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Craig Venter denies common descent — Dawkins incredulous

Craig VenterInteresting story at Evolution News & Views about an exchange between Craig Venter (of human genome fame) and Richard Dawkins (of neo-atheist fame). Venter denies common descent, Dawkins can’t believe that he would even question it. For the exchange, which also includes Paul Davies, go here (start at the 9 minute mark). Origin-of-life researchers such as Ford Doolittle and Carl Woese have questioned for some time whether there even is a tree of life. Venter is now following in their train.

What’s significant is not so much whether Venter is right (I think he is), but what his dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy suggests about the disarray in the study of biological origins. If common descent is up for grabs, what isn’t? Imagine physics in the century after Newton questioning whether there even is such a force as gravity or suggesting that really it decomposes into several different types of gravitational forces.

Venter’s flight from orthodoxy is even more drastic. Common descent is the sanctum sanctorum of evolutionary biology. If scientists of Venter’s stature are now desecrating it, what’s next?

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38 Responses to Craig Venter denies common descent — Dawkins incredulous

  1. I find it extremely judicial for Dawkins to supply his own rope for the hanging of Darwinism when he states:

    The reason is interesting. Any mutation in the genetic code itself (as opposed to mutations in the genes that it encodes) would have an instantly catastrophic effect, not just in one place but throughout the whole organism. If any word in the 64-word dictionary changed its meaning, so that it came to specify a different amino acid, just about every protein in the body would instantaneously change, probably in many places along its length. Unlike an ordinary mutation…this would spell disaster. (2009, p. 409-10)

    ENV goes on to cite the fact that there are 23 known variants of the Genetic Code that would be ‘disastrous’, to use Dawkins rope. :)

  2. Bill Dembski writes “Imagine physics in the century after Newton questioning whether there even is such a force as gravity or suggesting that really it decomposes into several different types of gravitational forces.”

    Actually, for a very interesting reason, many did question Newton’s Laws: The laws implied action at a distance, and any good unidirectional skeptic from the Skeptics Society can tell you it doesn’t happen.

    Newton’s only response, I gather, was “hypotheses non fingo” – Latin for, roughly, “I am a mathematician; I write equations; I don’t invent hypotheses”.

    What saved Newton’s Laws from strangulation by orthodoxy was that they became irreplaceable in so many fields that finally people said, “I don’t care if it’s not orthodox. Get out of my way, will you? I need to calculate some gravitational effects …”

    I wrote a children’s book on the Laws of Motion recently. It was a most interesting controversy, and perhaps relevant to some controversies today.

    As I write this, it is #19 on Amazon Canada in children’s books on physics.

  3. I agree with what the Darwinists USE to say regarding universal common ancestry and the tree of life theory. They USE to say that its validation rested squarely on the fossil record. For me personally if all the fossils are there- and they properly correlate with geological time as it is best understood- then universal common ancestry is a fine deduction or inference. However, if the fossil record does not show what one would expect from the tree of life theory, then we NEED to reconsider and question it altogether.

    Incidentally, I found it very interesting that Richard Dawkins most recent book The Greatest No Show On Earth, was exactly that when it came to the evidence from the fossil record. Dawkins claims that the best evidence for universal common ancestry (which he improperly conflates with evolution in general) is the evidence from genetic similarity among species. But as we all know homology and genetic similarity can just as easy be inferred as the product or result of common DESIGN as it can of common ancestry.

    I am willing to let the fossils speak about the true nature of geological and paleontological history for themselves. It should noted though that even is universal common ancestry is true, that by itself does not in any way necessarily rule out intelligent design. The likelihood of human beings evolving from a one celled organism via only natural laws and pure chance is still a totally unintelligent explanation for the mechanism of how complex life came to be. Such is Darwinism. What people really should be shocked about it not someone digressing from the usual tree of life view of evolutionary history but instead the notion that the full explanation of how complex life came to be can be reduced to dumb luck and simple redundant laws of physics and chemistry.

  4. Of interest to O’Leary at 2,

    It is interesting to note the extreme difficulty that has been involved in actually proving gravity is mediated at the speed of light as held by General Relativity;,,,

    Excerpt:

    While current observations do not yet provide a direct model-independent measurement of the speed of gravity, a test within
    the framework of general relativity can be made by observing the binary pulsar PSR 1913+16. The orbit of this binary system is gradually decaying, and this behavior is attributed to the loss of energy due to escaping gravitational radiation. But in any field theory, radiation is intimately related to the finite velocity of field propagation, and the orbital changes due to gravitational radiation can equivalently be viewed as damping caused by the finite propagation speed. (In the discussion above, this damping represents a failure of the “retardation” and “non-central, velocity-dependent” effects to completely cancel.)

    The rate of this damping can be computed, and one finds that it
    depends sensitively on the speed of gravity. The fact that
    gravitational damping is measured at all is a strong indication that
    the propagation speed of gravity is not infinite. If the
    calculational framework of general relativity is accepted, the damping
    can be used to calculate the speed, and the actual measurement
    confirms that the speed of gravity is equal to the speed of light to
    within 1%. (Measurements of at least one other binary pulsar system, PSR B1534+12, confirm this result, although so far with less
    precision.)

    Are there future prospects for a direct measurement of the speed of
    gravity? One possibility would involve detection of gravitational
    waves from a supernova. The detection of gravitational radiation in the same time frame as a neutrino burst, followed by a later visual identification of a supernova, would be considered strong experimental evidence for the speed of gravity being equal to the speed of light. However, unless a very nearby supernova occurs soon, it will be some time before gravitational wave detectors are expected to be sensitive enough to perform such a test.
    http://www.sciforums.com/How-d.....-7416.html

  5. Wikipedia seems to say he is an atheist. If he does not believe in design or creation in some way, then he must believe in life spontaneously appearing multiple times.

  6. Let’s think about his as Darwinists do (and materialist, and atheists, etc.):

    “Oh, look, LIFE emerged in a variety of ways. The kind that led to us is just one kind among many. See how easy it is for some kind of life to begin? It must be everywhere in the universe!”

    This is how they will ultimately present what Venter is currently discovering. In the meantime, they will deny it and challenge it.

    Just like with “junk-DNA”. “We never called it ‘junk-DNA’!” And they say this with ‘straight faces’!

  7. @Collin,

    He’s definitely atheist. Saw his special on (I wanna say) Fox(?). He was asked directly whether he believed in God, to which he said no.

    Curiously, the special said he named his dog Darwin, so I thought he was dyed-in-the-wool Darwinist. Maybe he’s rationalized it away?

    - Sonfaro

  8. Semi-OT; This video is very good for giving a basic outline for what is happening inside the cell;

    The Cell – A Guided Tour – Molecular Machines – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/6087260/

  9. A few comments.

    Interesting story at Evolution News & Views about an exchange between Craig Venter (of human genome fame) and Richard Dawkins (of neo-atheist fame)

    I love that juxtaposition. Dawkins struck me as standing out like a sore thumb on that panel.

    “Here we have Craig Venter, a major figure in synthetic biology. Also with us is Paul Davies, founder of the Australian Center for Astrobiology and current chair of SETI. Also joining us is popular author and atheist motivational speaker Richard Dawkins.”

    That said, it really does seem like Venter is dissenting from CD, doesn’t it? I wonder if this will be expanded on by him in the future.

  10. Interesting that the NASA Ames fellow Chris Mackay at 5:45 admits that early life on earth appears “fully formed”.
    This would be consistent with Dr. Hugh Ross’s testable creation model, which predicts that evidence will continue to get stronger that first life appeared suddenly and fully formed (relatively complex, without less-complex forms).

    Evidently, NASA Ames fellow Mackay doesn’t buy Carl Sagan’s goo-to-you story.

  11. Common descent is the sanctum sanctorum of evolutionary biology.

    Actually, the Holy-of-Holies of ‘modern evolutionary theory’ is: “There is no God.” Those who worship “evolution” (whatever that word means) will sacrifice *anything* (including “common descent”) for the sake of “There is no God.”

  12. William,

    I don’t think it is fair to claim Venter “denies common descent” from what he said. It is further rather more misleading to claim:

    Common descent is the sanctum sanctorum of evolutionary biology. If scientists of Venter’s stature are now desecrating it, what’s next?

    It is important to be clear about what was said and what the implications are for evolutionary theory, lest we all get carried away.

    Venter expresses a possiblity that multiple origins occurred. Note, he referred to a bush of life, not multiple trees. Further, let’s remember that we are talking about events 4 billion years past. A range of testable possibilities should be considered.

    It is necessary, however, that such discussion is grounded with appropriate caveats. This has no implications, for example, for metazoan common ancestry (which, I suspect, most people here are interested in). There is no question there. It is about the small stuff that might occupy unknown and undiscovered niches. Venter is actively scouring the world for life and has found no evidence for multiple origins. Perhaps if this was clearer in the OP (i.e. listen to the whole discussion – don’t just listen to something at the 9 minute mark), people would not be speculating about Venter’s position on religion.

    As several panelists discuss, there is no reason to discount multiple origins of life having occurred on earth. Nothing about this possiblity is catestrophic for evolutionary theory. The ancient split between archaea and eubacteria has not resulted in either clade becoming exitinct; coexistence might be possible for unknown groups of life too. I fail to see how this has any seriously positive implications for ID.

    Finally, there is some interesting literature on the potential role of genetic drift in causing shifts from the ‘universal code’. One or two changes occurring in the 17 known variants of the genetic code most simply indicates the retention of rare mutations in those lineages and not independent origins.

  13. paulmc you state,

    ‘Nothing about this possibility is catastrophic for evolutionary theory.’

    And exactly what would be catastrophic for neo-Darwinism paulmc???? Perhaps finding quantum information, WHICH CAN”T POSSIBLY BE REDUCED TO THE MATERIALISTIC FRAMEWORK, in molecular biology? What in the world does neo-Darwinism do when even the astronomically small possibilities are taken away from it for explaining the ‘quantum’ information in life???

    notes;

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
    Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA & Protein Folding – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Further evidence that quantum entanglement/information is found throughout entire protein structures:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-373214

    It is very interesting to note that quantum entanglement, which conclusively demonstrates that ‘information’ is completely transcendent of any time and space constraints, should be found in molecular biology, for how can quantum entanglement, in molecular biology, possibly be explained by the materialistic framework of neo-Darwinism, a framework which is predicated on the presupposition of being constrained by time and space, when Alain Aspect and company falsified the validity of local realism (reductive materialism) in the first place with quantum entanglement? It is simply ludicrous to appeal to the materialistic framework, which undergirds the entire neo-Darwinian framework, that has been falsified by the very same quantum entanglement effect that one is seeking an explanation to! To give a coherent explanation for an effect that is shown to be completely independent of any time and space constraints one is forced to appeal to a cause that is itself not limited to time and space! Probability arguments, which have been a staple of the arguments against neo-Darwinism, simply do not apply!

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time – March 2011
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    Does the fact that (cannot be created nor destroyed) quantum information is found in molecular biology, at such a foundational level, provide conclusive proof for the eternal soul of man??? Well maybe not ‘conclusive’, but it certainly makes the, ‘Does man have a eternal soul? question’, A WHOLE LOT more interesting!

    further notes;

    4-Dimensional Quarter Power Scaling In Biology – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5964041/

    The ‘Fourth Dimension’ Of Living Systems
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1Gs_qvlM8-7bFwl9rZUB9vS6SZgLH17eOZdT4UbPoy0Y

    “Although living things occupy a three-dimensional space, their internal physiology and anatomy operate as if they were four-dimensional. Quarter-power scaling laws are perhaps as universal and as uniquely biological as the biochemical pathways of metabolism, the structure and function of the genetic code and the process of natural selection.,,, The conclusion here is inescapable, that the driving force for these invariant scaling laws cannot have been natural selection.” Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini, What Darwin Got Wrong (London: Profile Books, 2010), p. 78-79
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-369806

    Though Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini rightly find it inexplicable for ‘random’ Natural Selection to be the rational explanation for the scaling of the physiology, and anatomy, of living things to four-dimensional parameters, they do not seem to fully realize the implications this ‘four dimensional scaling’ of living things presents. This 4-D scaling is something we should rightly expect from a Intelligent Design perspective. This is because Intelligent Design holds that ‘higher dimensional transcendent information’ is more foundational to life, and even to the universe itself, than either matter or energy are. This higher dimensional ‘expectation’ for life, from a Intelligent Design perspective, is directly opposed to the expectation of the Darwinian framework, which holds that information, and indeed even the essence of life itself, is merely an ‘emergent’ property of the 3-D material realm.

  14. bornagain77,

    with all due respect, you have simply listed a series of videos and blog postings that are unrelated to the discussion at hand. I was discussing William Demski’s treatment of Craig Venter’s treatment of common descent in the origins of life.

    I would prefer to stay OT. Perhaps your list of links constitutes a discussion for another time?

  15. 15
    CannuckianYankee

    BA77,
    Excellent post. Apparently Darwinian evolution is falsifiable, but nobody’s ever going to succeed in falsifying it. to do so, one must have an impossibly steady hand and tight aim in order to successfully hit and sink the ever shifting claims.

  16. As we study early life, it’s looking more and more like life appears very in early in earth history at a very complete and complex level already. It seems like Athena springing from the head of Zeus fully formed. It’s really quite a mystery and it’s forced some people to think “Well maybe it didn’t develop here. It came here and landed here.” And that’s why we get this impression of incredible development and complexity so early. ~ Christopher McKay 5.53

    There won’t be a minimal gene set; there will be multiple ones. Because I’m not so sanguine as some of my colleagues here that there’s only one life form on this planet. we have a lot of different metabolism, different organisms. I wouldn’t call you the same life form as the one we have that lives in pH 12 base that would dissolve your skin if we dropped you in it… I think the tree of life is an artifact of some early scientific studies that aren’t really holding up… So there is not a tree of life. ~ Craig Venter 8.58

    We’re not going to know the origin of life on this planet. We’re generating hypotheses and the only way to test those is to see if we can recreate those conditions and that origin on another planet or witness that it did take place. There are some things we can do in science in terms of proving certain things about life we discover. Guessing what happened 4.2 billion years ago or 3.5 billion years ago — we can come up with a lot of good guesses — there’s a lot of guesses floating around. It’s impossible to prove it. ~ Craig Venter 31.22

  17. “A code system is always the result of a mental process (it requires an intelligent origin or inventor). It should be emphasized that matter as such is unable to generate any code. All experiences indicate that a thinking being voluntarily exercising his own free will, cognition, and creativity, is required. ,,,there is no known law of nature and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter. Werner Gitt 1997 In The Beginning Was Information pp. 64-67, 79, 107.”
    (The retired Dr Gitt was a director and professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig), the Head of the Department of Information Technology.)

    The DNA Code – Solid Scientific Proof Of Intelligent Design – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4060532

    “Because of Shannon channel capacity that previous codon alphabet had to be at least as complex as the current codon alphabet (DNA code), otherwise transferring the information from the simpler alphabet into the current alphabet would have been mathematically impossible”
    Donald E. Johnson – Bioinformatics: The Information in Life

    Shannon Information – Channel Capacity – Perry Marshall – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5457552/

    “In the last ten years, at least 20 different natural information codes were discovered in life, each operating to arbitrary conventions (not determined by law or physicality). Examples include protein address codes [Ber08B], acetylation codes [Kni06], RNA codes [Fai07], metabolic codes [Bru07], cytoskeleton codes [Gim08], histone codes [Jen01], and alternative splicing codes [Bar10].
    Donald E. Johnson – Programming of Life – pg.51 – 2010

    ,,,, furthermore all these codes must work in precise harmony with each other in order for the life, in which they reside, to be possible, yet material processes have no ‘intentionality’ to form a symbolic representation of itself so as to form any code whatsoever, much multiple overlapping codes working in harmony!

  18. much LESS multiple overlapping codes working in harmony!

  19. paulmc at 12: The thing is, Venter did NOT offer the clarifications you wish for. I haven’t heard whether he’s offered any since.

    To me, the most significant point is that a figure who has spent a fair amount of time cultivating an appearance of neo-Darwinist orthodoxy subtly made clear that he didn’t think it very important.

    If this was nothing unusual, how would one account for Dawkins’ reaction?

  20. paulm c (comment 12),

    Very well said- Venter just says there isn’t A tree of life and there are several variant genetic codes.

    So Venter may deny universal common descent from a single ancestor. That is about it.

    Reading anything other than that into what he said is misleading at best.

  21. To paulmc,

    Venter has doubted universal common descent since at least 2007. At a remarkable science roundtable in Connecticut, organized in August 2007 by the literary uberagent John Brockman, Venter said:

    One question is, can we extrapolate back from this data set to describe the most recent common ancestor. I don’t necessarily buy that there is a single ancestor. It’s counterintuitive to me. I think we may have thousands of recent common ancestors and they are not necessarily so common. (2008, p. 42)

    You can read this comment in context by downloading the e-book Brockman published on the roundtable, available here:

    http://www.edge.org/documents/life/Life.pdf

    The whole discussion is fascinating; see, for instance, the remarks of Harvard biologist George Church, dealing with ID and irreducible complexity, or the comments of NYU chemist Robert Shapiro on the origin of life.

  22. Is it possible to have life start only once but not have a LUCA?

    He MUST believe that life spontaneously arose more than once if there is no LUCA.

  23. If it could be established that the spontaneous appearance of life is highly improbable, then the spontaneous appearance of life multiple times would be geometrically more improbable. But maybe Venter is not saying that there is no LUCA only that LUCA was extremely early on and branched off very quickly.

  24. Bill:

    I agree with you about the momentousness of Venter’s remark, but I think that in your title and elsewhere in your column you should change “common descent” to “universal common descent.” He didn’t actually say there was no common descent at all, just that there was no “tree of life,” i.e., no branching pattern leading back to a unique beginning. I didn’t understand his remarks to be opposed to, say, a common ancestor for all mammals, or a common ancestor for all vertebrates. I understood him to be saying that there were several independent starts to life, so that it would not be the case that all living things share a single common ancestor.

    If you are seen by the Darwinists as modifying what Venter claimed, they will use it against you, saying you are deliberately misrepresenting him.

    Even the critique of universal common descent is significant, and Venter’s rejection of the “tree of life” metaphor cuts deep into Darwinian rhetoric. So by adding the word “universal” at appropriate places in your column, you achieve a damaging effect without the risk of overstatement.

    T.

  25. Paul Nelson,

    Interesting how the piece by Venter discusses the possibity of discovering life on Mars as well- which relates to that other recent post on the space rock from Mars that might show signs of micro organisms in it-

    Venter says

    “We
    exchange roughly a hundred kilograms of material annually with Mars. So we’re
    exchanging biological material and biological information. To me it’s just a matter
    of time until life is found on Mars. It’s inevitable. It won’t tell us whether it
    originated on Mars, or originated on Earth, but there’ll be common overlap.

  26. O’Leary @ 19 says:

    paulmc at 12: The thing is, Venter did NOT offer the clarifications you wish for. I haven’t heard whether he’s offered any since.

    To me, the most significant point is that a figure who has spent a fair amount of time cultivating an appearance of neo-Darwinist orthodoxy subtly made clear that he didn’t think it very important.

    If this was nothing unusual, how would one account for Dawkins’ reaction?

    What clarifications did I wish for frokm Venter? What I wrote above was based directly on what Venter said. I wrote it because the OP was OTT, IMO :)

    Perhaps you could explain in what way this could be problematic for evolutionary theory? I believe it was clear that Venter didn’t think multiple origins would be an important challenge to evolutionary theory. It is an interesting, and currently unknown possiblity.

    Yes, Dawkins was clearly surprised to hear Venter express his opinion on multiple origins and made the point that changes to one or two codons would be most parsimoniously interpreted as tRNA code mutations from a common ancestor rather than independent lineages that had converged on very similar genetic codes. On this point, I agree with Dawkins (although I disagree with many of his points of view). Venter did not respond, other than to laugh because Dawkins made a joke at the end of his statement, so it is unclear whether he would go further than that – all of which, let’s remember, is blue-sky speculation at the moment.

    Again, what Venter said was ‘bush of life’. This implies horizontal gene transfer between lineages, not a series of completely independent trees of life. But in any case – where is the problem for evolutionary theory? Universal common ancestry is not essential to evolutionary theory, nor is Craig Venter’s support for one or another origins theory. We must be humble in our approach to origins because we know little and are inferring events billions of years past.

  27. Paul Nelson @ 21:

    Venter has doubted universal common descent since at least 2007. At a remarkable science roundtable in Connecticut, organized in August 2007 by the literary uberagent John Brockman, Venter said:

    One question is, can we extrapolate back from this data set to describe the most recent common ancestor. I don’t necessarily buy that there is a single ancestor. It’s counterintuitive to me. I think we may have thousands of recent common ancestors and they are not necessarily so common. (2008, p. 42)

    Thanks for your response. I agree entirely – Venter is doubtful of universal common descent, which is the very point I made originally. It is inaccurate to say that Venter denies common descent or that this is somehow risky for evolutionary theory. I suspect Venter would be rather disturbed by that sort of talk.

    Once again, it is rather clear from the Venter quote you provide that he is interested in transfer of genetic material between species – disparate species too. This does occur and is certainly not ignored by evolutionary theory.

    I fail to see how this either challenges evolutionary theory or provides support for ID (if you intend that it does, of course). If you can clarify this, it would be appreciated.

  28. I’m from Brazil. Please, forgive my bad English. I’m little confused with this statement. Some months ago I read a interview by Venter to the brazilian magazine Veja and he said he don’t believe in God, he Believes in Darwin. The point wasn’t his atheism (he is in fact) but his commitment with the Darwinian point of view. What I want to understand is which part of the Darwinian evolution he belives. If he doubts its bases, what about the rest?

  29. paulmc wrote:

    I fail to see how this either challenges evolutionary theory or provides support for ID (if you intend that it does, of course).

    The OP is Bill Dembski’s, so please recognize that I’m writing on my own behalf. Two points:

    1. The meaning of “evolution” is notoriously flexible. If the word refers to the Tree of Life (TOL), rooted in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA), then Venter’s dissent directly challenges the TOL. This is hardly a minor disagreement.

    2. The deeper challenge, however, concerns the significance of biological similarity (I won’t use the term ‘homology’ here, because of the risk of begging the question). Since Darwin, biological similarity above a certain (ill-defined) threshold has been explained as the result of common (material) ancestry. If Venter is right, however, and there were “thousands” (his number) of independent starting points, then the similarities those lineages share, when compared to each other, may point not to ancestry, but to other causes. This decoupling of similarity and ancestry will have profound consequences for phylogenetic inference.

    Neither (1) nor (2) directly supports ID, but then Dembski didn’t claim that, nor do I.

  30. Collin@[23]:

    If it could be established that the spontaneous appearance of life is highly improbable, then the spontaneous appearance of life multiple times would be geometrically more improbable.

    My whole point in [6] was that this is not how Darwinists think. They will first protest—as did Dawkins—and then they will say what I posted there: “Oh, see how easy it is for life to begin; it must be everywhere in the universe.”

    They just don’t think straight.

    Look at the Trilobite eye: that is enough, in and of itself, to refute Darwinism and the gradualism that Darwin insisted upon. But, of course, they don’t believe Darwin has been refuted in the least. These aren’t people who are willing to accept the implications of what they know to be true. Dr. Cornelius Hunter has it exactly right. It’s a religion for them, JUST as it was a religion for Darwin.

    Think of this simply example: the mule has been known and bred for for centuries now. Well, it’s a hybrid. In fact, it demonstrates hybrid vigor to the nth degree—just the very mechanism that got Darwin thinking along the line that “varieties are incipient species”. And, yet, it is sterile—something Darwin tried to deny. Nevertheless, Darwin argues against those who think that God created every species de novo, ie, against ‘special creation’. But did Darwin seriously believe that theologians believed that God “created” the mule when, in fact, every knew it could only be bred for. And did Darwin believe that God “created” every breed of dog known down through the centuries? Or for cats?

    So, Darwin’s argument is against a ‘straw-man’ of his own making. And, so, should never have been taken as a serious argument. But to those who wanted to move beyond religion—and religious authority—his ideas were irresistible.

  31. Correction: ” . . . everyone knew it could only be bred for.”

    And I should add that the barrier of sterility has never been shown to be, let us say, “breachable”. This, too, refutes his theory.

    But, talking to Darwinists is like talking to the wall.

  32. Charles Darwin’s tree of life is ‘wrong and misleading’, claim scientists:

    Dr Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, said: “For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life. We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality.”

  33. Hey Joseph,

    Nice article dude. LOVE how they link ID to “creationism” at the end.

    -_-’

    Still, if even secular sites are announcing problems with Darwins theory then it can’t be all bad.

    - Sonfaro

  34. Hey Joseph and Sonfaro, you probably already know this but if not, not only is Darwin’s tree of life wrong, when taking into consideration the Cambrian explosion, the origination of ‘phyla’, we have less phyla now that at the end of the Cambrian explosion! Thus the ‘tree’ appears to be UPSIDE DOWN!

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    “In Chen’s view, his evidence supports a history of life that runs opposite to the standard evolutionary tree diagrams, a progression he calls top-down evolution.” Jun-Yuan Chen is professor at the Nanjing Institute of Paleontology and Geology
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    “The sweep of anatomical diversity reached a maximum right after the initial diversification of multicellular animals. The later history of life proceeded by elimination not expansion.”
    Stephen J. Gould, Harvard, Wonderful Life, 1989, p.46

    “A simple way of putting it is that currently we have about 38 phyla of different groups of animals, but the total number of phyla discovered during the Cambrian explosion (including those in China, Canada, and elsewhere) adds up to over 50 phyla. (Actually the number 50 was first quoted as over 100 for a while, but then the consensus became 50-plus.) That means there are more phyla in the very, very beginning, where we found the first fossils, than exist now.” “Also, the animal explosion caught people’s attention when the Chinese confirmed they found a genus now called Yunnanzoon that was present in the very beginning of the Cambrian explosion. This genus is considered a chordate, and the phylum Chordata includes fish, mammals and man. An evolutionist would say the ancestor of humans was present then. Looked at more objectively, you could say the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the very beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate.”
    Dr. Paul Chien PhD., chairman of the biology department at the University of San Francisco
    http://www.discovery.org/scrip.....#038;id=52

    Deepening Darwin’s Dilemma – Jonathan Wells – The Cambrian Explosion – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4154263

    Origin of Phyla – The Fossil Evidence – Timeline Graph
    http://lutheranscience.org/images/GraphC2.gif
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    Challenging Fossil of a Little Fish
    What they had actually proved was that Chinese phosphate is fully capable of preserving whatever animals may have lived there in Precambrian times. Because they found sponges and sponge embryos in abundance, researchers are no longer so confident that Precambrian animals were too soft or too small to be preserved. “I think this is a major mystery in paleontology,” said Chen. “Before the Cambrian, we should see a number of steps: differentiation of cells, differentiation of tissue, of dorsal and ventral, right and left. But we don’t have strong evidence for any of these.” Taiwanese biologist Li was also direct: “No evolution theory can explain these kinds of phenomena.”
    http://www.fredheeren.com/boston.htm

    ————–

    Christy Nockels – Waiting Here For You – Music Video
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9CFF01NU

  35. Paul Nelson says:

    The meaning of “evolution” is notoriously flexible. If the word refers to the Tree of Life (TOL), rooted in the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA), then Venter’s dissent directly challenges the TOL. This is hardly a minor disagreement.

    Evolutionary theory is a body of principles, hypotheses, observations. I can see no situation where ‘evolution’ and ‘tree of life’ are synonyms.

    The Tree of Life is an extension of common descent – itself a hypothesis within evolutionary theory – to universal common descent.

    You choose to term Venter’s speculation as ‘dissent’. Like Bill’s original post, I think this is unhelpful and hyperbolic. Vertical transmission is occasionally interrupted by horizontal transmission – an interesting point and worthy of more investigation. That this may happen to cause convergence between lines of wholly different origins is of particular interest. I can think of no evolutionary biologist who would consider this dissent – only an idea that needs evidence to stand as more than mere conjecture. Labelling the idea ‘dissent’ implies it is unwanted and not worthy of consideration. Dawkins, for example, simply couldn’t see where the evidence for the speculation came from in the debate (because of the genetic code argument).

    If Venter is right, however, and there were “thousands” (his number) of independent starting points, then the similarities those lineages share, when compared to each other, may point not to ancestry, but to other causes. This decoupling of similarity and ancestry will have profound consequences for phylogenetic inference.

    Interesting though this is, we’re of course speculating on top of speculation here. Certainly, if such a situation happened to be correct then there are consequences for phylogenetics, whether genetic, mophological, behavioural or otherwise. Let’s be clear though – there is only one currently known lineage on earth.

  36. Venter’s example of a break from the tree is an organism that lives in a highly alkaline environment (ph12 according to him in the video).

    The break is that UGA is a stop codon in us but in Mycoplasmas that same codon codes for the amino acid tryptophan.

    Is it that much of a stretch to say that the blind watchmaker made one, universal code, and the variations are due to epigenetic effects, or even “just happened”? Living in an extreme environment is bound to change something and if the change survives, that is all that is needed.

    It isn’t as if the code is entirely different- the amino acids are all the same- the 5 (ATUGC) bases are all the same, meaning if it is just that one difference that just doesn’t seem to me to be a tree of life breaker.

  37. From Crevo;

    “Pssst! Don’t tell the creationists, but scientists don’t have a clue how life began.” ,,,“Geologists, chemists, astronomers and biologists are as stumped as ever by the riddle of life.” You name it: protein-first, DNA-first, metabolism-first, RNA World (an erstwhile leading contender) – they’re all stumping the scientists with insu…rmountable problems.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20110312a

  38. Dawkins was not the only panelist who was unaware of the genomic evidence. These people need to read Koonin’s papers like this one. http://nar.oxfordjournals.org/.....1011.short

    Neo-Darwinism is dead. It is replaced with Darwinism in the Light of Genomics, not a great marketing title. It may end up being called something else, but the main point is that the “tree of life” analogy is no longer valid because there is no “last universal common ancestor.” Instead, there are many such ancestors. Koonin refers to the “forest of life” as a replacement for “tree of life.”

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