Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Steve Dutch Is Mad

Steve Dutch, professor of natural and applied sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, has written a column for the Green Bay Press Gazette in which he scolds Christian organizations for deception when attacking evolution:
The lies told by opponents of evolution are practically endless.

There are no intermediate fossil forms between major groups? A lie.

Methods for dating rocks are unreliable and give contradictory results? A lie.

Many scientists are beginning to doubt evolution? A lie.

These are not mere differences of opinion; they are deliberate misrepresentations or outright denials of published facts.

I have read more anti-evolution literature than just about anyone in this area, and I have done something most other readers have not — check it against real science. I can tell you flatly it is all junk.

Duane Gish? Ken Ham? Answers in Genesis? Discovery Institute? Philip Johnson? Michael Behe? Junk, all of it, with not a shred of scientific value.
I am often reminded of Ken Ham's smug response to scientists that confront him with data. He simply responds that we both have the same data, we just interpret it differently. The catch is that he does so without any scientific testing, rendering his conclusions scientifically invalid.

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  1. Increasingly, I'm coming to the view that a guy like Dutch is right to blow his top. After 20 years of participating in this debate and hearing the same old oft-rebutted falsehoods from smug creationists, there are times when I am ready to blow my top.

  2. The 27th Comrade3:38 AM

    Prof. Steve Dutch is very justified in being mad - everybody is justified in being mad at most creationists. But I think that he doesn't seem to understand something. I'd forgive all who don't, because it is not obvious, when you have an education like the one of the modern day, in biology.

    There being intermediate fossil forms between the major groups doesn't imply evolution. That line is drawn on authority, dogma, and evolutionary apologetics. It looks like "evolution of the gaps" most of the time. Nobody even ever wonders why extinction should be marshalled in defence of evolution, when the theory only makes use of it to cover up for a failed prediction that there would be many intermediate forms running around. In the theory, extinction plays no role other than to explain why we don't see the intermediates, and this is since Sir Charles Darwin's own book.
    (No, extinction isn't "for" creating niches, unless the mammals-after-dinosaurs line is taken to be the norm.)

    Dating rocks may be very accurate, but the age of a rock doesn't say anything about how the fossil there came to exist. It also, incidentally, says little, in many cases, about when that species existed, when that species first existed, and especially when it last existed. As such, the assumption that a fossilised bone, for example, belonged to a species that is now extinct is a severely-weak statement. Yet all of us here know how much reliance is placed on such things.

    On scientists doubting evolution, well, I hope most of them aren't doubting it. I'd rather they honestly believe it to be true and act and express accordingly, rather than that they doubt it but pretend otherwise. I'm hoping they are expressing the truth of their beliefs when they defend evolution and say they don't doubt it. In this lies my hope that, if they keep being truthful, when they come 'round to considering everything (rather than only what supports their viewpoint) and stop interpreting info as "Evolution is true; now let's see how this data falls in line with the theory", then whatever answer they arrive at, may they then still be truthful and say it and believe accordingly.

    For one, though I fail to be convinced by evolution, I hold out hope that I'll get answers. As such, I don't like hanging out with ID theorists much. Most of them aren't engaging evolution at all, and most are just insufferable obscurantist bigots. Unfortunately, I don't hang out with evolutionists for the same reasons. I even find evolutionists more detestable, most of the time.

    1. I'm not an expert in this field, just an interested science groupie. But it seems to be that the fossil remains of extinct animals might have much in common with the cultural remains anthropologists often have to deal with: we are sometimes finding/analyzing only a very very small percentage of the life that existed during any give epoch or age. Is it therefore surprising that there are gaps?

  3. Extinction actually is explained by evolutionary theory quite well. Some species, when faced with an environmental insult so dire, will simply not be able to adapt. We see that happening in the world today with the destruction of various habitats. Think about all of the changes that have occurred on the planet environmentally in the last 450 million years. Kansas was at the bottom of the ocean in the Cretaceous. It is only humans that have "raided the game" when it comes to adaptation.

    The thing about intermediate forms is not that it proves evolution—there is no such proof—but rather that evolutionary theory predicts that you would find them and you do. It is simply corroboration. The natural world being what it is, however, for every species that adapts to their new setting, there are several that don't.

    I am sorry that you find evolutionists detestable most of the time. There are certainly ones that try my patience. It reminds me of an observation that I made about an NBA player one time: "just because you can play basketball better than anybody else on the court, that doesn't make you a decent human being." Sadly, that fits people on both sides of the aisle.

  4. The 27th Comrade12:15 PM

    I must commend you for being an outstanding example of a very calm, reasoned, and confident evolutionist. I know for a fact that this is because, since you are a theistic evolutionist, you see no threat in the event that it should be shown that some entity guides the process and makes it leap over the hurdles (which are simply impossible to overcome otherwise, plain and simple - this is a law and a fact). So, if evolution should someday be shown to be improbable, you ascribe the help to your God. And that makes you less-resistant to giving a fair hearing to the other side. By comparison, the rest of us are defending a religion (humanism, atheism, and so on), because the absence of a tinkering God makes it excusable to ignore that whole side. The very same criticism holds for creationists for whom the only (or, at least, strongest) reason for believe in a God they want to believe in (rather than, say, the Gnostic god) is the majestic and shocking beauty of creation.
    That NBA player: I bet you money it was Dennis Rodman!

  5. The 27th Comrade12:21 PM

    The problem with the explanation that evolution provides for extinction is that it is not evolution's explanation. The explanation pre-dates evolution (that is, we knew of it before Darwin's island was even populated), and it fits any of the other explanations just as well. Therefore, it is not for evolution exclusively, and evolutionary theory can be understood just fine and hold just as well even in a world with over-abundant resources, where extinction doesn't happen.
    Yet evolution relies on huge rates of extinction, not because any of the axioms of the theory require it for evolution to proceed, but because it is necessary as an explanation for the lack of continuity among the living forms. (There is none between reptiles and birds, for example, and to trivialise the sheer size of the gap is to be dangerously ignorant of the fundamental differences between these two classes.)

    A bigger danger for evolution, here, is that evolution is a reductive theory - it weeds out, in order to come up with its final product. In and of itself, it has no explanation for where these forms that are getting extinct come from, but explains simply that they die out. You can't spend what you haven't earned. So, as it tapers down to the 1% of species that we have in this day, it should have been preceded by a method that generates the things that will go extinct due to losing the fight against the elements and the fitter things. This method must outpace the extinction rate. And herein lies a strong point in favour of the creationists (of all stripes, even those like yourself), rather than a strong point for the evolutionists. That is, if extinction happens, it needs some method (of which creation is a candidate) to generate what gets extincted. After all, if the mutations that generate the forms be random, they can feasibly outpace those equally random ones that cause the forms to lose the upper hand.
    Our epoch's experience with extinction shows that it is more like a cup of tea going cold - no replacement heat - rather than, say, an exchange of body heat. Are we wrong in treating the modern day as a fitting model of how those extinctions happened? (If yes, why? After all, times have never been better for life to flourish - well, at least they certainly weren't better in the Cambrian.)

    You say that evolution predicts intermediate forms. But I think creationism, of some kinds anyway, would predict them just as well. I feel that our problem is having said that "Any evidence we find is an explanation of evolution since the alternative is just ignorant mythology; now, what evidence have we found?" It's why vintage cars would serve an evolutionary automobilologist as support for car evolution theory, when they are dug out of the Earth in some millions of years, even though we know that they didn't evolve. (This may not be obvious to a people whose cars are so advanced as to be able to reproduce. Yes, I read science fiction. Don't ask.)
    And in fact evolution has a failed prediction here, which should be treated as such (if it weren't for the militant defence of the theory). Evolution says that if you look in enough garages and antique car shows, you should be able to find a Ford Model U. Failure to find it should be disproof of evolution. But instead of chalking up a disproof, this was accommodated by the punctuated equilibrium model. Nobody can even say which of gradualism and punctuated equilibrium is correct (save for Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, heh).

  6. Actually, I was thinking of Allan Iverson.

  7. 27th Comrade,
    What happened with extinction is that evolution provided an explanation where there was none. The problem was that the geological record was strewn with animals for which there were no modern analogues. Since the Bible spoke of "kinds," it was assumed that these had drowned in the deluge. Once it became clear that the geological column would not support a universal flood explanation, another mechanism had to be invoked to explain them. Cuvier thought up extinction (originally in the context of a global flood but less so later).

    Evolution does not rely on huge rates of extinction but, rather, seeks to explain them. You are correct in that there is a huge gap between birds and reptiles. But this was not always so. If people had been around when the frogamander was scurrying around, it is not likely we would have thought much about it. What we now infer is that it had the characteristics of both frogs and salamanders, and split into these forms a bit later. If you trace the bird fossil record back in time, you eventually get to...theropod dinosaurs, with all of the limb and feather transitions in between. Is it inference to say that evolution is responsible for these transitions? Yes, it is. But I, and the vast majority of biologists and palaeontologists, think that it is the best explanation we have right now.

    The example above of the frogamander also brings to light the idea that evolution is not reductive, as you say. If two populations of a species are divided geographically, the differences that accumulate in them will result in allopatric speciation. Where there was one, there are now two. The notion of common descent is reductionist in reverse. Yes, it is true that there were thousands of species of sauropods and theropods that went extinct (meteor impact, diet, climate change, jello, who knows) and litter the fossil record, but out their ashes came the wide diversity of mammals that now exist all over the globe. Speciation always outpaces extinction (except in our current world of habitat destruction).

    Intermediate forms: my understanding of creationism (YEC, that is) is that they split up diversity into "kinds" (That no two creationists can figure out what constitutes a kind is another matter) and that subsequent to the disembARKation, rapid diversity ensued.

    You could argue that evolution did not occur and that progressive creation is the model to assume, but then you would have to explain the shared genotypic and phenotypic mistakes, screwy designs, and massive rates of extinction. Evolution explains those as descent with modification.

  8. The 27th Comrade2:18 PM

    But Iverson isn't that bad!
    Well, not when he has the ball and he isn't playing the Lakers. In all honesty, I was sad when he walked off in resignation in Game 5 in was it the 2001 Finals? And he was playing against me! I really like that kid.
    In many other cases, yes, he can be very obnoxious. Dennis still rules that category, though.
    There should be no pardon for such unruly thuggish behaviour on-court or off-court.

    (I now remember Iverson also totes guns in people's faces off-court. Heh.)

  9. The 27th Comrade2:22 PM

    "What happened with extinction is that evolution provided an explanation where there was none."
    There wasn't none. There was always an explanation for life and variety on Earth going extinct, just as there is for the heat in a cup of tea going extinct.

    And I realise I didn't defend my (wrong?) claim that Darwinism only uses extinction to cover up for a failed prediction of continuity.
    The correct (and more-humble) way to put it is that evolution may be an explanation for extinction (failure to survive of whole orders and whole families of organisms), but it is also crucial to explain away the absence of continuity. Synergistic, perhaps?
    Now, pronounce your forgiveness for my terrible, pompous wording and attitude.

    "The problem was that the geological record was strewn with animals for which there were no modern analogues."
    Does it ever occur to our dear friends that trees evolved too? And does it ever occur to them that grasses evolved too? Either we find equivalents in the fossil record for plants, as we do for animals, or ... people are exploiting our imagination and capacity to picture motile entities struggling then dying out for want of a mate, the last of its kind having died in another fight for survival, or having been hunted and outpaced by a vicious dinosaur.
    And also that you can fake anything on an animal skeleton (due to shape and form not existing in the skeleton, but in the soft tissue), while for plants the fossil is usually extremely faithful. (It appears that all fossil plants are also modern plants, incidentally.)

    "If you trace the bird fossil record back in time, you eventually get to...theropod dinosaurs, with all of the limb and feather transitions in between."
    Unfortunately, there is no such thing in the fossil record.
    You know, learning that bird transition was not represented shook my faith in evolution. It's a bigger leap, you see, from lizard to chicken, than even from lizard to man. Okay, maybe hyperbole is unwarranted here, but still.

    "Is it inference to say that evolution is responsible for these transitions? Yes, it is. But I, and the vast majority of biologists and palaeontologists, think that it is the best explanation we have right now. "
    And it is a valid inference. A very, very valid inference. I don't believe that I'll stop crediting evolution for things. But I'll be hesitant to treat it as fact, as having any edge on creationism at all, save for fitting better with our mechanistic philosophy of science, where the other cannot, in any shape (even as theistic evolution).

    If my memory serves, speciation, empirically, is orders upon orders of times slower than extinction. Especially if allopatry is what is supposed to enable it. (Sexual reproduction, without allopatry, causes a failure to differentiate meaningfully.)

    Now, why would someone appeal to allopatry as having generated hundreds of millions of species, unless someone, to use your words, just really, really doesn't like creationism?

    "[...] then you would have to explain the shared genotypic and phenotypic mistakes, screwy designs, and massive rates of extinction. Evolution explains those as descent with modification."
    We have gone over this before.
    1. Homology, genetic or otherwise, is not support for evolution any less than it is support for creation. It is pervasive in entities we know from objective experience to be designed, and absent from undesigned things. There is a reason evolution had to be discovered.

    2. Mistakes are subjective. Most people think that the pervasiveness of my commas, such as these ones, and even this one, just for good measure, are mistakes. But, of course, they are not. It's those people making mistakes. For as long as a genetic code results in viable phenotypes, we don't have things that can objectively be called mistakes in that genetic code. (This is how we know that Down's Syndrome genes are mistakes - because the others, varying in but one single locus, are not.)

  10. Comrade,

    How does the central limit theorem pose an impossible obstacle to evolution?

    Regarding the automobilologists of the future, don't you think that when they see that cars can't be placed in a nested hierarchy they'll determine that they did not evolve?

  11. The 27th Comrade5:27 AM

    Mutations don't and cannot take into account whether or not they will render the organism fitter, because the mutations don't consult the environment before they show up. This is what makes them independent random variables, and it is what allows for extinctions, and so on.
    It is also what makes them amenable to the central limit theorem.

    You don't get the mutations you need. They are independent random variables. They are just as likely to move the baboon "upwards" towards being a human as they are to move the human "downwards" towards being me. :-)

    The central limit theorem, in short, says that any positive mutations that may accumulate (and, yes, be selected for) will be offset by the next set of mutations that show up, because getting a heads is just as likely as getting a tails. In this way, if a mouse evolves into a monkey, the monkey will just as likely evolve into a mouse. (The monkey heads towards mousehood, regardless of whether it is a profitable direction.)

    We know that this doesn't happen in practice, and that is a score for those who think that evolution is guided, and for those who think that evolution (neo-Darwinian synthesis, as opposed to, say, l'evolution créatrice and the like) isn't what brought about this variety.

    The assumptions that are predicted by the central limit theorem but are not borne out by evolution (therefore one of them being thenceforth falsified - take your pick which one) are:

    1. Variety begets more variety. Evolution says that a bacterium can evolve into a whale. The theorem says, no, it can only be, at most, a strange bacterium, before the mutations happen that drag it back to normalcy.

    2. Evolution says that humans, as can be shown, won't be getting mutations to, say, sprout tails and take to the trees with their huge bodily fur waving behind them. Essentially, our baboon history is so far in our past, we can't get mutations that turn on the baboon-ness that was turned off then.
    The theorem says, yes, if we came this far by random means, we should be able to swing back just as easily. (Essentially, that if a toss of the coin, yielding heads, made humans of baboons, the next toss of the coin will yield tails, and make baboons of humans.)
    Importantly, the theorem doesn't wait for four million years to kick in. Usually, it is with the next child, because that number of random mutations suffices to allow it to hold. That is why, human height, for example, stays reasonably constant, in spite of variety being begat in each next human child.

    On, the automobilologists ...
    Nested hierarchies are not necessary for inferring evolution from fossils. Paleoanthropologists use a single line of life, rather than a tree of life, to trace us back to the ancestor we share with chimps. All the fossils un-earthed are in this one line.

    Also, there is a nested hierachy between the Ford Model T on the root and then the Audi S5, the Ford Cayenne, the Bugatti S5, the MacLaren F1, the Hummer H2, the Mitsubishi Pajero, the Lamboghini Diablo, and the new Volkswagen Beetle on one branch each, with the predecessor models falling in line behind.

    That's for body shapes alone. When we move to the insides, the interior, the engines, the gears, the transmissions, the brakes and brake pads, the design philosophies, the safety mechanisms, et cetera, we are going to be able to draw a tree of the evolution of car life forms more-evident and "empirical" and, yes, scientific, than anything any Darwinian zoologist will ever manage for the next five hundred years.

    It would be hard to resist interpreting the cars we have on our roads in terms of evolution, if we hadn't known that they are, in fact, designed.

  12. This is the first time in 20 years of creationist watching that I've seen the central limit used as an argument. The argument is fallacious, of course, because there are two components to the mechanism of evolution, random mutations and natural selection. While the former is 'random' in the sense of not being correlated with the 'needs' of a population, the latter is non-random. The whole process is therefore non-random.

    The 27th Comrade wrote:

    Mutations don't and cannot take into account whether or not they will render the organism fitter, because the mutations don't consult the environment before they show up.

    That's true. But the following two sentences are false:

    This is what makes them independent random variables, and it is what allows for extinctions, and so on.

    It is also what makes them amenable to the central limit theorem.

    You have mixed together two different meanings of "random." The first, that mutations are uncorrelated with selective needs, says nothing whatsoever about the distribution of mutations. But the second, the claim that mutations are subject to the central limit theorem, is a claim about the distribution. Since the first refers to the correlation between the occurrence of mutations and properties of the selective environment and makes no reference to the distribution of mutations, the second claim, about the CLT, is a non sequitur.

    The central limit theorem, in short, says that any positive mutations that may accumulate (and, yes, be selected for) will be offset by the next set of mutations that show up, because getting a heads is just as likely as getting a tails.

    Again, you're ignoring selection. If 'heads' are retained in the population (due to increased reproductive success) and 'tails' are not retained (due to decreased reproductive success), then the distribution of a random variable, the tossing of a coin, is shifted to a distribution with a proponderance of 'heads.' Evolution, in other words, is 'guided' but the guidance comes from the differential reproductive success of 'heads' or 'tails' in a specific selective environment. Evolution by natural selection is not a random process! Therefore using a math model that pretends that it is random is fallacious. A math model is useful only to the extent that it models the objects and processes of the phenomenon being modeled, and your model does not do so.

  13. Moving along, another example:

    1. Variety begets more variety. Evolution says that a bacterium can evolve into a whale. The theorem says, no, it can only be, at most, a strange bacterium, before the mutations happen that drag it back to normalcy.

    What does the 'dragging' of a population is not mutations, it's natural selection, and natural selection can be directional if the selective environment changes in a directional manner, as for example it does in long term climatic changes.

    The 27th Comrade wrote:

    On, the automobilologists ...
    Nested hierarchies are not necessary for inferring evolution from fossils. Paleoanthropologists use a single line of life, rather than a tree of life, to trace us back to the ancestor we share with chimps. All the fossils un-earthed are in this one line.

    That's factually false. I know of no gentler way to say it: That's factually false. In actual fact, it is because life is arranged in nested hierarchies that we infer common descent. Common descent requires that the varieties of life fall into a nested hierarchy, and that's what we find both morphologically and in the molecular data.

    The 27th Comrade wrote:

    Also, there is a nested hierachy between the Ford Model T on the root and then the Audi S5, the Ford Cayenne, the Bugatti S5, the MacLaren F1, the Hummer H2, the Mitsubishi Pajero, the Lamboghini Diablo, and the new Volkswagen Beetle on one branch each, with the predecessor models falling in line behind.

    In fact that's also false. You have not described a nested hierarchy in that paragraph and it's not clear that you even know what one is.

    Phylogenetic reconstruction methods have been applied to human artifacts, for example to musical instruments like the cornet, and the resulting structures do not resemble the nested hierarchies we find in biological nature. The former are artifacts, the latter are not, on the data

  14. The 27th Comrade6:27 AM

    Hello, RBH

    You say this is the first time you've heard anybody make use of the Central Limit Theorem to defend creationism.
    Well, I am not really defending creationism. I'm just contesting Darwinian evolution. It seems either one is a flaming evolutionist, or one is a screaming creationist. You, being an agnostic, should make room for middle grounds. ;-) Of course, this isn't one of those comment sections where I've fought on evolution's side, so I understand your categorisation, though it is wrong. I'm not any more against evolution than I am against creationism. I just don't like the obnoxious smugness of the many bigoted, biased, and ignorant tenants of either point of view (present company exempted, of course), and I hope I don't become such a one - for either side.

    You'd never seen the CLT used, because creationists tend to favour using the Law of Large Numbers, which yields the same predictions, but it pretends that we are tracking one gene locus, which, while carrying enough guidance, doesn't map well to what happens in practice. But the CLT is just a higher-level LLN, and hence why the same criticisms against the LLN's anti-evolution predictions hold for the CLT. You presented them above, and I'll respond to them shortly.

    You say that you suspect that I do not understand what "hierarchy" means. I shall not respond to that, but only note that I took the question (to which I was responding) to imply that there is no "tree of life" for cars and car models, which I attempted to refute in my response. Of course, by demonstrating a "tree of life" using a root and the leaves (which I mistakenly called "branches" there) which had the primordial and the modern respectively, I implied that there were (of course) intermediates, which would constitute a radiating hierarchy, both temporal and structural.
    But anyway, do you think that we have a car hierarchy today, both temporal and structural? If yes, why would anyone fail to impute its fossils upon evolution, having never seen any cars being manufactured?

    Then, you marshalled an argument whose meat is in the one emphasised sentence "Evolution by natural selection is not a random process!" These days, I disagree with that. It's just that what we claim evolution did (generating the tree of life) isn't obedient to the laws of random, therefore we infer - circularly - that evolution is not random. But the axioms of Darwinian natural selection describe a system that is subject to the laws of random.

    That is why I excuse and entertain the evolutionists who say that the process was guided, such as our long-suffering and gentle host, Jimpithecus.

    While it is true that selection is deterministic, the mutations are not, as you concurred. Deterministic selection only predicts what will survive, not what will show up. The mutations themselves are subject to the CLT, which means that, among other things, past forms (the norms) are going to show up inasmuch as any change is allowed to happen at all. The system described by the noe-Darwinian synthesis is subject to this. That we don't see that happening (my example of the baboon-like human child, in the previous comments) is evidence, at least, for evolution as our host, Jimpithecus, takes it (if it is to support evolution at all) and against the Dawkins kind. (If memory serves, nobody even ever said anything as self-contradictory as "Evolution is not random", until The Blind Watchmaker, whose goal was to show first that the watchmaker was blind - viz., neo-Darwinian synthesis, contra Bergson - and second that this blind watchmaker could make the watch since the watchmaker was, in fact, "not random".)


  15. The 27th Comrade6:28 AM


    So, yes, select against light skin amongst human populations in the tropics, but that won't stop light skin (even albinism) from showing up. The pigmentation will just be maladaptive. Since the mutations are random, there is as much a likelihood that baboon features will show up as mutations in humans as there is a likelihood that human features showed up as mutations in the baboon. This holds up in the lab, in human family trees, and animal breeding centres, but not in the evolutionary account - or in comic books. Have you ever wondered why, among breeders, being descended from pedigree animals doesn't entitle an animal to being itself a pedigree animal? Because the axioms of evolution are followed in this cases. Yet when it comes to humans coming from baboons, nobody worries about baboon-babies being born - because, in this case, the axioms of evolution aren't being followed (perhaps because they weren't followed when humans descended from baboons - if they did at all). Again, the axioms are followed when a blond couple has a dark-haired baby. But no mammals anywhere need worry about having a baby with scales, because the link between fur and scales is not the (neo-Darwinian) evolutionarily-valid one linking different hair colours. (Reverting to older forms, genetically, happens in the neo-Darwinian evolution inasmuch as change happens at all, and this is what you should address if you want to show that the CLT doesn't hold given natural selection on random mutations, say by showing that previous configurations can no longer be yielded by mutations. You could also just say that we haven't had enough time to carry out meaningful lab verifications of this issue.)

    If mal-adaptive mutation sets are going to sow up in a species - and they will, because they, being random, are obedient to these laws - then if the norm is unfit, the species is unfit in the long run. This is how extinction happens to a whole species, even when it has variation in it.

    You can explain the progress of the species, then, by saying that previous configurations weren't reverted to, and that what were previously outliers became the new norm, because mutations started "avoiding" the previous norm - that descent with modification was no longer treating the whale as a mutant bacterium, but rather as a mutant hippo. Since this is not justified either empirically, or by the axioms of the neo-Darwinian synthesis itself, it is up to those who hold this as the truth to prove that this is true. Henri Louis Bergson won a Nobel for this, among a few other things, because it has never been lost on those who aren't treating evolution as a religion that there is this obstacle. In Bergson's model, the norm kept getting shifted by external factors, but (thanks to the mechanistic revolution's grand triumph soon after that time) the modern synthesis disqualifies the model a priori with the axiom that all information results from mutation. Lynn Margolis' endosymbiotic model suffers from it, as well, because it's just higher-order neo-Darwinian synthesis.

  16. The 27th Comrade6:29 AM


    Also, you said I commited a non sequitur up there, and I'm guilty: mea culpa. I admit to having been vague, but let me try to put it into context:
    Both you and I know that, even though natural selection had always been there, but there had been only the identity mutation (no changes), there would be no new variants or species. This is in spite of what niches there may be, and how unfit the current configuration may become due to external pressure. The species would die out, not because of lack of selection, but for want of favourable mutations. Yet if the mutations should show up which make the organism bigger when it's unfit for the organisms to be bigger, they will be bigger, and die out. This is why I said that this is how extinctions happen - for want of mutations, not for want of selection. Why? Because mutations, being random, are not going to oblige selection. I hope this clears things up. I admit that I may have been imprecise previously, but you see ... this is a comment box that belongs to someone else, not a book. :-) I use a mathematical model that represents the axioms of the theory - perhaps you want to modify the theory?
    Sorry that I didn't have the time to write a shorter reply.
    I'm sure that Jimpithecus will forgive both of us for my rambling verbosity.

  17. Well, that was quite an exchange. My only comments are these: it is very hard to apply conventional mathematics to selection forces because they tend (as people have painstakingly tried to get William Dembski to see) to not model biological processes very well. RBH is correct about the CLT. Every generation, mother nature throws a million variations into the population in the form of crossing-over, mutations, gene flow, drift (in smaller populations) and good-old fashion non-random mating. In different environments, selection acts on those in a directional fashion (most of the time) such that certain traits either perpetuate in the population or drop out of the population. In situations where the central limits theorem specifically does not work, genes are "fixed" into a population because the population is small to begin with (founder's effect) so pretty soon everyone has it. There are certain Amerindian groups that are ALL type A blood. Others are ALL type B blood and so on. In Japan, where I grew up, everyone has black hair and brown eyes. They just do. Those genes are fixed in the population and they are dominant. Do mutations happen? Sure, but they get swamped by the rest of the Japanese genome.

    A case where selection is decidedly, demonstrably happening is in the sickle cell trait. Historically, the sickle cell mutation originated in Africa, where malaria is prevalent. What happens is that people with the homozygous dominant normal form of hemoglobin are susceptible to malaria and get sick or die in large numbers. The homozygous recessive sickle form of hemoglobin, on the other hand confers a very painful, short existence because there is lack of adequate oxygen tranportation in the blood. The heterozygous condition, however, manages to fight both of them off. The individuals are functional enough with the one sickle allele but can fight off malaria because the bug doesn't want their blood. This is a balanced polymorphism. Well, guess what? Since the movement of African Blacks into the United States, the sickle cell trait is dropping like a rock in the genome. There is no advantage in having the heterozygous condition here. There is no malaria. This is directional selection and it can be shown for a bunch of traits ranging from blood antigens to wholesale body changes in fish and other animals. Mutation is random. Selection is not.

  18. The 27th Comrade6:18 AM

    Well, if we find a model of mathematics that is actually very well tuned with a certain biological theory, the two often serve to predict the same things, and one can be replaced with the other to make these predictions. Except when one falsifies another, in which case we drop one as flawed. For us, we drop the mathematical modelling of evolution by natural selection, rather than natural selection. Justified or not, that's what we do when the mathematics doesn't agree with evolution. I don't see this as bad; the sin is in treating those who disagree with us as ignorant, evil, and stupid (or wicked, but we'd rather not say that).

    I don't like Dembski much, but that may be because I first encountered mention of him while my thinking and intellectual behaviour was like that of most evolutionists, and so I may be severely biased against him. I know that any appraisal I give him will be tilted strongly against him. But I never give the appraisal, anyway.
    What interests me about Dembski-like creationists is that they are correct, and evolution is damned if they correct, and damned if they are not.
    If it is impossible to infer design where it is seen, then it is impossible to infer any deterministic activity from evolutionary data, from Cro-Magnon hand axes being the result of design and not of erosion, down to "reptiles fathered the birds and mammals, since they come before in the fossil record".
    And so I see that, if the design-infering mathematical models are flawed - the same ones that model what, in our heads, quietly imputes the Sagrada Família to human intellect and not termites - I don't want to be right.

    It doesn't matter how much randomness gets thrown into a gene pool - it won't affect the predictions of the CLT, and that is precisely because it is randomness. "Rogue" mutations (lighter-haired Japanese) happen because the mutations hop about randomly, even unto maladaptive directions. If the "rogue" mutations happen, and they get swamped out, that says that selection is deterministic. (I think that the norm of the human hair colour gene is wide enough for all extant colours to be very close to the norm, with black closest, and maybe red farthest. But researching into this kind of thing requires a prior that change in a species can only progress so far and no farther, but that thinking is forbidden by current models, that insist that a human coming from bacteria is part of the usual business of mutation and reproduction.)
    I didn't know about that blood group information. That's very interesting.

  19. The 27th Comrade6:22 AM

    I'm glad for your example of sickle cell anaemia, because it demonstrates what I was saying up there. Sicklers were having non-sickle babies, because the norm didn't shift to make the condition the new norm, even for the carriers of it. It's just that these regressions to the unfit normal cells were killed by malaria before the babies made five years of age. This having of atavistic unfit children is like mammals having scaly babies - unfit, yes, but occurring because the mutations are random and don't care for what's fit or pretty. The Africans had atavistic unfit children because the link between normal cells and sickle cells is valid by the axioms of evolution. It can be predicted, even by the breeders who predated Darwin (and whom he quoted in Origins). However, mammals don't have scaly kids, or chimps baboon kids, or humans simian children[1], because that link is invalid, at least as per lab experiments, experience, and the axioms themselves. (Well, the axioms just say "almost surely not".) And this is not to say that mutations don't occur in these populations - just that they follow the axioms of evolution (and hence the Central Limit Theorem), but they don't follow or validate the extrapolations that make up the modern evolutionary synthesis (which creationists call "macro-evolution").
    If you're a credentialist, Grassé should suffice for you on this matter. (Of course, the only excerpts from Grassé on this issue are archived on the Internet by creationists, and we say we are the ones who want open discussion of the subject!) And Grassé, of course, was a neo-Lamarckist, because he recognised something has got to shift the norm or else evolution doesn't happen, and knew that random mutations do not do the job.

    So, your remark about sickle cell anaemia shows that the farther from the norm, the more atavism happens (hence why "the sickle cell trait is dropping like a rock in the genome[2]"). It shows, at the very least, that non-sicklers were being born, in spite of being very, very unfit. So, where are the regressions to the (mutation-caused, even if very, very unfit) simian babies[1]? (It's not like evolutionary biology would hesitate to celebrate this "remarkable proof of the theory", if a baby was born with a motile, fury tail! It's the absence of it that we hypocrytically don't see.) So, yes, selection is deterministic. Mutations are random. This is why evolution likely can't be correct.
    (As I said before, the view of evolution, as being helped externally, by neo-Lamarckism or by some creative entity, is strictly excused, because it has an explanation, however wrong, for the conundrum. But neo-Darwinism cannot have the answer.)

  20. The 27th Comrade6:28 AM

    And the existence of biological atavism, celebrated very much by evolutionary theory, is the only proof needed that the norm of a species doesn't get shifted because of these run-of-the-mill mutations. And that the Chihuahua is still a hunting, pack-oriented wolf is yet more proof. And the lab experiments are yet more proof. But for the bacterium to have an audible grammatical language, with spoken commas, in 500 million years, the norms must get shifted quite a bit, and quite often. After all, bacteria are deemed "evolutionarily-stable" (which is a strong but quiet falsification of the theory). Therefore you, Jimpithecus, can go and kneel and call your God "Creator" with more confidence than Dawkins can say that "evolution implies that there is no creator". And anybody who wants to wing it on yet another ignorant creationist, please first pause and consider this question: "Why is it Darwin who discovered the truth that is all around us, but not those breeders and farmers - or even Fr. Gregor Mendel - who were actually in the business of evolving animals and plants?"
    My own answer is, increasingly, the following: extrapolations are cheap, and a time will come when clothing is so cheap that everyone is paid lifetime's wages to wear a branded t-shirt for one second.

    Sorry for the gratuitous going-on, everyone. As a matter of policy, I shy away from these debates. This one has drained away the toxic build-up of all preceding abstinences. I doubt it will be happening again (soon).

    I just had the terrible thought that medical diagnoses are actually deployments of design inferences. And there if occurred to me that, had Mill's Methods been introduced as a way to argue for creation, we'd not know of them today - at least not as credible science. I wonder what we're throwing out with this (clean?) bath water. Oh, well, at least that means Dr. Dembski is not necessarily original.

    [1] I may be the only hope evolution has, by the way, as proof by atavism.
    [2] I'd have said like a rock in the hated neighbour's swimming pool, but hey. :o) Don't worry, I understand it. Commas matter, though. "[...] like a rock, in the genome."

  21. You miss the point about sickle cell anaemia. The point is that mutation and selection are decoupled. Mutation is random, selection is not. The reason that the trait is dropping like a rock in North American Black populations is that there is no selection to maintain the sickle trait. It is not returning to its true form, it is being weeded out.

  22. The 27th Comrade7:44 AM

    Yes, a bit like weeding out dirt from cloth to return it to its norm(al form). I'm sure you understand what I mean. I don't think I've misunderstood you. But I may have misunderstood it. (I see I may have garbled the order of the comments. I compose them outside this little box.)

  23. I'm getting constant comment errors when I try to post a legal comment. Is Blogger broken?

  24. The 27th Comrade12:32 PM

    Hey, Jimpithecus. RBH has passed away.
    So he won't be responding to this or trying to post any more comments.

  25. The 27th Comrade12:38 PM

    Actually, I'm mistaken. You may delete both this comment and the previous. I went to the wrong blog, and drew wrong conclusions.

    Sorry for the bother.

  26. I am so very sorry to hear that. Was it sudden?

  27. Actually, I am quite happy to learn that you are wrong. Thanks for the update.

  28. got sent here by an atheist trying to make a point about Steven Dutch, but I can't figure out what he's going on about. I used Professor Dutch as a reference point to say "science really can't prove or disprove religion as a whole" and while I understand and agree with insofar as where science DOES overlap what any religion has said, science is the authority on the matter... it seems he is trying to point out something about the guy I can't quite grasp yet. Whatever it is, it's likely ad hominem...

  29. It may be. Not sure, without knowing what he is saying. The central point behind Dutch's tirade is that there are certain statements made by creationists that are testable and that, when confronted with the data, they either ignore it, misunderstand it or lie about it. One writer (who's name I have forgotten) referred, uncharitably, to this as "Lying for Jesus."