just to clarify: ID does not just say "there's a Designer"; it says "there's a Designer, and His presence is scientifically detectable". The problem with that is that the vast majority of actual scientists in the relevant fields feel that the ID mob are, uh, not talking via the usual orifice.

Believe whatever you like. Claiming that your beliefs are scientific when they're not, though, is profoundly dishonest, and that's precisely what the DI and co. are doing.

I would also agree that ID is useless by itself because it stops short of identifying a designer.  I am a creationist which means I believe I can identify the designer as the God of the Bible.  This is incredibly useful if you believe as I do that this God wants a relationship with the humans he created and will someday make a new world.  Of course, to arrive at all these conclusions requires much evidence from several disciplines ... science only goes so far.  But contrary to the mudslingers, there is excellent evidence available ... I would never just say something non-sensical like "You just have to have faith".  Many organized religions have done a disservice to lots of people by making statements like this.

I'm sorry, I didn't go into sufficient detail on what I meant by "useful". When referring to science, this term means "can be used to generate testable predictions". Your belief that the God of the Bible created the world is indeed useful to you, but not in this specific scientific sense. It is not scientifically useful. It makes no testable predictions that have subsequently been confirmed, and as such it can't be evaluated using the scientific method of hypothesis testing and peer review- it's not scientifically tractable.

The reason this is an issue is that this scientific method is specifically tailored so as to home in on highly accurate solutions to scientifically-tractable questions. It homed in on evolutionary biology over 100 years ago, and has since been homing in on increasingly detailed evolutionary descriptions of species' origins. Whether you feel the scientific method is applicable in a given situation is a philosophical question rather than a strictly scientific one, but the fact that science has indeed converged on one solution strongly suggests that this is a scientifically tractable problem - if it weren't, you'd expect the scientific community to be all over the place on this issue, which it manifestly is not.

A basic outline of my line of reasoning is this (keep in mind I have an Electrical Engineering degree, so I think like an engineer) ...

You might be interested to know that evolutionary processes also function very well as electrical engineers. In particular, genetic algorithms have recently been harnessed to produce highly-efficient chips. This science is still in its infancy, but appears very promising. See this guy's website for more details (I recommend starting with the paper at the bottom of the list).

Evolutionary processes also operate very well at optimising the structure of things like wings and engines, and can be surprisingly good at writing computer programs. Here is a great example - for more, I recommend browsing outwards from the wikipedia page

2)  I know from my engineering experience that sophisticated, non-biological machines that actually work require enormous amounts of intelligence (not to mention effort) to get them designed well enough to where they will work and continue working for a long time.  I have no reason to believe that biological machines would be otherwise--they are made of the same stuff--it all comes from the same periodic table.

As I mentioned, it's entirely possible to evolve solutions to quite complex problems - no intelligence required. The reason why this doesn't occur with non-biological machines is that non-biological machines don't reproduce in any meaningful sense, and hence evolutionary effects can't kick in.

3)  Knowing this, it makes sense to me that there COULD be a designer somewhere--space alien, God, supercomputer in some galaxy--apparently Francis Crick went for the Space Alien/Panspermia idea, so I guess I'm not totally crazy with this idea.

You may be pleased to hear that that's not something that science can in any way disprove - one would not expect a sufficiently secretive God to be scientifically detectable. There's even an entire theological position about origins known as theistic evolution that proposes that God used evolution to His own ends. It may interest you to know that C. S. Lewis was (broadly speaking) a theistic evolutionist.

4)  Next, I look at the fossil record with the zillions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and I conclude that there must have been a massive, global flood which buried all those fossils.

To the best of my knowledge, no geologist has ever come to that conclusion without already having decided that the Bible is literally true. I'm no geologist, but the inference I'd draw from this is that the evidence does not in fact support this viewpoint. I already mentioned one problem (the sorting of fossils); I can look up more if you're interested.

I hope the above verbiage has been vaguely informative for you :)

  517 replies since April 17 2006,14:08 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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