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The incorrigible David Berlinski

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Ron
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50 posted 11-05-2009 10:21 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
Since when are peer reviewed scientific journals "popular opinion" as opposed to evaluated research and comment?

Since you started using them that way, Bob?

"Common Ancestry and Evolution are theories that hang around because the scientific community simply seems to think that they make sense."

"You might consider why it is that the broad base of the scientific community disagrees with you and has for a hundred years. Do you believe that you have a larger, deeper and more thorough understanding of the science than they do?"

"Among scientific theories, the people who have the best and most in depth understanding of scientific theories on the subject pretty much tend to agree that Evolution is pretty much the best we've got right now ... "

"None of these people, including 'The incorrigible David Berlinski' represent mainstream scientific opinion."

Those are just from your last few posts, Bob.

If you want to say that so-and-so did such-and-such experiment and published his results in this-and-that journal, I'm more than willing to listen and respond accordingly. To imply, however, that evolution must be okay because a lot of scientists think it's okay is little more than an appeal to authority. You might as well tell us, "God said so." Your faith in the infallibility of peer reviewed science appears little different than a zealot's faith in his religion. And, frankly, it's probably less justified. "Because science says so" is never going to be as persuasive as why science says so.

More later . . .


Bob K
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51 posted 11-06-2009 03:26 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     You still need to distinguish between the level of dialogue in peer reviewed scientific journals and in that of  "popular opinion."  The references I make here are to scientific authority, but then the discussion on "the science of evolution" is a discussion about science and the opinion and research in that subject.

     If I offer a opinion about the consensus position in science about the subject of evolution, by all means, criticize me for being off-base, for getting my facts wrong, for distorting these facts or misrepresenting them in some fashion.  To criticize me for making an appeal to authority is to miss the whole nature of science.  

     Should you have better research and better data, publish it, or quote it from peer reviewed journals.

      I happen to have a real weakness for many sorts of pseudo-science myself.  Friends of mine who are more rigorous must wheeze themselves sick when I start talking about my particular pseudo-scientific hobbyhorses, and I know they do.  I can talk to them a bit about why their point of view of the statistics is wrong, and make a fair case.  I can convince myself, and do.  But I make no bones that trying to convince these fine folks that my thinking on acupuncture, or homeopathy or the I Ching is about to pass for consensus reality in terms of scientific thinking.  And generally not with them.  I know enough to keep my mouth shut when I talk to psychiatrist or psychologist friends about this sort of stuff unless we're very close friends indeed.  These thoughts are not consensus reality, and to mental health folks who don't understand the field well enough, they can mis-understand the meaning and the cultural background of what you're saying.  No matter that half the population of China Agrees with you, about the orientalia, and that the largest selling flu remedy in Europe is Homeopathic.  We don't like to disturb our pre-defined points of view.

     In this case, when talking about a project of scientific inquiry, it's appropriate to make reference to scientific authority.  Should I attempt to quote art history, interesting as that might be?  I happen to think theology is appropriate, but you've made a point of disagreeing with me several times.  I think that the scientists in the field who operate according to the rules that current science seems to operate under and do the work that seems to be judged most worthy of publication under those conditions seem to have the best understanding.  

     Is it possible I'm wrong.  Heavens, yes!

     The other way that I thought would be most useful to tell which scientists were most likely to have the best understanding of their fields was to see if their work was connected with other science, and whether they had made  use of science from other fields in their work or whether the work that they'd done in either Evolution or biochemistry or Creation Science (to bring in the folks on what I consider to be the other side of the equation here) had been useful to other fields of science.

     Urey-Miller may have come from German attempts to synthesize ersatz gasoline during world war Two.  You might do a little poking around if you're interested, but as I recall the story, the Germans had to keep taking the apparatus apart to clean out all those waste amino acid by-products.  Who knew?  But somebody was in touch with what was going on in science in general, put two and two together, and said, hey! I'll bet this accident fits in very well just . . . exactly . . . there.  Regular science is full of these little pieces of overlap.

     (Like Brad, using an example from a TV show, a few postings back — Numbers, I believe.)

     It's only argument to authority if somebody is willing to be cowed by the authority.  The scientists are attacking each other's authority all the time, witness Einstein and Bohrs, for example, always taking each other out into the ally to duke it out with thought experiments.  No respect, I tell you; they didn't give each other any respect.  Why authority would suddenly become so important seems a bit odd to me.  It's never been important before.  Some of the comments Newton was given to making about his rivals and even potential rivals were legendary in their savagery, and he got as well as he gave at times.

     If scientists gave each other the respect that non-scientists tend to give God, it might be different.  But while they are certainly afraid for their jobs and hungry for fame, their amour propre seems reasonably rock solid.  What's a Creationist going to do if he's criticized in print by some famous evolutionary biologist?  You may assert that he'd crinkle up into a little ball and blow away.  I would raise the possibility that he'd throw a party and ask his institution for a raise, simply for being noticed by folks with actual academic creditability.  The more disagreeable the note, in some ways, the better for his status among the Creation Science crowd.  That's what I'd think.

     Once again, we come back to Einstein, one of my personal heros, to end this particular journey.  Or to Ron's use of him.

quote:

LOL. And in doing so, Bob, he upended almost 300 years of your "mainstream scientific opinion."



     No irony here, Ron.  If somebody in Creation Science comes up with a brilliant flash of insight that's as startling and fine as Einstein's, I'm all for him.  All he has to be able to do is what Einstein did:  Have a great theory that could be cleanly laid out and that could be experimentally followed up.

     Until then, my bets are all on the side of evolution.  

     For somebody who wanted specifics, by the way, you didn't respond to my reference to the book on Amazon and to the reference to the mosquito write up, which appeared fairly specific to me.  I think it really is worth a look and a comment.

Ron
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52 posted 11-06-2009 08:24 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
To criticize me for making an appeal to authority is to miss the whole nature of science.

I disagree, Bob. On the contrary, I think any appeal to authority misses the whole nature of science.

quote:
And generally not with them. I know enough to keep my mouth shut when I talk to psychiatrist or psychologist friends about this sort of stuff unless we're very close friends indeed.

Forgive that snicker I suspect you're sensing from me, Bob. From where I sit, psychiatrists or psychologists ridiculing acupuncture smacks of kettles and pots and strikingly similar shades of black.

quote:
I think that the scientists in the field who operate according to the rules that current science seems to operate under and do the work that seems to be judged most worthy of publication under those conditions seem to have the best understanding.

Again, your faith is impressive, Bob. Please, though, don't mistake it for something other than faith.

quote:
Friends of mine who are more rigorous must wheeze themselves sick when I start talking about my particular pseudo-scientific hobbyhorses, and I know they do.

I've already said I don't consider evolution to be good science. My condemnation, however, is not with evolution's lack of rigor, but rather with its pretensions of rigor. It's not science, but being not science is a bad thing only to those who worship at the alter of science. Poetry isn't science, either. The difference is poetry doesn't pretend to be science and, more importantly, doesn't pretend to be THE answer to questions of significant importance.

quote:
For somebody who wanted specifics, by the way, you didn't respond to my reference to the book on Amazon and to the reference to the mosquito write up, which appeared fairly specific to me. I think it really is worth a look and a comment.

I looked. A mosquito that starts preferring a diet of people over birds hardly qualifies as proof of macro-evolution, Bob. On the contrary, this summer I had quite a few of those people-preferring critters on my back deck.

Any "proof" of evolution, Bob, is by its very nature going to be limited to micro-evolution. That's the whole problem. Little changes might scale to big changes; science, however, should be trying to prove that, not insisting we accept it on faith. More examples of little changes are not proof of scale.


Bob K
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53 posted 11-06-2009 11:20 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Ron,

     Your suggestion that I accept your judgement of the quality of the science in peer-reviewed journals over people who are specialists in the field is exactly what you caution me against.  But here the authority you urge me to accept is your own...  You know Evolution is junk, because of x, y, and z.  I should replace my faith in Science by my faith in you.  Your reasoning is considerably less persuasive and lacks the community of expertise and experience behind it.  Nobody is checking your reasoning with a critical eye or asking you to perform experiments to confirm or disconfirm your findings.

     These are things to be found in the scientific literature.

     If you didn’t constantly confuse scientific literature with popular opinion, I might be more inclined to listen to what you have to say.  You’ve done this more than once.  Perhaps you think the two are not distinguishable.  I have a friend who is a specialist in Popular Culture.  She is a Disneyologist.  What you and I think about Mickey Mouse probably falls into the realm of popular opinion.  The Disney People pay for her to attend seminars on the subject.  She has expert knowledge about popular opinion, and people will pay to hear what she has to say on the matter.

    And that is not about science.  That is in the department of English.

     About science, there is a body of theory and fact to be mastered, and competence has to be shown in that.  If you wish to make new theory, you are free to do so.  You simply have to show how it is more elegant and more correct than the old body of theory.
You need to be reasonably familiar with the old body of theory in order to do that, because the old theory has a lot to say about a lot of different things.  It’s true in Physics, it’s true, I would assume, in other hard science studies.  I am not a scientist, so I can’t give you the information, only my almost random understandings of the bits and pieces I’ve been writing about over time, a sort of glittering crow collection of shiny objects that have caught my fancy.

     The point is that right now Evolution is the theory that is generally accepted.  There are apparently various versions of the theory, but Evolution is the theory.  There isn’t any question in the mainstream scientific community that there is a viable theory in competition.  A lot of great careers could be made on a swell new theory, just as they have been on string theory in Physics, and on Deconstructionism in English Literature.  Folks are always looking for something new and fascinating to hitch their wagons to.  It’s a great way to get promotions and to make money and to play politics in academic and scientific circles.

     There are always allies available for that sort of thing, even, if the bible is a guide, in heaven.

     “The powers that be are preventing the truth from getting out” is a pretty nonsensical excuse in scientific terms, when you think about it.  “They’re preventing our point of view from being known” is pretty feeble as well, and for the same reason.  If the new stuff is scientifically compelling and there are careers to be made from it, new peer-reviewed journals with expanding audiences will spring up like weeds.  Loyalty will transfer very quickly, sometimes within a matter of months or a few years.  The old stuff becomes “the old stuff” and people talk about it as an antiquity.

     Yet Evolution remains the theory of choice, firmly seated, and “Creation Science” in mainstream circles is given no credence, except as an oxymoron.  Evolution reaches out to other scientific studies, chemistry and genetics and geology and each of them seems to contribute to the others in a fairly interesting way.  The cross-pollination seems to be interesting for those involved.

     Perhaps “Creation Science” can point to an explosion of scientific data coming out of diverse fields linked with a single theory or with results flowing from a single theory.  What do ice cores tell us about the levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere at x period in global history?  What would we predict the effect of that would be on the evolution of flora and fauna?  Does the fossil record bear that out?  And so on. . .

Enough for now, I think.


Sincerely, Bob Kaven
Ron
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54 posted 11-06-2009 05:41 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

quote:
But here the authority you urge me to accept is your own...

LOL. "Because I said so" is a crummy answer to pawn off on kids, Bob; I certainly would never try to give it to you. And I think you would be hard pressed to find anywhere in this thread (or this forum) where I've argued you or anyone should accept something because either I or "people who are specialists in the field" said so.

I'm clearly not communicating very well. If I was, you wouldn't have to spend so much time writing about Disneyologists, alternative theories, competing theories , the Bible as a guide, conspiracy theories, or Creation Science, all of which is certainly fodder for great conversation but NONE which address the clear lack of scientific rigor inherent in evolution.

Brad, I'm not purposely ignoring your questions. Being good questions, they just require more time than I have at hand. I think your specific examples, such as cladistics and retroviral DNA, are (as you guessed and already noted) examples of micro-evolution, but I also believe the greater issue you raise is worth discussing. Does micro-evolution and related policies depend on the credibility of macro-evolution? I hope I can find some time to talk about your questions this weekend.


Stephanos
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55 posted 11-06-2009 10:53 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Brad:
quote:
He, intentionally or unconsciously, misunderstands evolution.

He makes the offhand statement that in a hundred million years a finch can become an elephant.

Evolutionary theory says this is impossible.

He's probably being flippant and I'm being nitpicky but it's close enough to the kind of misinformation being brandied about in other venues to be worrisome.


In what significant ways are real Evolutionary theory different from what Berlisnki describes?  I don't see much of a difference, but I would be willing to listen to what you have to say.  Personally I find attributing large morphological changes among biological life forms to the darwinian mechanism quite incredible and beyond the pale of science, no matter what amount of time is appended.

quote:
He asks for the impossible.

Evolution is not teleological.He argues that 50,000 morphological changes have to take place for a cow-like creature to become a whale. He argues that we should be able to quantify that using evolutionary theory (the analogy he uses is changing a car to a submarine).

Uh, no.  Evolutionary theory can't do that.  

Look at a lawn sprinkler in your yard or in a park. It is mathematically impossible to predict where each water drop will fall (there are too many variables).

What you can do is, knowing where enough drops fall, retrodict the location of that sprinkler (the origin).

And that's what evolution does.



And as far as speculation goes that's fine.  Berlinski's point is not so much about the prediction, but the weakness of what evidence supports what is said to have happened in the past.  Things are connected which ought to have much more conclusive pointers to that connection (scientifically speaking).  If there are so many changes involved in getting a mammal in the water, we ought to be able to explain some of it at least ... or else admit its an as-good-as-any speculation on the "how" of biological life through time.

There is a complaint that intelligent design (as science) has nothing in the scientific journals.  I'm not sure that ID will pass as science either (though I think it makes more sense than random emergence), but that's exactly the charge that Berlinski and others have for Darwinian Evolution.  Yes finches change, and bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.  But surely Darwinian Evolution has been much more ambitious than that which no one disputes.


quote:
Stephen,

Thank you, that insult clip alone was worth the time it took to watch all the others.


Yes, I agree.  That was great.  Berlinski seems to romanticize invective quite a bit.  Maybe we should indulge in that a bit more 'round here?  Oh yeah, I forgot it would ruffle Ron's feathers  (no evolutionary pun intented).    


quote:
Since when are peer reviewed scientific journals "popular opinion" as opposed to evaluated research and comment?


Bob, there are no such journals that pertain to anything like the theory of common descent (other than more examples of small-scale change).  That's the whole contention.
  

Stephen
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56 posted 11-06-2009 11:27 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob, I've already mentioned that creationism as a religious view is more tenable than its philosophical alternatives, and that the question of evolution, therefore, would be a mere technical question secondary to one's metaphysical/spiritual beliefs.  Therefore "creation science" may fail on purely scientific grounds;  But "Creation Science" is an attempt to demonstrate scientifically not so much that the Bible is true, but that a very specific interpretation of the first couple of chapters of Genesis is true.  I'm not sure there's anyone here who believes that Young Earth Creationism is bonafide science.  So I'm curious, with Ron, as to why you keep bringing it up?  If we, along with you, reject YEC as science, why keep dragging it back to the bar?  Isn't this discussion about Evolution as science?  Isn't Darwin at the bar, at least in this thread?      

Stephen
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Dear Stephen,

           That's the point.  For the mainstream scientific community, it simply isn't an issue; it's a given.  It's only a point of contention for those who have, for reasons that seem to have only tangentially to do with science, continue to expect non-scientific work to shake the foundations of evolutionary theory.  I have interest in philosophy, but that's part of a discussion on Philosophy of Science.  If you wish to disprove the Science of Evolution, then it's going to have to be through the scientific method.  No other method is going to convince the scientists who made their decision about the usefulness of that theory based on their scientific education.  Unless we wish to go back to the prior discussion on forced conversion.

     That was a joke.

     I don't even know any people who know much about "Creation Science" if they haven't been exposed to fundamentalist  religious thought.  I don't know that people actually see the need for it very much, outside those circles.  Inside those circles, it seems to be a necessary thing.  It offers an explanation for the universe that puts God firmly back at the center.

     For most Christians, this is crucial.  The point is purely rhetorical:  I know and respect your commitment to God and to Christianity, and I understand you feel that science should probably subordinate itself to this project.  I simply don't agree with you here, if that is indeed what you think.  Perhaps I've misread you, as I do from time to time.

     I see now your next posting.

     If Darwin is at the bar, then why distinguish between Micro and Macro evolution, two terms that Darwin never heard of in his life.  Then, distinguishing between them, act as though that's Darwin's problem.  

     My understanding, by the way, is that macro-evolution has to do with speciation and distinctions that develop from the species level on up, and that micro-evolution has to do with the distribution of alleles within a given population.  

     By that definition, the example of the mosquito population I gave a few postings back, which Ron pretty much ignored with a comment about his having had a run in with a few hungry mosquitoes himself a few years back, is an example of speciation.  The same mosquito population splitting into two populations with enough genetic differences to qualify as distinct species.  Macro-evolution.  The development of one species from the population of another with the shift of environment and food supply.  The two species were even given different names.

     I think that what Ron had in mind was a firefly turning into a gorilla.  These are in fact two different species, but that transition would not necessarily be possible, depending on which lines of development each one followed, would it?  Each species does not lead to every other species.  I would suspect, for example, that roaches would develop into corporate lawyers.

     That too was a joke.

Respectfully, Bob Kaven
    

[This message has been edited by Bob K (11-07-2009 12:09 AM).]

Stephanos
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58 posted 11-07-2009 01:32 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob:
quote:
That's the point.  For the mainstream scientific community, it simply isn't an issue; it's a given.  It's only a point of contention for those who have, for reasons that seem to have only tangentially to do with science, continue to expect non-scientific work to shake the foundations of evolutionary theory.  I have interest in philosophy, but that's part of a discussion on Philosophy of Science.  If you wish to disprove the Science of Evolution, then it's going to have to be through the scientific method.  No other method is going to convince the scientists who made their decision about the usefulness of that theory based on their scientific education.  Unless we wish to go back to the prior discussion on forced conversion.


Is this a trick?  You can't simply point out that a claimed theory isn't itself scientific, unless you use the scientific method to do so?

No one denies "evolution" in the sense of small scale change, but many deny evolution as the source and mechanism that explains all biological diversity.  As to the latter, could you explain the usefulness you are referring to?

quote:
  I don't even know any people who know much about "Creation Science" if they haven't been exposed to fundamentalist  religious thought.  I don't know that people actually see the need for it very much, outside those circles.  Inside those circles, it seems to be a necessary thing.  It offers an explanation for the universe that puts God firmly back at the center.


While many, such as Dawkins, felt that Darwin could justify or ratify atheism ... many thoroughly Christian evolutionists have not and do not, (all the way from C.S. Lewis to John Polkinghorne).  Though I am not an evolutionist, I still agree that there is no need for a particular scientific theory to "put God firmly back" where he has never left, regardless of his methods whether gradualistic or cataclysmic.

quote:
For most Christians, this is crucial.  The point is purely rhetorical:  I know and respect your commitment to God and to Christianity, and I understand you feel that science should probably subordinate itself to this project.  I simply don't agree with you here, if that is indeed what you think.  Perhaps I've misread you, as I do from time to time.


I only feel that Science should not assume that it somehow undergirds an atheistic view of the world, seeing that the pedigree of science itself grew within the Theistic framework.  But that is quite a separate discussion, than the question of whether Evolution is scientifically tenable.  I think God has given science to be a somewhat free area of inquiry.  Or, in other words, much more scientific particularism is imposed by religionists than by the Bible itself.  

So, I'm not sure what you mean when you say that I probably feel that science should subordinate.  I think by its very nature, science is subordinate to religious answers, in that it doesn't claim to be authoritative except in what nature itself seems to impose.  Religion says otherwise, claiming an authority that transcends nature.  I certainly think science has been the richer for (and owes its initial explosion to) the acceptance of a God who made an intelligible (making science possible) and wondrous (making science desirable) universe.  Otherwise, I see no need for science to subordinate itself to any particular religious interpretations of the "how" of creation ... especially those which turn out to be mistaken.  The Biblical text itself, on the science, seems ambiguous enough (intentionally perhaps?) to make scientific free-inquiry a valid, and Theologically suggestive, endeavor.  

quote:
  If Darwin is at the bar, then why distinguish between Micro and Macro evolution, two terms that Darwin never heard of in his life.  Then, distinguishing between them, act as though that's Darwin's problem.


Because Darwin himself mentions the problem, more than once.  Whether he used the exact terms or not is of no consequence ... just as a radical Theologian can't seriously cast doubt on Trinitarian doctrine, by saying "It doesn't say the word 'Trinity' in the Bible".  


quote:
By that definition, the example of the mosquito population I gave a few postings back, which Ron pretty much ignored with a comment about his having had a run in with a few hungry mosquitoes himself a few years back, is an example of speciation.  The same mosquito population splitting into two populations with enough genetic differences to qualify as distinct species.  Macro-evolution.  The development of one species from the population of another with the shift of environment and food supply.  The two species were even given different names.


Regardless of whether you call the advantaged mosquito another species, or define macroevolution within this category which itself has hardly been defined and agreed upon by scientists, to my mind, and many others, the modest change in blood-feasting (as cool as that may be) hardly seems like a compelling innovation that would suggest the Theory as the explanation for all biodiversity .. the form in which it is primarily taught.  Now talk about the mechanism itself for ingesting blood changing into something else entirely, like a vision apparatus, a new wing or appendage, and I'm listening.  


quote:
  I think that what Ron had in mind was a firefly turning into a gorilla.  These are in fact two different species, but that transition would not necessarily be possible, depending on which lines of development each one followed, would it?


You're right, but take his point in context.  The "fact" of Common Ancestry certainly requires that every lifeform we know had to evolve from unicellular life, right?  So even if linking two particular lifeforms would be wrong according to the Theory, there's bound to be others that are comparable in morphological differences.  

Stephen
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Dear Stephen,

quote:


Regardless of whether you call the advantaged mosquito another species, or define macroevolution within this category which itself has hardly been defined and agreed upon by scientists, to my mind, and many others, the modest change in blood-feasting (as cool as that may be) hardly seems like a compelling innovation that would suggest the Theory as the explanation for all biodiversity .. the form in which it is primarily taught.  Now talk about the mechanism itself for ingesting blood changing into something else entirely, like a vision apparatus, a new wing or appendage, and I'm listening.  



           But to prove speciation, you do not need to grow an eye.  That is not macro-evolution, which is defined as changes at the level of speciation or larger.  That is only the development of some of the larger characteristics.  Speciation is much narrower.  The difference between one species and its neighbor has to do with two previously identical populations developing both different markers of some sort, and losing the ability to generate fertile offspring.  Donkeys and horses can breed, but their offspring are sterile — mules.

     Whether on not you are interested is secondary.  You
quote:
say
you are interested in macroevolution, but in reality you seem to be interested in it when you are the one who has control of what macroevolution actually is.  To prove macroevolution, speciation is all that's needed, the separation of two previously identical populations and their inability to produce offspring capable of reproducing together.  Previously yes; afterwards, no.

     All I am laying claim to is speciation, which by the definitions I've seen, seems to include macroevolution.  I happen to think that evolution can and does explain eyeballs and brains and all sorts of other things as well, but all I'm asserting here is that there is evidence for this one case of macroevolution, speciation, and that it's right there.  There used to be one species a little over a hundred years ago, and now there are two today.  The surface mosquitos who have to walk to work or hitch a ride on birds, and the tube mosquitos, who lunch with people and take the train to work may speak to each other when they get together, but that's about it.    Used to be one, now there are two.

     Your fascination with eyes is wonderful.  I wish my own were better, but you don't have to go that far — not so far as one species having a no eyes and the new species afterwards or laterally does.  The jump doesn't have to be that great to display  speciation.  Your attention may be jaded enough so that you require a leap of that sort to have things make you sit up and pay attention, but that's overkill when it comes to speciation.  The structures should be different, and the two formerly identical species should not be able to produce fertile offspring together now. If eyes seem to be a useful and workable adaptation, they may well appear over time in a stepwise fashion.  Not all adaptations that we think of as useful may actually prove useful.

     I had a friend who used to claim that intelligence was a highly dubious trait in survival terms, and that we were still very much in a trial period to see if it was worthwhile.  I think he has a point.  Being toothy, sinewy and mean may be much better in the long run.  Nor is it particularly clear that over the long term we'll do better by being as out of control as a species as we are right now.  Dumber might work better, as it has for many of our reptile friends.  Or if the intellect was divided among the whole group of us, as it is in some fashion among ants.  Vision may be a similar trait, where all the votes haven't been counted as yet.

     One doesn't need drama , is my point here, in order for evolution to be useful as a theory.

     And those who disagree with the theory haven't offered anything that seems particularly telling scientifically to bring the theory down.  There are loads of Instructors and junior professors who would love the chance to get in on the ground floor of some fascinating and lively groundbreaking piece of theory that will help them not only thumb their noses at their forebears, but also get ahead professionally and make some fame and money for themselves in the process.  There are loads of potential recruits if there is a theory that is as convincing as Feminist Criticism or any one of several different brands of string theory or even some of the more interesting kind of alternative physical therapies, such as homeopathy.  They will crown their way into The Lancet or other peer reviewed journals with exciting new reappraisals of theory that Oliver Wendell Holmes dismissed as Humbug a hundred and fifty years ago.

     The reason there is no such upsurge is that there is no such actual believe that there is an actual case to be made for anything but Evolution and its variations.  And for such a surge of support to happen, there would have to be that basic sense of scientific rightness on the matter among a significant number of excited researchers and innovators in the field.  Excited researchers and innovators do not seem to be the people who are drawn to the anti-evolution banner.  There is no visible thrill in the excitement of breaking research and discovery that tends to drawn these folks; and, although there are folks who would love for some sort of excitement in science to come along, they haven't seemed to find it here.

     If it really is a scientific discussion, where is the scientific excitement in the discovery of new stuff on the part of the anti-evolution folks?  The sort that draws fervor and thrill and excitement and above all, active scientific research.  Where is the rapid expansion of new theory?

     Not here; not that I've seen.

     Yes there is, on the side of evolution.  Where do these bones belong in the fossil record?  How does the ice pack inform us about the climate on the earth over the last several Billion years.  How does this effect the emergence of life from the oceans?  What effect does the discovery of the life around the volcanic vents on the ocean floor have on our notion of how and where evolution may have started, and what tracks it may have followed?

     The list goes on.  It's an exciting list.  There's an emerging sense of patterning that people are busy trying to fill in from many different directions.  It's lively, it's alive.  There's a thrill to seeing it unfold.  All of it seems to re-enforce the sense of patterning provided by the basic  sense of the theory of evolution.

     Stephen, I'd actually need to see some theory that works better to organize this data, and I simply don't.  Nor do I find the critiques convincing in themselves, though I like and respect you and what you've done with your life, and the way you've made faith and your religion such a central part of it.  But about evolution, I don't see there's a good scientific alternative, nor do I believe that there's a good scientific argument against evolution, for the most part.  I simply don't see that.

Sincerely, Bob Kaven

    
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quote:
Personally I find attributing large morphological changes among biological life forms to the darwinian mechanism quite incredible and beyond the pale of science, no matter what amount of time is appended.


I do too.  I don't know anybody who does that.

Whale evolution

Next, this is a game but the most interesting thing about it for me is that it unites two different ways of seeing the same thing (the rules of the game, what you see on the screen).  

Conway's game of Life

Nor is this scientific evidence but I think it shows, conceptually, how evolution works:

Walking with Monsters

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I don't think Ron and Stephanos will have an easy time arguing with those last two comments.
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Bob:
quote:
But to prove speciation, you do not need to grow an eye.  That is not macro-evolution, which is defined as changes at the level of speciation or larger.  That is only the development of some of the larger characteristics.  Speciation is much narrower.


If your example is a donkey and a horse, and the criteria for speciation the inability to interbreed, then I'm not sure that the darwinian mechanism has been conclusively shown to cause speciation.  Do you have researched examples where genetic mutation has demonstrably lead to different species that can't interbreed?  

If so, that still leaves six other taxonomic categories to explain.  Given that speciation via the darwinian mechanism were proven, should the same mechanism be assumed to have caused the differences at the levels of kingdom, phylum, class, order, etc ...?  For many the extrapolation is too far to be called science.  It is, I'll grant, a bonafide theory.  But still far short of conclusivity with which it is presented.

quote:
To prove macroevolution, speciation is all that's needed, the separation of two previously identical populations and their inability to produce offspring capable of reproducing together.  Previously yes; afterwards, no.


For one, there is still a lack of consensus about your definition of species.  And secondly, species is the lowest of the seven taxonomic categories.  Why in the world would "macroevolution" be defined by the smallest kinds of biological change?  Tell me what "macro" means in your neck of the woods.

quote:
I happen to think that evolution can and does explain eyeballs and brains and all sorts of other things as well, but all I'm asserting here is that there is evidence for this one case of macroevolution, speciation, and that it's right there.


And I happen to think what you describe as "speciation" is microevolution ... and cannot in any convincing way be extrapolated to explain the origins of eyeballs and brains.  

quote:
Nor is it particularly clear that over the long term we'll do better by being as out of control as a species as we are right now.  Dumber might work better, as it has for many of our reptile friends.  Or if the intellect was divided among the whole group of us, as it is in some fashion among ants.  Vision may be a similar trait, where all the votes haven't been counted as yet.


This definitely takes us more into the philosophical ... But the idea that "intellect" or, by extension, logic reason and knowledge, are merely mutative innovations whose value lie in survival, definitely brings even the theory of evolution itself (or any other kind of human knowledge) into question.  Is it true because it is true, or is the ability to gain what we call knowledge just another sheer biological trait on trial?  In other words, if the brain is about survival, there's no guarantee it is telling us the truth.  

You should at least admit that survival value being affirmed by existence, and existence being attributed to survival value, amounts to a circular truism, not science.

quote:
One doesn't need drama , is my point here, in order for evolution to be useful as a theory.


To be utterly clear on this ... I don't disbelieve in evolution per se.  I disbelieve rather in what is commonly and popularly attributed to it, both in the scientific and layman's world.  

quote:
And those who disagree with the theory haven't offered anything that seems particularly telling scientifically to bring the theory down.


You keep saying this, Bob.  But really its the old battle about the burden of proof.  Should the burden of proof about a theory be on the theory itself or not?  An aternate scienfic theory of biological origins is not needed in order to say that evolution (as a theory of biological origins) is not proven or even likely.

quote:
The reason there is no such upsurge is that there is no such actual believe that there is an actual case to be made for anything but Evolution and its variations.  And for such a surge of support to happen, there would have to be that basic sense of scientific rightness on the matter among a significant number of excited researchers and innovators in the field.  Excited researchers and innovators do not seem to be the people who are drawn to the anti-evolution banner.  There is no visible thrill in the excitement of breaking research and discovery that tends to drawn these folks; and, although there are folks who would love for some sort of excitement in science to come along, they haven't seemed to find it here.


You're making an appeal to popularity again (Ron already mentioned the problem with this).  Though I think your view that "dissent from Darwin" is limited to non-scientist fundamentalists is far overstated and askew.  

The following website provides a substantial if minority list of scientists who are scientifically skeptical of darwinism as the overarching theory of biological diversity.  While this proves nothing (I already mentioned that popularity in itself is a poor argument), it does show that the scientifically minded, including those who value research, are not limited to the belief in Macroevolution.  This would make sense, if as Berlinski and others have stated, there is little-to-nothing by way of research that supports the theory beyond small scale changes among life forms.


http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

quote:
If it really is a scientific discussion, where is the scientific excitement in the discovery of new stuff on the part of the anti-evolution folks?  The sort that draws fervor and thrill and excitement and above all, active scientific research.


Do you really think that similar conditions were met in the widespread acceptance of evolution as the origin of biological forms?  If you study the history, it is much more about the rhetorician than the lab technician.  

You are demanding something of other theories which has not been provided by the one currently in question.  

Popularity, as you well know, can be explained by many phenomenon.  And excitability need not be related to research results.  The beginnings of Darwinism is surrounded by, more than anything else, a large polemical outpour.

quote:
Yes there is, on the side of evolution.  Where do these bones belong in the fossil record?


Paleontology is more a liability to darwinian theory than anything, seeing that it is so sparse.  The Cambrian Explosion, as I mentioned before, is one example that required contemporary evolutionists (such as Stephen Gould) to present a theory completely antithetical with what Darwin himself wrote ... punctuated equillibrium.  

quote:
How does the ice pack inform us about the climate on the earth over the last several Billion years.  How does this effect the emergence of life from the oceans?  What effect does the discovery of the life around the volcanic vents on the ocean floor have on our notion of how and where evolution may have started, and what tracks it may have followed?


Bob, I have no problem with questions.  But that's exactly what these are.

I would like to leave you with a question.  It seems that many feel the mark of a non-scientific belief, is that it is unfalsifiable.  

Is evolution falsifiable?  And if so how?  Give me a specific scenario.  Judging from past examples of scrambling innovation at difficulties, it seems to be a kind of accepted framework of plasticity which is able to adapt to most anything, and still survive.  


quote:
Me: Personally I find attributing large morphological changes among biological life forms to the darwinian mechanism quite incredible and beyond the pale of science, no matter what amount of time is appended.


Brad: I do too.  I don't know anybody who does that.


Um Darwin did ... as do most of the contemporary priests of Darwinian thought.  Are you saying that you accept a form of evolution which does not affirm common ancestry as fairly incontrovertible?  


quote:
I don't think Ron and Stephanos will have an easy time arguing with those last two comments.


Ess, delay and difficulty aren't always correlates.  

Seriously though, it seems that Brad is saying little more than "But its so fun and exciting, there has to be something to it", as well as Bob as far as I can tell.  Something I can concede, surely.  But the question of truth and veracity still remains far more uncertain than its entertainment value.  


As always, I appreciate all the lively input for this thread from everyone.

Stephen  
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Brad,

also, not proof, but at least as suggestive I think as the discovery channel clip you provided.

Unlocking the Mystery of life


Stephen
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quote:
The Cambrian Explosion, as I mentioned before, is one example that required contemporary evolutionists (such as Stephen Gould) to present a theory completely antithetical with what Darwin himself wrote ... punctuated equillibrium.


Punctuated equilibrium is antithetical with Darwin's idea of natural selection?

I'm not sure whether it's both theories or one of them that you don't understand - either way the above statement is nonsense.

Bob,

If you really want to understand Evolution the first thing you need to do is to throw Cladistics and Taxonomy out of the window, along with that inane twaddle about infertile hybrids. All that bunkum doesn't help to understand the evolution of animal diversity - it simply muddies the water.

Next you need to forget the often used and completely inaccurate tree of life image evolutionary supporters are so fond of referencing. The genealogical record of life on earth doesn't look anything like any tree you're likely to see and getting that image stuck in your noodle is a definite hurdle you'll need to overcome.

Last, but not least, you'll need to be willing to loosen your grip on natural selection as the major mechanism of change - it isn't anything of the sort. Natural selection is simply the sieve that separates the organisms that are fit for service from the not so fit.

.
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Grinch:
quote:
I'm not sure whether it's both theories or one of them that you don't understand - either way the above statement is nonsense.


I guess I just need to accept that all the major phyla just sprang up in a relatively short amount of time with no evidence of fossil antecedents.  Darwin presented a mechanisim in which "slow though steps" were necessary, not "sudden leaps".  The very fact that Gould's forced theory is called punctuated equilibrium, illustrates my point.

Grinch, I understand that the Cambrian period is no barrier to believing in Evolution, since so many believe in it notwithstanding (I've already explained my view that Evolution is best viewed as an accepted philosophical framework which places the evidence too far, and therefore cannot be falsified by evidence).  However even those who hold to the theory, have admitted that the Cambrian record has posed quite a difficulty and puzzlement.  You, on the other hand, seem to gloss over it with utter ease and brevity.  I just happen to be one who thinks the difficulty has never been sufficiently answered.


quote:
Last, but not least, you'll need to be willing to loosen your grip on natural selection as the major mechanism of change - it isn't anything of the sort. Natural selection is simply the sieve that separates the organisms that are fit for service from the not so fit.


Are you referring to "natural selection" alone, or to "random mutation/natural selection", which is what Bob has plainly been referring to?  If the latter, are you asking him to loosen his grip on what is the only scientific mechanism that has been demonstrated at all?  What other mechanism for change (scientifically speaking) has any credence whatsoever for the theory of evolution?  Without the Darwinian mechanism Evolution remains a broad theory of gradualism more based in Greek Philosophy than anything else.  I stand correctable here ... if something new has been offered, please inform me.

If you are referring to natural selection alone, I don't think that's what Bob was saying at all.  In fact I've never heard anyone say that, though they may use the term "natural selection" as a summative word that includes the genetic change that occurs as well.  

Stephen
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quote:
Darwin presented a mechanism in which "slow though steps" were necessary, not "sudden leaps".  


So it's punctuated equilibrium that you don't understand. For the record it too uses small step changes not sudden leaps. The only difference between Darwin and Gould's theories is that Gould suggested that there were periods of stasis interspaced with periods of gradualism whereas Darwin (and Dawkins) insist that the gradual changes are continuous.

quote:
Grinch, I understand that the Cambrian period is no barrier to believing in Evolution, since so many believe in it notwithstanding.  However even those who hold to the theory, have admitted that it has posed quite a difficulty and puzzlement.


I hold to the theory and yet the Cambrian doen't seem all that difficult a puzzle.


quote:
You seem to gloss over it with utter ease and brevity.  I just happen to be one who thinks the difficulty has never been sufficiently answered.


Maybe you've been looking for the answer in the wrong places. The Cambrian isn't that big of a puzzle, as I said earlier it was almost inevitable.

quote:
Are you referring to "natural selection" alone, or to "random mutation/natural selection", which is what Bob has plainly been referring to?


I was referring to natural selection alone as a mechanism for change; my three steps were not related so much to what Bob had said but more to what I think Bob needs to do to understand evolution a little better. If you notice I also mentioned the tree of life, which he also hasn't mentioned but I'm fairly sure he's aware of.

If you like though I'll extend my advice to include not relying solely on "random mutation/natural selection". Although it undoubtedly plays an important part in evolution I don't believe that it's the main engine.

.
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Grinch:
quote:
So it's punctuated equilibrium that you don't understand. For the record it too uses small step changes not sudden leaps. The only difference between Darwin and Gould's theories is that Gould suggested that there were periods of stasis interspaced with periods of gradualism whereas Darwin (and Dawkins) insist that the gradual changes are continuous.

How does the appearance of many phyla without antecedents suggest stasis beforehand?  Stasis should present a stable period for the demonstration of fossils.  What we have in the fossil record is something altogether different.  And what in the fossil record (of the Cambrian) demonstrates the renewed periods of gradual change you mention?  Does the introduction of periods of "stasis" create a crisis of time for the emergence of the kinds of biological diversity we see in the natural world?  Or is their sheer existence in the present enough to warrant this belief ... kind of like when the belief in improbably naturalistic cosmology is defended by saying "well we're here aren't we"?  

quote:
I hold to the theory and yet the Cambrian doen't seem all that difficult a puzzle.


I already knew that.  That's why I contrasted you with many of those in the Scientific community who have undertaken to explain it in more detail.

quote:
The Cambrian isn't that big of a puzzle, as I said earlier it was almost inevitable


Why almost inevitable?  That's the part I don't think you've explained.

quote:

If you like though I'll extend my advice to include not relying solely on "random mutation/natural selection". Although it undoubtedly plays an important part in evolution I don't believe that it's the main engine


Okay then.  I'm not aware that anything else even close to scientific has been offered, as a mechanism ... so scientifically speaking, what is the main engine?

Stephen
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Bob, not trying to give you too much at one time.  But one way of looking at macro-evolution is to consider the emergence of a new function versus the slight alteration of one that already exists.  The mosquito example you gave may give us demonstrated change in a pre-existing function.  But is there anything in the peer-reviewed-journals that demonstrates an actual change of function in biology?  I would dare say you're going to respond by pointing out that the gradualism of evolution ensures that we are limited to proving only slight alteration in function ... and that the emergence of new function is unobservable.  But that's the very point I'm trying to make.  By nature, such a claim is beyond the pale of science right?  There is doubtless an intuitiveness about believing this.  But science often renders the intuitive as wrong.

Stephen
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quote:
How does the appearance of many phyla without antecedents suggest stasis beforehand?


It doesn't.

Gould looked at the fossil record and believed it reflected long periods of equilibrium punctuated by long periods of gradualistic evolution. Darwin believed the gradual change is, and was, continuous.

quote:
Stasis should present a stable period for the demonstration of fossils.


The fossil record before the Cambrian period suggests soft bodied antecedents, the period after shows a continuation of phyla that arose during the Cambrian but with a reduction of the incidence of new body types.
Gould believed that the Cambrian was an example of a period of gradualistic change which was preceded and followed by periods of relative stasis - hence the term Cambrian explosion. The mechanism he suggests drove the explosion of body types however is exactly the same as Darwin's - small step gradual change sieved by natural selection.

quote:
Does the introduction of periods of "stasis" create a crisis of time for the emergence of the kinds of biological diversity we see in the natural world?


No, the idea of stasis before the Cambrian is flawed in any case, but even if it were true the Cambrian period is still measured in a geological timeframe sufficient to support a theory of gradualism.

quote:
That's why I contrasted you with many of those in the Scientific community who have undertaken to explain it in more detail.


I explained it earlier, you must have missed it.

quote:
Why almost inevitable?  That's the part I don't think you've explained.


Didn't I?

quote:
the definition of species:

"A common definition is that of a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring of both genders, and separated from other such groups with which interbreeding does not (normally) happen."

If that's what you had during the Cambrian - a whole bunch of randy organisms that were structurally different but so closely related they could interbreed, so closely related they were, in effect, one species in different body forms - then the Cambrian explosion was inevitable.


The Cambrian explosion and the inherent and inevitable extinctions driven by natural selection created the separation into distinct species.  That's one of the reasons I suggested that Bob threw the notion of species as a barrier to evolutionary change out of the window, the chances are it didn't exist in the Cambrian period. The other reason is that evidence later in the history of evolutionary life, including the present period, clearly shows that the barrier between species isn't as complete as the above definition suggests.

.
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quote:
Personally I find attributing large morphological changes


I misread this.

Nobody attributes large morphological changes to anything (as far as I know, though theoretically possible, extremely unlikely).

They attribute large numbers of small morphological changes in a cumulative matrix to the kind of change you are talking about.

I'm not sure what Grinch has against present day cladistics but perhaps he wants to get down to the nitty-gritty-nuts-and-bolts-brass-tacks point:

Follow the genes.

With that, the distinction between all that is micro and all that is macro melts into thin air.
  
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Must visit the mountains of NC for a few days, after that I'll love to try and respond to Brad and Grinch.  

Ron, did you drop out of this one for good, or will you adapt and resurface somewhere in the biosphere with some new appendages?  

Stephen
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quote:
or will you adapt and resurface somewhere in the biosphere with some new appendages?


I have a sudden picture of Ron as that four-armed guy in "Mortal Kombat".
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Maybe a miracle took place and he changed his mind?  
Stephanos
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Brad,

my mental image of the new Ron was not so becoming as that.  lol.

Ess,

silence is much more likely reloading time.    

Stephen
 
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