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The incorrigible David Berlinski

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Stephanos
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Essorant, some Paleontologists will say that the fossil record does not contradict evolution, few to none will say that it is conclusive ... that it is the strong suit of Evolutionary theory.  Why do you think Gould said the scant evidence in the fossil record was the "trade secret" of Paleontology?


quote:
Yes, the fossil record could certainly falsify evolution.  If any fossil were out of evolutionary order, one mammal-fossil found in times before mammals evolved, if one little mouse-fossil were discovered in the Cambrian, evolution as we know it would be completely shattered.   But that doesn't happen.  That is part of why the fossils are such solid evidence of evolution.


You really don't think scientists would say that the mouse fossil was "misplaced" in Cambrian strata, by some catastrophe or another?


Its funny that you should bring up the Cambrian, since I already mentioned that the relatively quick appearance of all the major phylum during this period, with no antecedents, was problematic enough for Gould to develop a theory that Evolution doesn't happen like Darwin described at all, but could happen very very rapidly .... punctuated equilibrium.  


I'm not saying the theory can't be believed.  I'm not saying there are no fossils that can be called, as hypothesis, "transitional" (Berlinski said this too).  I am saying that what we see in the fossil record is not even close to what Darwin said should be observed were his theory true.


No the theory is not seriously challenged by findings.  


No, in many cases, science is as dogmatic as religion ... especially when it rules out beforehand anything other than spontaneous development.


quote:
Yes, you did, because you denied evolution, but evolution is small scale change.  Small scale changes over millions and millions of years can add up, but you don't seem to be willing to accept that part.


And that's the part that doesn't add up, either in terms of mathematics or empirical evidence.  An eye may change color.  No one has shown that a non-eye can become an eye by random mutation.  It is forever outside of the realm of science to say the emergence of highly complex organ systems happened in the same way.  It can't be extrapolated from observing different colors of moth wings, or size in finch beaks.  My legs can get stronger and stronger, so that when I jump off the couch I stay suspended a bit longer than before ... that doesn't mean we've identified in this, the origins of flight.


No one disputes small bounded change.  To say "this is evolution" is bogus, when you think about the sweeping claims of evolutionary theory.

quote:
If you deny little changes among animals from adding up through the ages, what stops you from denying gradual changes of the earth from adding up to bring about mountains?


My point exactly, wind erosion and water erosion did not cause the mountains.  Something much more sudden and catastrophic did.  What could bring about mind-boggling complexity in biology, other than random mutation and natural selection?  I think Intelligent Design has the best explanation.  But whatever you think, the former has not been established by science ... and the second is more intuitive regarding how we usually approach complexity and specificity.  
  

We've gone far past pointless repition here.  Let's say we agree to disagree, and let this thread die?  I don't think it is going to mutate into anything more for now.


Stephen
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quote:
Why do you think Gould said the scant evidence in the fossil record was the "trade secret" of Paleontology?

Because, apart from a few isolated examples, the fossil record doesn’t seem to contain many intermediary fossils, a fact that seemed to support his theory of evolution - punctuated equilibrium sieved by natural selection. Here’s the rub though Stephen, even if Gould was right it’s still evolution, the only difference Gould was arguing against was the mechanics not the general process.

Gould was right – sort of. He simply didn’t go far enough and recognise that random genetic mutation, while important, isn’t the main contributor to speciation and the story of the evolutionary development of life on earth. Dawkins makes the same mistake only on a far bigger level. Darwin though is less guilty in that regard largely because he developed his theory before genetics were understood, all his theory of natural selection required was a tendency towards difference, the mechanics of change was less important.

So what does the fossil record tell us?

Well it tells us that millions of years ago life on earth was very simple and as time went by organisms that are more complex appeared. It tells us that the diverse life we see today hasn’t always been around, that at various times in earth’s history the flora and fauna on this planet has looked very different to the flora a fauna that now exists.

quote:
Its funny that you should bring up the Cambrian, since I already mentioned that the relatively quick appearance of all the major phylum during this period, with no antecedents.


Quick?

Even in terms of geological time the Cambrian period can hardly be called ‘quick’.
To put it in perspective America was discovered 620 years ago – give or take a couple of years. The Cambrian period however lasted a mere 114,000 times longer than that. Still not long enough for substantial change?

70 million years ago, dinosaurs walked the earth, as evidenced by the fossil record. At that time there weren’t any chimpanzees – we went from dinosaurs and no chimpanzees to no dinosaurs and oodles of Chimps in 70 million years, a fairly substantial change you’d have to admit – BTW the Cambrian period lasted 70 million years too.

No antecedents?

What about all the life forms in the Ediacaran Period fossil record that pre-date the Cambrian? Can’t they be classed as antecedents?

quote:
I think Intelligent Design has the best explanation.


That’s odd because I’ve never come across anything that even resembles an explanation from the wedgies. Could you, or anyone else for that matter, explain the ID theory that you believe is better than the theory of evolution?

.
Essorant
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quote:
few to none will say that it is conclusive


"Conclusive" is fairly irrelevent Stephanos.  No one says or expects that the fossil record be at an end or complete.  Scientists generally wish the fossil record had more to it.   But wishing that doesn't mean they don't acknowledge what we do have as evidence of evolution.  

I guess you are loth to take up my challenge to discuss specifically an actual part of the fossil record itself, the fossils for whales, and to show me what your ground is for denying the fossil-evidence as being evidence of their evolution from landmammals?  Or the ground to deny the evidence of left-over leg-parts in whales, and the the reason they are mammals instead of fishes?   Which part of this equation doesn't say "evolution"?   The reason you can't tell me is because every part does say "evolution".  


quote:
You really don't think scientists would say that the mouse fossil was "misplaced" in Cambrian strata, by some catastrophe or another?



Not if there weren't evidence to point to that.  They would need evidence of such catastrophe or evidence of different strata interrupting the Cambrian from whence a mousefossil would come.  
quote:
Its funny that you should bring up the Cambrian, since I already mentioned that the relatively quick appearance of all the major phylum during this period, with no antecedents...



If you looked a little more thoroughly you would realize nothing is miraculous about the Cambrian explosion, or even very explosive about it.   I am weary of hearing those kind of misdescriptions over and over again.    But since my words never convince you, hopefully you will at least take Prothero's  more seriously:


If the soft-bodied multicellular (but nonskeletonized) Ediacara fauna represents the next logical step from single-celled life, then the next step beyond that would be the appearance of mineralized, fossilizeable skeletons.  But if life took almost 3 billion years to develope the ability to mineralize shells, we expect that it would be a difficult process and would not arise fully fledged.  Sure enough, the earliest stages of the Cambrian (known as the Nemakit-Daldynian and the Tommotian stages, from 520-545 million years ago) are dominated by tiny (only a few millimeters) fossils nicknamed the "little shellies" or "the small shelly fossils...

Whatever the reason, for almost 25 million years, the Cambrian explosion was burning on a slow fuse.   The little shellies were abundant, but larger fossils were not.  The earliest sponges had already appeared back in the late Vendian, but this is not surprising, considering that all lines of evidence show that sponges are the most primitive animals alive today.   By the Tommotian Stage (530 million years ago), a slow trickle of other groups of larger invertebrates began to appear, including the first "lamp shells" (brachiopods) and also members of an extinct sponge-like group known as archaeocyathids.  Diversity in the Tommotian reached only about 50 genera, about the same as in the Vendian...thus, the earliest Cambrain shows evidence of a gradual increase in diversity from the Vendian, but no "explosion."

The third stage of the Early Cambrian is known as the Atdabanian Stage (515-520 million years ago), and with this stage, we finally see a great increase in diversity: over 600 genera are recorded.  However, this number is misleading and a bit inflated.   Most of the genera are trilobites, which fossilize readily and so greatly increase the volume and diversity of the large shelly fossils.  Most of the other animal phyla had already appeared by this time (including mollusks, sponges, corals, echinoderms) or would appear later in the Cambrian (vertebrates) or even the Ordovician Period that followed (e.g the "moss animals" or byrozoans).

By the Middle of the Cambrian (500-510 million years ago) diversity had actually dropped below the Atdabanian levels to about 450 genera.  It is during this time that we have extraordinary soft-bodied preservation of fossils from places like the Burgess Shale in Canada and Chengjiang in China...We have many bizarre worm-like  and odd fossils, many of which don't fit into any living phylum. (...)

Thus we have seen that the Cambrian explosion is a myth.   It is better described as the Cambrian slow fuse.  It takes from 600 to 520 million years ago before the typical Cambrian fauna of large shelly organisms (especially trilobites) finally develops.  Eighty million years is not explosive by any stretch of the imagination!  Not only is the explosion a slow fuse, but it follows a series of logical stages from simple and small to larger and complex and mineralized.  First, of course, we have microfossils of cynobacteria and other eukaryotes going back to as far as 3.5 billion years ago and spanning the entire fossil record since that ancient time.  Then, about 600 million years ago, we get the first good evidence of multicellular animals, the Ediacara fauna.  They are larger and multicellular but did not have hard shells.   The earliest stages of the Cambrian, the Nemakit-Daldynian and Tommotian stages, are dominated by the little shellies, which were just beginning to develop small mineralized skeletons.  Only after several more steps do we see the full Cambrian fauna.  In short, the fossil record shows a gradual buildup from single-celled prokaryotes and then eukaryotes to multicellular softbodied animals to animals with tiny shells, and finally by the middle Cambrian, the body size and skeletonization bears no resemblance to an instantaneous Cambrian explosion that might be consistent with the Bible but instead clearly shows a series of evolutionary transformations.


(From Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters).
quote:
...problematic enough for Gould to develop a theory that Evolution doesn't happen like Darwin described at all, but could happen very very rapidly .... punctuated equilibrium.


I admit, I don't know his theory closely enough to know how much it differs from Darwin, but Wikipedia gives me a suggestion that you might be taking it overboard:


It is often incorrectly assumed that he [Darwin]insisted that the rate of change must be constant, or nearly so, but even the first edition of On the Origin of Species states that "Species of different genera and classes have not changed at the same rate, or in the same degree. In the oldest tertiary beds a few living shells may still be found in the midst of a multitude of extinct forms... The Silurian Lingula differs but little from the living species of this genus". Lingula is among the few brachiopods surviving today but also known from fossils over 500 million years old.[41] In the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species Darwin wrote that "the periods during which species have undergone modification, though long as measured in years, have probably been short in comparison with the periods during which they retain the same form."[42] Thus punctuationism in general is consistent with Darwin's conception of evolution.[40]...

But:

"Thus punctuated equilibrium contradicts some of Darwin's ideas regarding the specific mechanisms of evolution, but generally accords with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection"

That doesn't sound like an evolution that doesn't happen like Darwin described at all.    

But even if it were, there is nothing about the theory of evolution that suggests that it should stay the same forever.  Just as in other areas of science, we should expect different theories about specific details and to develop with further understandings over time.   That is part of science.

quote:
It is forever outside of the realm of science to say the emergence of highly complex organ systems happened in the same way.



That is not true, Stephanos.   Life is life.   Unless there is evidence and reasonable grounds to show that life all the sudden doesn't evolve, but out of the blue starts coming out of thin air, then there is no reason why the same principles at work today weren't also at work in the past.    That would be reasonable on its own.  But the fossil record gives us solid proof of both changes within species and transitions into new species.   Therefore there is double reason to believe that the same principles at work today were at work yesterday too.    

What evidence do you have to back up a position that the same principles weren't at work?  
quote:
the former has not been established by science


But who is giving that answer, you, or science?  If you let science speak for itself, I think you will get a much different answer!  
 

[This message has been edited by Essorant (01-07-2010 12:34 AM).]

Stephanos
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Ess:
quote:
"Conclusive" is fairly irrelevent Stephanos.  No one says or expects that the fossil record be at an end or complete.


No, of course not.  Nor am I saying that anyone expects it should be.  But Darwin kind of set the bar high at a robust if not seamless demonstration of fossils that pointed to continuity (he expected a plethora of discovery that would later affirm it, though in reality only a very scant few things have been found that can be called transitional between major groups).  No, I'm not demanding seamless perfection, but I am pointing out that the fossil record is inconclusive and sparse enough that even many paleontologists who believe in evolution don't consider it the "best foot" to put forward.

I can discuss any particulars you wish.  I'm not avoiding any.

quote:
I guess you are loth to take up my challenge to discuss specifically an actual part of the fossil record itself, the fossils for whales, and to show me what your ground is for denying the fossil-evidence as being evidence of their evolution from landmammals?  Or the ground to deny the evidence of left-over leg-parts in whales, and the the reason they are mammals instead of fishes?


Okay, Berlinski was right about probably 50,000 or more morphological changes between a whale and a cow.  If you think the mere fact of both being a mammal is sufficient (when that much isn't sufficient even to establish the common decent of two land dwelling mammals), what about the rest of the changes?  Make your case with the fossil record.  In the mean time I'll try to gather some information on the differences between land dwelling mammals and whales .. and ask whether we see anything of those transitions in the fossil record.

quote:
The reason you can't tell me is because every part does say "evolution".


How can I argue with that?  I myslef wouldn't say "EVERY PART says no evolution".  Maybe you should second-guess yourself whenever you're not conceding anything at all.    

quote:
me: You really don't think scientists would say that the mouse fossil was "misplaced" in Cambrian strata, by some catastrophe or another?


you: Not if there wasn't evidence to point to that.



My point was that there have already been significant anomalies in the fossil record which have been explained not by science but by added theory (punctuated equilibrium is one).  It is fairly elastic.


quote:
If you looked a little more thoroughly you would realize nothing is miraculous about the Cambrian explosion


Essorant, in this thread I am not arguing a positive case for the miraculous in the Cambrian period (though I can make a pretty strong case  that highly specified life in any period of time is miraculous).  Rather, I'm telling you that not a few have found it perplexing and problematic as it relates to Darwinism.  I'm not arguing for anything conclusive either way regarding darwin.  I am saying that doubt and negation is as justified as belief and affirmation of the theory, if evidentiary science is the ground.  

The Scientific Controversy over The Cambrian...


quote:
What evidence do you have to back up a position that the same principles weren't at work?


What evidence do you have to back up a position that the same principles (random mutation/natural selection) are responsible for large scale change, other than an exiguous fossil collection?  Even Grinch has to (unlike Dawkins and others) let go of the mechanism of Darwin in order to explain ... though no mechanism other than Darwin's has been demonstrated as far as I know.

quote:
the former has not been established by science


But who is giving that answer, you, or science?  If you let science speak for itself, I think you will get a much different answer!


With such a high degree of inference, subjectivity, ambiguity, and no ability to reproduce anything ... it is not so simple as "science speaking for itself".



Grinch:
quote:
Because, apart from a few isolated examples, the fossil record doesn’t seem to contain many intermediary fossils, a fact that seemed to support his theory of evolution - punctuated equilibrium sieved by natural selection. Here’s the rub though Stephen, even if Gould was right it’s still evolution, the only difference Gould was arguing against was the mechanics not the general process.


Not exactly true.  Punctuated Equilibrium, more nominal than explanatory, hardly offers a testable mechanism.  Isn't it as much as saying that random mutation and natural selection (for reasons inexplicable) worked much faster?

Educate me if I'm looking at it wrong.

quote:
Gould was right – sort of. He simply didn’t go far enough and recognise that random genetic mutation, while important, isn’t the main contributor to speciation and the story of the evolutionary development of life on earth.


So, scientifically and testably speaking, what is?

quote:
Dawkins makes the same mistake only on a far bigger level. Darwin though is less guilty in that regard largely because he developed his theory before genetics were understood, all his theory of natural selection required was a tendency towards difference, the mechanics of change was less important.


bologna.  The mechanics of change was the only thing that made Darwin's version of gradualism (that had been around more or less since ancient times) scientific and "respectable" ... to use Dawkin's words.

quote:
So what does the fossil record tell us?

Well it tells us that millions of years ago life on earth was very simple and as time went by organisms that are more complex appeared. It tells us that the diverse life we see today hasn’t always been around, that at various times in earth’s history the flora and fauna on this planet has looked very different to the flora a fauna that now exists.


Very general, and very undisputed by me.

quote:
Quick?

Even in terms of geological time the Cambrian period can hardly be called ‘quick’.
To put it in perspective America was discovered 620 years ago – give or take a couple of years. The Cambrian period however lasted a mere 114,000 times longer than that. Still not long enough for substantial change?


Nice trick, juxtaposing human (a late mammalian novelty) history against evolutionary history.  that's like saying 365 days is an eon to a mayfly that lives a mere half hour.  You can always apply a crude relativity in order to make an invalid comparison.  In evolutionary terms, and considering the kinds of significant biological change in question, the Cambrian explosion (only a portion of the whole period, BTW) was relatively quick.

quote:
70 million years ago, dinosaurs walked the earth, as evidenced by the fossil record. At that time there weren’t any chimpanzees – we went from dinosaurs and no chimpanzees to no dinosaurs and oodles of Chimps in 70 million years, a fairly substantial change you’d have to admit – BTW the Cambrian period lasted 70 million years too.


quoting how long the entire Cambrian period was, is to miss that the so-called "explosion" occured over a much shorter time in the Early Cambrian, probably less than 10 million, big by our watch, small by evolutionary standards.

quote:
No antecedents?  What about all the life forms in the Ediacaran Period fossil record that pre-date the Cambrian? Can’t they be classed as antecedents?


I didn't say nothing living existed before the Cambrian Explosion.  rather, I'm saying that the appearance of all the different phylum, is not obviously traceable to an old lineage.  There was significant and diverse change on too many levels to call these "antecedents".  


quote:
Could you, or anyone else for that matter, explain the ID theory that you believe is better than the theory of evolution?


I'm not sure that design can be established scientifically any more than evolution can ... in that much I differ from many ID advocates.  However I find intelligent design more sensical and believable than spontaneous naturalism, which is what I was refuting when I wrote what you quoted (Ess and I were talking about abiogenesis).  The premise of Evolution in general, does not affect intelligent design one way or another, to my mind.  Whether life was created instantaneously, through some lengthy process, or through a process interspersed with moments of quantum intervention, is fairly irrelevant as touching whether Intelligent design is reasonable.  

My quote comes not from debating the science of Darwinian Evolution (which can only begin with reproducing life), but when we were talking about the ridiculous notion that complex life just happened spontaneously and randomly from nature alone.  Such biological systems have the mark of design, and therefore of a designer with intelligence (for lack of a better word) and intentionality.  

But no, I'm not sure that design can be established by science any more than the Theory of Common Descent can, or (even worse-off evidentially speaking) abiogenesis.  It is something known on a more intuitive level I suppose.


happy mutations,

Stephen

[This message has been edited by Stephanos (01-07-2010 01:58 AM).]

Essorant
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Stephanos,

quote:
But Darwin kind of set the bar high at a robust if not seamless demonstration of fossils that pointed to continuity (he expected a plethora of discovery that would later affirm it, though in reality only a very scant few things have been found that can be called transitional between major groups).  No, I'm not demanding seamless perfection, but I am pointing out that the fossil record is inconclusive and sparse enough that even many paleontologists who believe in evolution don't consider it the "best foot" to put forward.



All of that is a mistaken approach though.  The quantity of fossils doesn't say anything about evolution.  We could have far more fossils with far less diversity and showing far less than what we have.   The point is  the importance of the fossils that we do have, not the fossils we don't have.    

In Darwin's time, there weren't any transitions (if I understand correctly) beyond Archaeopteryx.  Today however, there are many transitions.   Archaeopteryx is one of the most important fossils that marks the evolution of birds from dinosaurs.  It was strong evidence on its own.  But it is no longer on its own.   There are many others now that give Archaeopteryx company.   To name a few on the dinosaur-toward-bird-side Sinosauropteryx, Protarchaeopteryx,  Sinornithosaurus, Caudipteryx, Beipiaosaurus, Anchiornis, Microraptor and Mei Long and Oviraptor.   A more recent discovery is Limusaurus inextricabilis.

  
Further are transitional fossils on the bird-from-dinosaur-side of the transition: Rahonavis, Confuciusornis, Iberomesornis, Sinornis.  

These are just some of the most important transitional fossils that prove that birds evolved from dinosaurs.   To say that there are too few, would be ridiculous.  

Darwin's opinion of the fossil record during his time is out of date and out of context as far as judging the fossil record today.   Just as the other quotations from years ago in differing degrees tend to be.   If you sought the modern opinions of scientists you would find out what scientists today are saying in the right context: in the context of the fossil record as it is today, not fifteen, twenty, and especially not a hundred or more years ago.  I have no doubt that if Darwin were around he would be much-rejoicing at the state of today's fossil record, far from his opinions about it in his time!  

quote:
I can discuss any particulars you wish.  I'm not avoiding any.


I know you can, but it does seem like you are avoiding things when you keep referring to some level of fossil evidence we don't have instead of the importance of the evidence we do have.    


quote:
Okay, Berlinski was right about probably 50,000 or more morphological changes between a whale and a cow.


No, he was not correct.   Whales are only related to cows, not descended from them.   A hippopotomus is a much closer relation to a whale, and is big and watery, but whales are not descended from hippos either.   Whales are not descended from any modern animal.   That is why the fossil record is the only true evidence about the lineage from which whales come.  

The other mistake is speaking in terms of "a whale and a cow (even though cow is incorrect to begin with).   It gives the impression that a given "cow" would be experiencing massive change, which is not true.    Evolution is small-scale change.   Little changes over generations and generations make their difference, and added up over millions and millions of years, they make a big difference.  


quote:
If you think the mere fact of both being a mammal is sufficient (when that much isn't sufficient even to establish the common decent of two land dwelling mammals), what about the rest of the changes?  Make your case with the fossil record.  In the mean time I'll try to gather some information on the differences between land dwelling mammals and whales .. and ask whether we see anything of those transitions in the fossil record.


I didn't say that.  I said that it is part of the compound evidence.   An animal that many people do mistake as a "fish", has a reason for not being a fish: because it is evolved from non-fish, from landmammals.   Why didn't you say anything about those leftover leg parts in whales?   When all of these are taken into compound consideration, they do share a common direction.   But let's refer to actual fossils.     Here is web page with a chart representing the most important fossils we have for the transition of whales from land mammals.  

As Stephen Gould concludes, "If you had given me a blank piece of paper and a blank check, I could not have drawn you a theoretical intermediate any better or more convincing than Ambulocetus. Those dogmatists who by verbal trickery can make white black, and black white, will never be convinced of anything, but Ambulocetus is the very animal that they proclaimed impossible in theory."
Natural History magazine, May 1994.


Here is another site with more information.


quote:
What evidence do you have to back up a position that the same principles (random mutation/natural selection) are responsible for large scale change, other than an exiguous fossil collection?  Even Grinch has to (unlike Dawkins and others) let go of the mechanism of Darwin in order to explain ... though no mechanism other than Darwin's has been demonstrated as far as I know.



Again, there is nothing to point to large scale change in evolution.  We have evidence of small scale change within our lifetime and we have evidence of large scale differences from the fossil record over millions and millions of years.  Put those things together, there is nothing contradictory.   Small scale changes add up to large scale differences over many and many years.   Scientists differ about the details of "Natural Selection", how much different aspects may contribute (such as sexual selection) or how gradual or how rapid changes may be, etc, but they don't differ in accepting the established framework of Natural selection.   I don't know for sure, but I doubt Grinch does either.  He may theorize that something different has the most important role within Natural Selection, but that doesn't mean he no longer accepts the general mechanism of Natural Selection.  
 

[This message has been edited by Essorant (01-07-2010 08:15 PM).]

Grinch
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quote:
Scientists differ about the details of "Natural Selection", how much different aspects may contribute (such as sexual selection) or how gradual or how rapid changes may be, etc, but they don't differ in accepting the established framework of Natural selection.  I don't know for sure, but I doubt Grinch does either.

You’d be correct.
quote:
Even Grinch has to (unlike Dawkins and others) let go of the mechanism of Darwin in order to explain ... though no mechanism other than Darwin's has been demonstrated as far as I know.

Unfortunately you’re absolutely wrong.
Everything I’ve written in this thread is 100% compatible with Darwin’s mechanism – natural selection. In that regard I agree completely with Dawkins and Gould. Where I part company with Dawkins, and to a lesser degree Gould is with regard to the mechanism of change. Although small step change undoubtedly plays an important part in the evolutionary process I don’t believe that it is the main mechanism that drives speciation.
quote:
bologna.  The mechanics of change was the only thing that made Darwin's version of gradualism (that had been around more or less since ancient times) scientific and "respectable" ... to use Dawkin's words.

I think that you’re getting a little confused Stephen. Yes, Darwin’s theory depends on change but that isn’t what made it so important, as you say that idea wasn’t new, even in Darwin’s day. As Richard pointed out though it was the theory that natural selection dictated the course of evolution that was so important. The actual mechanics – the nuts and bolts of how the changes occurred are a minor part of Darwin’s theory.
quote:
You can always apply a crude relativity in order to make an invalid comparison.  In evolutionary terms, and considering the kinds of significant biological change in question, the Cambrian explosion (only a portion of the whole period, BTW) was relatively quick.

It’s not a crude relativity Stephen, it’s an absolutely valid comparison, life on earth went from dinosaurs and no primates to no dinosaurs and oodles of primates in the same length of time that it went from soft bodied organisms to the forefathers of the major animal groups. Both are frighteningly long periods of time and yet you’d describe both as happening quickly. I’d describe a process that took 70 million years as anything but quick.
quote:
quoting how long the entire Cambrian period was, is to miss that the so-called "explosion" occured over a much shorter time in the Early Cambrian, probably less than 10 million, big by our watch, small by evolutionary standards.

Bologna – Sorry Stephen but that’s just plain wrong. The oldest fossil bi-valve organism was discovered in rocks dating back 542 million years, very early in the Cambrian. The Emu bay shale and Burgess shale both contain evidence of more advanced organisms and proof that the “explosion” was still in full flow, the latter being some 37 million years older than the first fossils. Even latter fossil evidence shows a continuation of diversity and the “explosion” throughout the Cambrian period and beyond. Where did you get the 10 million year figure from?
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very busy 70 million years or so in evolutionary terms but there are simple reasons for that, and more than enough time for the changes in flora and fauna to occur.
quote:
I didn't say nothing living existed before the Cambrian Explosion.  rather, I'm saying that the appearance of all the different phylum, is not obviously traceable to an old lineage.  There was significant and diverse change on too many levels to call these "antecedents".

OK, let’s set aside evolution for a second. Where do you believe that the organisms in the late Cambrian came from?
quote:
I'm not sure that design can be established scientifically any more than evolution can

Don’t worry about explaining it scientifically – a simple explanation will do, just the barebones mechanics – we can get to the scientific validity of evolutionary theory and Intelligent Design theory later.

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Essorant:
quote:
The point is  the importance of the fossils that we do have, not the fossils we don't have  ... In Darwin's time, there weren't any transitions (if I understand correctly) beyond Archaeopteryx.  Today however, there are many transitions.


"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth [must] be truly enormous.  Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain;  and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" (Darwin, The Origin of Species)

Are the so-called transitions you mentioned "truly enormous"?  I don't think what was anticipated by Darwin is what we've seen.  Of course paleontology is slow business, but what has been found (by way of possible transitions) is still very little and plauged by subjectivity and limited analysis.  More about that in a bit ...


""Forms transitional between species can be observed today, and can be inferred to have existed in the past.  Nevertheless, the net result is very far from a seamless tapestry of form that would allow an investigator to read the Tree of Life simply by finding the intermediates- living and extinct- that in principle connect all species.  On the contrary, biologists are much more impressed by the discreteness of organic form, and the general absence of intermediates."  (paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, The Crucible of Creation, 1998)


From these quotes, and others like them, my case is made that inconclusivity is still a live option scientifically speaking, regarding the fossil record.  I'm not saying you can't believe what you do.  I am saying that you can't pretend its a slam dunk.  


quote:
Archaeopteryx is one of the most important fossils that marks the evolution of birds from dinosaurs.  It was strong evidence on its own.  But it is no longer on its own.


In addition to the "jerky" and sparse appearance of fossils that could be called transitional, when a much more robust demonstration of common ancestry should have been expected according to Darwin himself ... you have the problem of subjectivity and limited analysis.  If the Duck-billed Platypus can have both mammalian and bird-like features, and yet be no transition between mammals and birds (which, according to evolutionary theory did not come through the same lineage), how can we be sure ancient "transitionals" are not also mere oddities of anatomy?  There are more than a handful of examples where similar homology has been shown to be genetically disparate (both genes and geology have shown very striking likenesses to be quite unrelated).  Consider the following clip about homology, and what it can and cannot conclude ...


NeoDarwinism's Homology Problem


Jonathan Wells also wrote the following about homology:

"The concept of homology can thus function in several ways, which can be brought into sharper focus by placing them in the context of syllogisms:

A. Classical (morphological) view:

    Premise 1 (Definition). Features are homologous if and only if they have similar structures.

    Premise 2 (Empirical observation). A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper have similar structures.

    Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.

A'. Darwin’s extension of the morphological view:

    Premise 1 (Conclusion from classical view).  A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.

    Premise 2 (Proposed explanation).  Features are homologous because they are inherited from a common ancestor.

    Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are inherited from a common ancestor.


B. Post-Darwinian (phylogenetic) view:

    Premise 1 (Definition). Features are homologous if and only if they are inherited from a common ancestor.

    Premise 2 (Assumption?  Empirical inference?).  A bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are inherited from a common ancestor.

    Conclusion. Therefore, a bat’s wing and a whale’s flipper are homologous features.


Ironically, the post-Darwinian (phylogenetic) definition of homology undercuts one of Darwin’s own arguments for evolution, since it requires that common ancestry be established (or assumed) before features can be called homologous.  Logically speaking, it is a fallacy to infer evolution from phylogenetic homology: once one determines (or assumes) that features are homologous because of common ancestry, it would be circular reasoning to claim that homology demonstrates common ancestry.
"


quote:
No, he was not correct.   Whales are only related to cows, not descended from them.   A hippopotomus is a much closer relation to a whale, and is big and watery


Big and "watery"??  

quote:
but whales are not descended from hippos either.   Whales are not descended from any modern animal.


Okay, well then Berlinski was basically correct to assume that a cow might be a good analagy of a land dweller that had to take on all the morphological changes necessary to evolve into a whale.  Take a hippo if you wish, I don't think the differences are any less staggering.  

quote:
That is why the fossil record is the only true evidence about the lineage from which whales come.


And the fossil record is precisely where there is next to nothing reflecting the kinds of radical changes necessary throughout a common line of descent.

quote:
Why didn't you say anything about those leftover leg parts in whales?


Because a few disconnected bones that are presumed to be the remnant of "legs" have been sadly subjected to the same kind of fallacious subjectivism as much of homology has been in the history of Darwinism.  

About Ambulocetus ... like the Duck billed platypus ... mere subjective intuitive connection cannot establish that a whale evolved from it.  It is still in many regards light-years away, and doesn't look a darned thing like a whale.  The fact that a mammal travels in water and on land does not make it a transition.  It may be, but there's much more work to be done, if the inconclusivity of homology has taught us anything.

  
quote:
The other mistake is speaking in terms of "a whale and a cow (even though cow is incorrect to begin with).   It gives the impression that a given "cow" would be experiencing massive change, which is not true.    Evolution is small-scale change.   Little changes over generations and generations make their difference, and added up over millions and millions of years, they make a big difference.


Bingo, I never said otherwise.  What I am saying is that the fossil record does not reflect anywhere near most of, or even one percent of one percent of all the "little changes".  We have a grossly different image here, and a grossly different snap-shot there with some similarities.  But similarities are nothing new even among genetically disparate creatures.  Some foot prints in Atlanta and some in Beijing do not prove a walking visit.  (I have been there though, twice.   )



Grinch:
quote:
Unfortunately you’re absolutely wrong.
Everything I’ve written in this thread is 100% compatible with Darwin’s mechanism – natural selection. In that regard I agree completely with Dawkins and Gould. Where I part company with Dawkins, and to a lesser degree Gould is with regard to the mechanism of change.


Sorry, I misunderstood you.  It wasn't clear what you had in mind.  It still isn't really.  What other mechanisms of change, than genetic mutations, have been scientifically tested?

quote:
The actual mechanics – the nuts and bolts of how the changes occurred are a minor part of Darwin’s theory.


Speaking of sheer hypotheses that have been offered, your statement might be true.  But the established aspect of the scientific theory, ie that genetic mutation can produce small-scale biological change, seems to rely soley on this 'minor' part. As scientifically established mechanisms, I don't believe what you're saying is true.  I am hitherto unaware of any.  And so I have opportunity to learn something.  Let me hear it.

quote:
It’s not a crude relativity Stephen, it’s an absolutely valid comparison, life on earth went from dinosaurs and no primates to no dinosaurs and oodles of primates in the same length of time that it went from soft bodied organisms to the forefathers of the major animal groups.


Grinch, the difference is, one involved the emergency of all the major phyla, the other didn't.  Presumably mammals existed alongside these dinosaurs, if not primates.  You seem to be overstating the similarity of evolutionary accomplishment in my opinion, though admittedly both examples of evolution are quite incredible to me.

quote:
Bologna – Sorry Stephen but that’s just plain wrong. The oldest fossil bi-valve organism was discovered in rocks dating back 542 million years, very early in the Cambrian. The Emu bay shale and Burgess shale both contain evidence of more advanced organisms and proof that the “explosion” was still in full flow, the latter being some 37 million years older than the first fossils. Even latter fossil evidence shows a continuation of diversity and the “explosion” throughout the Cambrian period and beyond. Where did you get the 10 million year figure from?
Don’t get me wrong, it was a very busy 70 million years or so in evolutionary terms but there are simple reasons for that, and more than enough time for the changes in flora and fauna to occur.


Most references to the "explosion" say around 30 million years, though Samuel A. Bowring wrote that the appearance of all the major phyla was "unlikely to have exceeded 10 million years" in his "Calibrating Rates of Early Cambrian Evolution," Science 261 (1993).


At any rate when the history of multicellular organisms is some 600 million years, and considering the diversity that appeared at the CE, even this would be somewhat small.

quote:
OK, let’s set aside evolution for a second. Where do you believe that the organisms in the late Cambrian came from?


If you're asking for a mechanism I can't say.  If you're asking for a reasonable explanation (evolution or no), it is Intelligent Design, and in some fashion or another the interposition of miraculous creation.  It probably bristles with your scientism;  But still I spy how a naturalistic philosophy must dictate biological grandualism, no matter how unlikely it might look.  In that regard alone, like religion, it stems from other than scientific proof.  Naturalism is a faith-in-something, even if that something happens to be nothing.

But as I've stated from the beginning of this thread, the lack of a specific scientific theory (I personally believe bilogical origins to be somewhat inscrutable due to our limitations and time), does not make the criticsm of an existing one invalid.  My wife doesn't have to have the perfect slipper, in order to know that another one doesn't fit.  

quote:
Don’t worry about explaining it scientifically – a simple explanation will do, just the barebones mechanics – we can get to the scientific validity of evolutionary theory and Intelligent Design theory later.


In this case, I don't think the mechanic has revealed his mechanics.  We only hear the distant roar of the engine, smell the fumes, and see a few tracks most of which have faded away. I really couldn't tell you how those guys down at the Honda dealership put in my new transmission, but I can tell you it wasn't by throwing in random pieces of scrap metal.  


Stephen
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quote:

But as I've stated from the beginning of this thread, the lack of a specific scientific theory (I personally believe biological origins to be somewhat inscrutable due to our limitations and time), does not make the criticsm of an existing one invalid.  My wife doesn't have to have the perfect slipper, in order to know that another one doesn't fit.  




     We are not talking about perfect anything.  There is no such thing.  Should you get theological, I would suspect that it is reductionistic to consider God as a thing.  If His works are perfect, that is a matter of faith and not empirical knowledge, since there is no measure for perfection other than my wife.  Your wife can take up the subject with her.  That is not the requirement.

     Your wife may not have a perfect slipper, but she is entirely likely to assume the flaws are in her foot rather than in the slipper itself.  Since it is unclear which archetype we are talking about here, she may even be correct.  The logic is not as clear as you would wish it to be.  Or as I would wish it to be.  There are a lot of different kinds of slippers.

quote:


Speaking of sheer hypotheses that have been offered, your statement might be true.  But the established aspect of the scientific theory, ie that genetic mutation can produce small-scale biological change, seems to rely soley on this 'minor' part. As scientifically established mechanisms, I don't believe what you're saying is true.  I am hitherto unaware of any.





     You contradict yourself.  The second you affirm that there is such a thing as "genetic mutation," which sounds a lot like "mutation" to me with an extra word tacked on to make it sound fancy, you contradict yourself.  "Genetic mutation" is small scale biological change.  Mutation is a scientifically established mechanism.  We usually notice it as harmful or fatal, though that doesn't mean that harmful or fatal is the way it shows up most, I suppose.  It simply means that obvious mutations appear to be fatal.  This may or may not be true in the real world, but in observation it seems to be.  Sometimes these mutations work and are incorporated.  Remember the variety of mosquito around the London subways that turned into two species, one on the surface, one subsurface, over the course of a hundred years?  Mutation to speciation.

     If you are not aware, you are not paying close attention to what you yourself are saying.


quote:

The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth [must] be truly enormous.  Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links?  Geology assuredly does not reveal any such graduated organic chain;  and this, perhaps is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory" (Darwin, The Origin of Species)

Stephen:
Are the so-called transitions you mentioned "truly enormous"?  I don't think what was anticipated by Darwin is what we've seen.  Of course paleontology is slow business, but what has been found (by way of possible transitions) is still very little and plauged by subjectivity and limited analysis.  More about that in a bit ...





     It strikes me that Darwin, in thinking that "every geological formation and every stratum" might be full of fossil record may simply not have been aware of which rock were capable of bearing fossils and surviving, and which ones were not, and how and where they might be laid down.  The geology seems to have been revealing itself steadily as time between Darwin's time and our own seems to have passed.  It seems that the various sedimentary rocks are best for fossil preservation, and not all areas of the planet have been muddy or swampy or — pardon me, Stephen, "watery" — over the last couple hundred million years.

     It also strikes me that the requests for intermediate forms has continued unabated over the past hundred fifty years no matter how many of them have been supplied.  Folks in the scientific community have begun to have some difficulty with the request.  Or at least with the urgency of the demands.  No matter how many gaps are filled in, the folks who are inclined to discount the evidence will continue the mounting evidence because the concern isn't actually with the evidence, it's with fighting what amounts to a holding action.

     I happen to think that evolution is where the evidence is, and nothing else makes much sense.

     I also think that this does absolutely nothing to the necessity of religious belief for those who find in it a deep sense of personal meaning.  The two should not be in competition.  Science, sadly, refuses to admit to the competition it is in as a belief system with religion, and religion refuses to admit that the basis in fact that makes it so overwhelmingly real has not found a way of being tested empirically.  It is still as real as being hit in the face by a two by four for those who have experienced its authority.

     It is this disagreement that gets played out on discussions such as this one.

     It seems to me, by the way, that it's as valid for a scientists to ask somebody convinced of intelligent design what the evidence is for intelligent design, and to question that as it is for somebody from a religious background to question evolution.  I think intelligent design is a particularly silly scientific point of view to take because there is little scientific evidence to defend it, and to pretend otherwise makes it appear even more silly than it is.  The best defense of a religious position is quiet faith in man's humanity, and in  — should you hold that way — the divinity of God.  It's really not such a bad position if you believe in it.

Bob Kaven
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Bob, three points:


1)  I was merely asking grinch for a mechanism of reproduced biological change, other than mutations.  He keeps mentioning that genetic mutation is only a "small part", but I am not aware of any other scientifically established agent of change.  I don't know it all, and would like to learn whether this is bluster or something to take note of.


2)  I am not pitting Darwinian Evolution against religion or ID ... My discussion of ID has only emerged when discussing the belief in abiogenesis, or the spontaneous emergence of life.


3)  I appreciate your views of how faith should present itself.  And yet I cannot see the value of taking an existential approach by which God is made separate from any objective reality ... to such a degree that a creation-inference could not be called more correct than attributing the appearance of design to random and impersonal forces.


Goodnight,

Stephen
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     The spontaneous emergence of what?  Did you mention that thing that you haven't defined again?

     You make it sound as though there were some HUGE threshold that was crossed, before which there was no life and after which there was life, like an on/off switch, such as exists between, possibly, life and death when a person has died.  Surely you have no evidence for such a claim, only a supposition?  Indeed, prions and viruses could be evolutionary  precursors; trial runs, as it were in an evolutionary sense.

     Why would the evolution of "life" be so far beyond your conception if you can see potential trial runs at such a phenomenon still hanging around and, in fact, sometimes in competition with us "life'-forms for roughly the same ecological niche?  Hummm?  Namely, in the form of prions and viruses, which are complex proteins, and not particularly different from nano-machines.

     The creation of these things seems improbably or impossible because, I think, people believe they have some sense of the amounts of time involved, when they really don't.  What they have is our mathematical way of describing numbers that are for all practical purposes too large to conceptualize, and this gives the illusion of some sense of understanding and control of the actual size of numbers and amounts of time large enough for oceans to dry up and for continents that we once joined to drift three thousand miles apart at the rate of one to three inches per century.

     To say that minor changes in chemical balances on the earth due to temperature shifts couldn't produce proteins over a long enough period of time is an underestimation of the actual amount of time involved.  A person could look at the figures, and still have no actual notion of the amount of sheer time involved; the mass of it is almost literally beyond human apprehension.

     With a little understanding and a few tools and some understanding of chemistry, we have begun to research nano-machines within two-hundred years of chemistry first actually becoming a science.  Nature's been at it for several billion years, trial and error, and is quite far ahead of us.  But to say it can't be done by chance and that much time simply shows a limited understanding of the actual amount of the time.  In my opinion.

BK

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Stephanos,

quote:
Are the so-called transitions you mentioned "truly enormous"?  I don't think what was anticipated by Darwin is what we've seen.  Of course paleontology is slow business, but what has been found (by way of possible transitions) is still very little and plauged by subjectivity and limited analysis.  More about that in a bit ...


Yes, they are "truly enormous" as far as their importance as evidence, especially compared to Darwin's day.   But I am starting to see it is not actually "many" or even "enough" that you seem to be demanding anymore. You are looking for "perfect".   I gave you more than a few just for one area of the fossil record and there are yet even more for the same area, and all you do is write them off and avoid the evolutionary theme they bear out and bear out in conjunction with other evidence that supports it.    You might find this article interesting: http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/3114/preserved-proteins.  In  2007 protein was found on a Tyrannosaurus bone and it was found to match a chicken's more closely than any other kind of animal.   Another example of protein from a hadrosaur confirms the results even further.   One more thing you can try to shrug off and pretend is not scientific.


quote:
From these quotes, and others like them, my case is made that inconclusivity is still a live option scientifically speaking, regarding the fossil record.  I'm not saying you can't believe what you do.  I am saying that you can't pretend its a slam dunk.


"Inconclusive" has nothing to do with it, as we spoke about earlier.   Science is never concluded, because new evidence can always come in and change our understanding.  When lines of evidence come in that contradict,  instead of support, the evolution of birds from dinosaurs, (and other evolutionary relationships) then your denial may have the scientific ground you religiously pretend that evolution doesn't have.  


quote:
In addition to the "jerky" and sparse appearance of fossils that could be called transitional, when a much more robust demonstration of common ancestry should have been expected according to Darwin himself ... you have the problem of subjectivity and limited analysis.



That is completely false Stephanos.    There is nothing different about how transitional fossils show up.   They show up as fossils in sequences and geological orders, just as all other fossils, and in geographical distributions as well.    There is nothing different surrounding the reality of their fossilhood.   Scientists may have difficulties about classifying a fossil in a sequence when it shares features of more than one group, but that just proves the more that they are transitional: If they were obviously the one group or the other, there wouldn't be difficulty about which group it belongs to.  Ambiguity--from features of both sides of a transition--goes hand in hand with the evidence of fossils being transitional.   But this is not the case for the main theme of dinosaur to bird (and certain other major transitions), for we have strong evidence on both sides of the transition, showing each how the theme of bird-like characteristics comes about in dinosaurs and how dinosaur-like characteristics  continue in birds and evolve more and more toward the familiar aspect and appearance of modern birds.   There are difficulties about specific groupings of the fossils, but not about the general theme that they bear out.  


quote:
If the Duck-billed Platypus can have both mammalian and bird-like features, and yet be no transition between mammals and birds (which, according to evolutionary theory did not come through the same lineage), how can we be sure ancient "transitionals" are not also mere oddities of anatomy?  


The same way we know that whales are not derived from fish, we know that the platypus is not derived from birds or birds from it.   Mammals evolved from egg-laying reptiles.   But becoming non-egg-laying mammals didn't happen overnight.   The platypus is a member of mammals that became geographically seperated from other mammals and therefore managed to take very different path.  Why do you think they are only found in Australia, along with other animals unique to Australia?     Biogeography is just one of many major areas that sheds light and evidence for evolutionary relationships among animals.  

Not to mention the fact that mammals still have the three genes for producing a protein called "vitellogenin".  Vitellogenin is still used by birds, reptiles and monotremes like the platypus for making eggs.  The only difference is that the genes are no longer used by us.  They are "dead" or "vestigial".  

You can add those things to your grocery-list of things to deny.  


quote:
There are more than a handful of examples where similar homology has been shown to be genetically disparate (both genes and geology have shown very striking likenesses to be quite unrelated).  


Exactly, that is why there is no such blind use of homology in science.  It wouldn't be good science if there were.  Scientists use geological order and sequences, geographical distribution, and (now a days) molecular evidences, as well, to understand evolutionary relationships.  If your approach were correct, scientists would just look at pterodactyls and say that birds came from them instead, or say that whales come from fishes because they are fishy in appearance, or that the platypus evolved from birds because it lays eggs and has a beak.  But it doesn't work like that at all.  If you think it does, then you don't know much at all about how much science goes into studying evolutionary relationships.

quote:
Big and "watery"??


Didn't you know Hippos spend most of their time in water?


quote:
Okay, well then Berlinski was basically correct to assume that a cow might be a good analagy of a land dweller that had to take on all the morphological changes necessary to evolve into a whale.  Take a hippo if you wish, I don't think the differences are any less staggering.  


You are talking in terms of major misconceptions again.   There are major differences between aquatic and non-aquatic animals.    A line of animals already on the "aquatic side" is not anywhere as far from being more and more whale-like over time than an animal that is not, especially after millions of years of evolution. But I see how acknowledging those things obviously wouldn't come in handy for trying to deny such evolution.


[This message has been edited by Essorant (01-08-2010 08:07 PM).]

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For those who are interested, Here's More Berlinski:

http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/204696-1

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quote:
...Discovery Institute


Do you really trust what the "Discovery Institute" puts out Stephanos?  
  
Anyway I will take a closer look, but I fear it will be a very familiar broken record.    
 
Stephanos
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Ess, I said "for those interested"

However to answer your comment:  The "Discovery Institute" has some very noteworthy media and insights.  Their stigmata according to the "atheist science" crowd is that they don't swallow contemporary Darwinism uncritically.  That can be a difficult and unpopular position to take.  Besides all that, as a scientist Berlinski has more brain in his little finger than you or I have in our heads, combined.  That doesn't mean that I take him uncritically.  He's an agnostic ... a position I vehemently disagree with obviously.  If you fear it will be too familiar (if you really are familiar with either common Intelligent Design ideas, or of Evolutionary criticism) I think you'll be surprised.  Rather than limiting talk to the fragmentary fossil record, or of complex biology, he went a direction that was surprising to me, speaking of the much broader philosophical history and cultures surrounding these issues.  My point?  We can all learn things from quarters we never dreamed of;  Therefore the prejudice of your remark is unwarranted.  Why not be a bit more open and limit comment to content?  Hey, why not?  After all, I've listened to your broken record for years now.  That doesn't mean you haven't occasionally played some music I can appreciate.    

Stephen
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Stephanos

Have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised.   It was a fairly intelligent discussion, thankfully not some attempt to say that there is no strong science behind Evolution.  That was the "broken record" I was afraid of!
 
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Actually he does say there's little to no science (although a lot of commitment) behind evolution, much less strong science ... but I think this particular discussion went the cultural / philosophical route, concerning the recent spate of "scientific atheism".  It just so happens that Evolution plays only a part in that whole discussion.  

He wrote an article called "The Deniable Darwin" that deals a little more with Evolution.  It too is fairly intelligent, though sarcastically critical at times (then again, for me that's half the pleasure of reading Berlinski)

http://www.arn.org/docs/berlinski/db_deniabledarwin0696.htm

At any rate, glad you enjoyed.

Stephen.
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141 posted 08-02-2010 07:13 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

quote:
If life progressed by an accumulation of small changes, as they say it has, the fossil record should reflect its flow, the dead stacked up in barely separated strata. But for well over 150 years, the dead have been remarkably diffident about confirming Darwin's theory. Their bones lie suspended in the sands of time-theromorphs and therapsids and things that must have gibbered and then squeaked, but there are gaps in the graveyard, places where there should be intermediate forms but where there is nothing whatsoever instead.


I think I will let Dawkins' book "The Greatest Show on Earth" answer this part, since it addresses it much more sharply than I can:

"Actually, we are lucky to have any fossils at all, let alone the massive numbers that we now do have to document evolutionary history - large numbers of which, by any standards, constitute beautiful "intermediates". I shall emphasize in Chapters 9 and 10 that we don't need fossils in order to demonstrate evolution is a fact.   The evidence for evolution would be entirely secure, even if not a single corpse had ever fossilized.   It is a bonus that we do actually have rich seams of fossils to mine, and more are discovered every day.   The fossil evidence for evolution in many major animal groups is wonderfully strong.  Nevertheless, there are, of course, gaps...

Let's again make use of our analogy of the detective coming to the scene of a crime to which there were no eye witnesses.   The baronet has been shot.   Fingerprints, footprints, DNA from a sweat stain on a pistol, and a strong motive all point towards the butler.  It's pretty much an open and shut case, and the jury and everybody in the court is convinced that the butler did it.   But a last piece of evidence is discovered, in the nick of time before the jury retires to consider what had seemed to be their inevitable verdict of guilty: somebody remembers that the baronet had installed spy cameras against burglars.  With bated breath, the court watches the films.  One of them shows the butler in the act of opening the drawer in his pantry, taking out a pistol, loading it, and creeping stealthily out of the room with a malevolent gleam in his eye.  You might think that this solidifies the case against the butler even further.  Mark the sequel, however.  The butler's defence lawyer astutely points out that there was no spy camera in the library where the murder took place, and no spy camera in the corridor leading from the butler's pantry.  He wags his finger, in that compelling way that lawyers have made their own.   "There's a gap in the video record!  We don't know what happened after the butler left the pantry.   There is clearly insufficient evidence to convict my client."

In vain the prosecution lawyer points out that there was a second camera in the billiard room, and this shows, through the open door, the butler, gun at the ready, creeping tiptoe along the passage towards the library.   Surely this plugs the gap in the video record?   Surely the case against the butler is now unassailable?  But no.   Triumphantly the defence lawyer plays his ace.   "We don't know what happened before or after the butler passed the open door of the billiard room.   There are now two gaps in the video record.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my case rests.   There is now even less evidence against my client than there was before".

The fossil record, like the spy camera in the murder story, is a bonus, something that we had no right to expect as a matter of entitlement.   There is already more than enough evidence to convict the butler without the spy camera, and the jury were about to deliver a guilty verdict before the spy camera was discovered.   Similarly, there is more than enough evidence  for the fact of evolution in the comparative study of modern species (Chapter 10) and their geographical distribution (Chapter 9).  We don't need fossils - the case for evolution is watertight without them; so it is paradoxical to use gaps in the fossil record as though they were evidence against evolution.   We are, as I say, lucky to have fossils at all."

Stephanos
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142 posted 08-03-2010 07:08 PM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

But Dawkins doesn't mention the fact that there is little to no hard science which has shown random mutation capable of advancing function, and certainly nothing to show that it can transform any system from one thing to another altogether ... much less to advance one species to another (though I'm aware that there is no precise definition of species either).  The fossil record is, at best, inconclusive.  Many many paleontologists have expressed doubt (and still do) about how the fossil record can positively recommend Darwin's Theory ... and not always based upon what is not seen, or not available, but upon what is seen.

"Intermediates" suffer, as always, from the spectre of vague homology, and from the sheer subjectivity they depend on, if they are to be considered "evidence" for evolution.  That's as "soft" as science gets in my opinion.

Back to Dawkins ... you do realize the argument he's making right?  He's as much as conceding that the fossil record doesn't show that much ... and making the case (without actually making the case) that the evidence lies elsewhere, and therefore it wasn't needed anyway.  Make no bones about it.  

Stephen      
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143 posted 08-04-2010 08:14 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Here we go again.

     It appears to me that the scientific argument for evolution is stronger than the scientific argument for God, and the faith based argument for for God and the Faith Based argument for evolution and for science are about equal, depending on what your predisposition may be, toward science or faith, in the first place.

     I don't think the dispute can be settled this way.

     I personally find the current definition of science as being identical with the scientific method as being lacking, and my faith in this form of science is not strong, though I see it as a powerful tool.  I see religion as powerful, but as having its dangers as well, such as being taken over by archetypal forces and being led into irrational and dangerous directions such as the messianic fervor related to some of the sky God archetypes, such as Wotan or  YWAH, or being overtaken by elements of the Magna Mater and losing the Self.
Stephanos
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144 posted 08-05-2010 01:25 AM       View Profile for Stephanos   Email Stephanos   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Stephanos's Home Page   View IP for Stephanos

Bob you don't think the dispute can be settled this way?

Did we come here solely to settle the issue or to explore it, and test the limits of our own and others' arguments?  I notice you didn't cease to express your views about the scientific veracity of evolution once you made the announcement it wouldn't be settled this way.


I don't know whether that means you don't want me to respond to your statements.  But I will venture to do so anyway.

quote:
It appears to me that the scientific argument for evolution is stronger than the scientific argument for God


I don't see how this can be, since evolution deals with appearances and extreme forms of extrapolation, unless you want to include as science the design inference from specified complexity.  We can look at an outboard motor and know some intelligent mind made it, because of specified complexity.  We can also look at a bacterial flagellum which puts the outboard motor to shame by way of form and functional elegance.  What limits your definition of science again?


On the other hand, if we are to accept the current region of the philosophy of science, as verifying only the empirically reproducible, and not intuitively inferential ... Then neither Darwinism or Deity have much if any evidence by way of strict science.  

But under such views of science as we now hold (generally speaking), it is healthy to note how incredibly limited science is.  There is a host of things we know (some of them the most important things to us) which are not scientifically known.  That doesn't mean that they are unscientific, but that science hasn't got the measuring tools.  Not only doesn't it have the right tools, it doesn't even have the right kind of tools by nature of its own proper boundaries.


That's okay, I'm comfortable with science not being "all that".  To me that marks the difference between a due respect of science as a part of human knowing and achievement, and scientism.


quote:
and the faith based argument for for God and the Faith Based argument for evolution and for science are about equal, depending on what your predisposition may be, toward science or faith, in the first place.



I would, of course, say that the two are not equals here, since naturalistic evolution proposes an astounding amount of complexity, beauty, form and function ... all apart from intelligence.  As Dawkins reminded his "parish" to remember that biological systems appear designed, but they're not.  Perhaps this form of evolution is believed, not so much because of its faith appeal, but because, barring God (and all the irksome meddlesome issues that entails), it's the only game in town.  At least that's my opinion as to why it's often believed.  If God is rejected, it had to have happened.  The details are second fiddle.


Of course, the other option is accept God and Evolution as faith propositions.  I'm surprised you didn't mention this, since you usually point out that science and faith need not be oppositional.  My point is, there's no reason for someone to have one disposition or another.  As I myself have a healthy interest in science, and am a Believer too.  While I can't find myself convinced of the Theory of Common Descent, I certainly respect those who adopt this position or reconciliation between Darwin and Theism.    


And no one here doubts that religion is dangerous, as well as science.  But so is marriage, and anything worthwhile.


Stephen.
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145 posted 08-05-2010 05:05 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     I need more time to respond, Stephanos, because it's late and because I can't say that I have serious quarrels with what you're saying at this point. I am bothered by the either/orness that folks tend to fall into when they don't consider things from as many angles as possible, but you're not doing that here.

     I'm not one to think that simply because one is willing to examine the world with and through the experience of wonder andf awe that Divinity must ride in on the back of those emotions.  I think, paradoxically, that such a viewpoint may be reductive.  As Lao Tsu says,"The Tao that can be named cannot be the true Tao."

     The true question about the statement is how wrong might it be?  It must have some error built in because of the paradox, right?  And it will certainly build at least a little from there.

     Best to you, your family and church.  Bob Kaven
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146 posted 08-05-2010 02:25 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

quote:
random mutation capable of advancing function


Isn't something such as nipples on a male an example of a "random" mutation?  I don't think anyone is saying that kind of mutation is an example of "advancement" of function.  It is just an example that some features that are included are not there for an especially beneficial reason, as far as we can tell.

The much more important part as far as advancement or complexity goes are the changes that aren't "random", the "Natural Selection" or differences that outstrip other differences and are "selected" (able to survive long enough) to be passed on into future generations.   There are many living examples of natural selection showed through bacteria, birds (the finches' example being the most obvious), guppies and other fishes, lizards, plants.  But as we said earlier changes are accumulative, small things that can add up to fairly big differences only after big amounts of time.  Again, why would this principle not be at work as far as the long term of evolution and macro-evolutions or "transitions" of the fossil record are concerned (one-celled organism to muticellular, fishes branching to amphibians, amphibians branching to reptilian, dinosaurs branching to birds, etc.   The fossil record DOES show evolutionary links/sequences from certain major species to other major species.  If the first ancient microbes hadn't evolved into more advanced species (multicellular) then we would all still be unicellular microbes today.  The same principle that allow finches to have more efficient beaks for their diet, is also what allowed the microbe to evolve beyond the microbe, fishy to branch into amphibious, amphibious to branch reptilian, reptilian to branch into mammalian,  dinosaurian into avian etc.  


quote:
The fossil record is, at best, inconclusive.  Many many paleontologists have expressed doubt (and still do) about how the fossil record can positively recommend Darwin's Theory ... and not always based upon what is not seen, or not available, but upon what is seen.


We already discussed this though.  There are always minorities that deny or doubt things, that is why we still have folks denying that the earth is round or that the holocaust took place.   Saying that there are exceptions doesn't remove the general rule.   The expressions/quotations of "doubt" you gave earlier were bits and peices from scientists works, which scientists mostly could be proved aren't in any major doubts about the basic/important parts, they just question some of the details, which is part of science.   Indeed, in every group you will find people quibbling about the smaller details, but I don't know any serious work (especially not a recent one) by a paleontologist that denies that the fossil evidence supports the MAIN principles of Darwin.

But even if some of Darwin's main principles were ever contradicted, that wouldn't remove the evidence that evolution still happens, it would just make us less confident of HOW It happens.  

quote:
"Intermediates" suffer, as always, from the spectre of vague homology, and from the sheer subjectivity they depend on, if they are to be considered "evidence" for evolution.  That's as "soft" as science gets in my opinion.


Do you have an example?    The methods for judging evolutionary relationships are very STRICT.  Scientists don't pile things together just because they are similar, they have very rigorous methods for distinguishing synapomorphies for example.   Not only that but, geological sequences and geographic distrubution certainly help their understanding.  You need to look carefully into all of those things to understand how much science goes into it.  It is very excruciating!


quote:
Back to Dawkins ... you do realize the argument he's making right?  He's as much as conceding that the fossil record doesn't show that much ... and making the case (without actually making the case) that the evidence lies elsewhere, and therefore it wasn't needed anyway.  Make no bones about it.  


I don't think he is saying it doesn't show much, he is just saying that our knowledge of evolution (at all) is not dependant on the fossil record.  Without the fossil record we wouldn't know (or know very certainly) about many of the evolutions that DID take place from species to species, but we would still have strong evidence that evolution does take place.  

 



[This message has been edited by Essorant (08-06-2010 04:05 AM).]

 
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