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Two-faced Nick Matzke

Did a creationist actually say this?

phylogenetic methods as they exist now can only rigorously detect sister-group relationships, not direct ancestry,

No, it was Nick Matzke at Panda’s thumb :-)

But a creationist did say:

you get sister groups with no parent explicitly shown.

Platonic forms do not suggest we evolved from fish

:shock:

Not much difference between what Matzke said and I said! I’ve been telling him that since 2006, and now he finally acknowledges it publicly.

I’ve said that it was creationists (like Linnaeus) before Darwin’s time who lumped humans along with the primates, and the primates along with the mammals, etc. The creationists perceived the “sister groups” with no physical ancestor (which suggests the “parent” was an idea in the mind of God, not a physical common ancestor).

The reason Darwinists have all these phylogenetic conflicts is that the ancestors which would resolve all the conflicts are the very ones they will not admit a priori because those ancestors are conceptual, not physical, and conceptual ancestors are anathema to Darwinsits because conceptual ancestors imply ID.

For example this cladogram (from Universe Review) which was meant to support Darwinism actually refutes it. It shows the taxonomic conceptual ancestry beautifully.

Notice the common conceptual ancestors are:

1. jaws
2. lungs
3. claws
4. feathers
5. fur/mammary glands

A jaw as the physical ancestor of perch, salamander, lizards, pigeon, mouse, chimp wouldn’t be a viable physical ancestor, but it is a viable conceptual ancestor! If the phylogeny allowed conceptual ancestors, the phylogenetic conflicts mostly disappear! But conceptual ancestors imply a designing mind, and Darwinists find that loathsome. Darwinists prefer mindless stupidity rather than intelligence as the source of life.

The phylogenetic trees would be mostly conflict free if we dropped the need to demonstrate a physical ancestor. This has not escaped the notice of taxonomists. Taxonomists who merely compare characters and form classifications dispute with cladists who try to fabricate evolutionary stories:

See: The Incongruence between Cladistic and Taxonomic Systems

Incongruences are ubiquitous in comparisons of cladograms with taxonomic classifications.

(1) Cladistics is based on inferred phylogenies, which makes for an uncertain foundation. Phylogenies of groups above the species level are, with rare exceptions, unverifiable hypotheses. Taxonomic systems are based on observable characters and do not rest on phylogenetic hypotheses.

When we build the hierarchical grouping purely on taxonomy, the groupings look sensible and elegant. Darwinism instead distorts all this by putting mammals and birds as a subgroup of fish. Whereas an unprejudiced look at the characters suggests fish are a sister group of mammals not the parent!

Even Matzke in the face of data must now acknowledge this. Modern phylogenetic methods allow Darwinists to prejudicially synthesize a bogus statistical case that one group is ancestral to another. That fact is painfully acknowledged by Nick:

phylogenetic methods as they exist now can only rigorously detect sister-group relationships, not direct ancestry,

Which means modern phylogeny isn’t rigorous! It’s story telling with bogus statistics to give the stories a veneer of credibility.

Even though Matzke was eventually forced to agree with me, he nonetheless railed previously of the “success” of modern phylogeny in my discussions (here, and here). Now he shows another face and acknowledges:

phylogenetic methods as they exist now can only rigorously detect sister-group relationships, not direct ancestry,

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18 Responses to Two-faced Nick Matzke

  1. Why do creationists go on and on about demonstrating our dissimilarity from chimps? We are dissimilar from chimps but not as much as we are from trees. It was the creationists who first suggested the similarity, no need to run away from it now.

  2. 2

    No, Nick’s statement is consistent with the claim that we know we’re descended from fish, although I can see how you could misread him (his wording isn’t as clear as it could be). He’s talking about the difficulty of identifying specific ancestral organisms, as opposed to ancestral groups. As he says at the end of the paragraph:

    We can say that birds descend from dinosaurs with essentially 100% statistical confidence, without knowing which if any currently-described fossils are exact direct ancestors rather than closely-related sister groups.

    The same is true of our descent from fish: we can’t point to any specific fish fossil and say with confidence that we’re descended from it. But we can, by looking at the shared features between different branches of the tree, say that if we found that ancestor it’d have features that identify it as a fish.

    Also, note that saying we can’t point to an ancestor doesn’t mean they’re missing; we may’ve found several, but we don’t have any reliable way to ID them. A direct ancestor and a close relative of a direct ancestor can look arbitrarily similar, so there’s no good way to tell which we’ve found. Quoting Nick again:

    Distinguishing between a close sister-group relationship and an exact ancestor is just a level of precision that we cannot expect in most cases. It’s just a by-product of the method and the data available.

    I got partway through writing a comment about our relationship with fish for your previous entry; I’ll see if I can finish it up tomorrow and post it.

  3. We can say that birds descend from dinosaurs with essentially 100% statistical confidence, without knowing which if any currently-described fossils are exact direct ancestors rather than closely-related sister groups.

    Interesting claim. Alan Feducia is a world renowned paleornithologist, specializing in the origins and phylogeny of birds. He is now Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina. However he would strongly disagree with that claim. In fact, not only would he say that it is not 100% certain, but he would say that birds did NOT evolve from dinosaurs and he has good scientific reasons for his views.

    The only way you can claim 100% certainty about birds from dinosaurs and man from fish is if you assume common descent and even then, there are differing opinions, at least on the bird from dino angle.

    Also, note that saying we can’t point to an ancestor doesn’t mean they’re missing; we may’ve found several, but we don’t have any reliable way to ID them.

    That may be very true. But it doesn’t mean that the common ancestor actually exists either. In the end, I guess we really don’t know – and at this point have no way of knowing – if they are there or if they are not.

    This is the kind of foundation on which common descent rests – a maybe / maybe not foundation of shifting sand.

    we can, by looking at the shared features between different branches of the tree, say that if we found that ancestor it’d have features that identify it as a fish.

    Whose/which tree do we use? Why? How do we know it is accurate? Are we just assuming common descent in order to create the tree? Isn’t the tree just one possible interpretation of the data? Couldn’t there be other interpretations as well?

    Lacking any way to test the validity of the tree, is it safe to assume the tree is accurate and assume common descent?

  4. The only way you can claim 100% certainty about birds from dinosaurs and man from fish is if you assume common descent and even then, there are differing opinions,

    So let us assume common descent, what is the most natural way of describing the descent:

    Vertebrates descend from Vetebrates (and mammals are vertebrates)
    Mammals descend from Mammals (and primates are mammals)
    Primates descend from Primates (and humans are primates)
    Humans descend from Humans

    Therefore: humans descended from vertebrates, mammals, primates, and humans

    Whereas the Darwinist reasoning goes like this:

    Vertebrates descend from Vetebrates
    Mammals descend from Mammals
    Primates descend from Primates
    Humans descend from Humans

    Therefore Humans descended from Fish :shock:

    One can look at the data and clearly see a pattern of descent, but the best descent pattern is a conceptual (ID or creationist) one, not a physical on (Darwinists). The Darwinist phylogeny looks bizarre. When I gave a talk to an atheist group I said, “common descent….that tree then is your cousin”, and one of the atheists said, “I wish you wouldn’t put it that way, it makes evolution sound stupid.”

    So even in the mind a non-creationists, there is something grating against common sense when Darwinists say we descended from fish.

  5. I know little of this aspect of evolution and the genome. But the so called descent through history involves the creation of alleles and the associated proteins. Could a chart be developed which identified the proteins and corresponding alleles that must have appeared at each juncture.

    It sounds like a horrendous job but something a gifted programmer with a data base could probably do in a year. That way one could observe just how often the same protein had to be developed or how often it must have disappeared? That would fit a design perspective as well as a naturalistic one since each depends on the proteins available.

    Might be the ultimate way to decide this? Of course the naturalistic adherents still have to describe the processes that gave rise to the alleles.

    Also Meyer’s book points to other parts of the zygote as responsible for major changes in body plans and one would have to identify how the building blocks were assembled along the way since major changes to the zygote had to take place so that a fish could eventually climb a tree. It wasn’t just changes in the genome. All those extraneous molecules throughout the zygote using the laws of physics to guide the placement of cells and determine methylation patterns to determine cell type and it has to be exquisitely accurate or else we get an unviable fetus.

  6. Nice article Sal, I’ll file it next to Berlinski’s article in my notes:

    A One-Man Clade – David Berlinski – July 18, 2013
    Excerpt: Had Stephen Meyer better appreciated the tools of modern cladistics, Nick Matzke believes, he would not have drawn the conclusions that he did in his book Darwin’s Doubt, or argued as he had. Meyer is in this regard hardly alone. It would seem that Stephen Jay Gould was just slightly too thick to have appreciated, and the eminent paleontologist James Valentine just slightly too old to have acquired, the methods that Matzke, writing at Panda’s Thumb, is disposed to champion. Should Valentine be appointed to Matzke’s dissertation committee at UC Berkeley, we at Discovery Institute will be pleased to offer uninterrupted prayers on his behalf. We can offer no assurance of success, of course, but then again, when it comes to cladistic methods, neither can Matzke.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....74601.html

    As to this comment from Matzke:

    “We can say that birds descend from dinosaurs with essentially 100% statistical confidence,”

    That is an extremely peculiar claim for an atheist to make, since, for one thing, there is no solid fossil evidence of intermediates links between birds and dinosaurs or between anything else for that matter:

    Fish & Dinosaur Evolution vs. The Actual Fossil Evidence – video with notes in description
    http://vimeo.com/30932397

    Bird Evolution vs. The Actual Fossil Evidence – video with notes in description
    http://vimeo.com/30926629

    For atheists to argue endlessly over ‘dino-fuzz’ and such things as that is completely disingenuous to the evidence at hand for as Darwin said,,

    “But just in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, 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 finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
    ? Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

    Yet, 150 plus years on since the publication of Origin and still this serious objection Darwin conceded has just as much, if not more, bite against Darwinism as it did in Darwin’s day:

    “The evidence we find in the geological record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be …. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin’s time … so Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated”.
    David Raup, Curator of Geology at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

    What else is strange in Matzke’s claim “with essentially 100% statistical confidence” is that atheists who believe in neo-Darwinism can’t have 100% confidence that anything they think is true!

    The following interview is sadly comical as a evolutionary psychologist realizes that neo-Darwinism can offer no guarantee that our faculties of reasoning will correspond to the truth, not even for the truth that he is purporting to give in the interview, (which begs the question of how was he able to come to that particular truthful realization, in the first place, if neo-Darwinian evolution were actually true?);

    Evolutionary guru: Don’t believe everything you think – October 2011
    Interviewer: You could be deceiving yourself about that.(?)
    Evolutionary Psychologist: Absolutely.
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....think.html

    Evolutionists Are Now Saying Their Thinking is Flawed (But Evolution is Still a Fact) – Cornelius Hunter – May 2012
    Excerpt: But the point here is that these “researchers” are making an assertion (human reasoning evolved and is flawed) which undermines their very argument. If human reasoning evolved and is flawed, then how can we know that evolution is a fact, much less any particular details of said evolutionary process that they think they understand via their “research”?
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....their.html

    Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True – video
    Excerpt: “Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life.”
    Richard Dawkins – quoted from “The God Delusion”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs

    Moreover, for an atheist to try to use mathematics (statistics) to prove that neo-Darwinian evolution is true is absurd, for atheistic materialism cannot ground mathematics in the first place nor the surety of our reasoning abilities that must accompany mathematics. Notes to that effect:

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences – Eugene Wigner – 1960
    Excerpt: certainly it is hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought, by Darwin’s process of natural selection, to the perfection which it seems to possess.,,,
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc.....igner.html

    “One absolutely central inconsistency ruins [the popular scientific philosophy]. The whole picture professes to depend on inferences from observed facts. Unless inference is valid, the whole picture disappears… unless Reason is an absolute, all is in ruins. Yet those who ask me to believe this world picture also ask me to believe that Reason is simply the unforeseen and unintended by-product of mindless matter at one stage of its endless and aimless becoming. Here is flat contradiction. They ask me at the same moment to accept a conclusion and to discredit the only testimony on which that conclusion can be based.”
    —C.S. Lewis, Is Theology Poetry (aka the Argument from Reason)

  7. Sal. Is Tiktaalik a fish or a tetrapod? What abot Ichthyostega? What do lobe-finned fishes share many characters (lungs, bones of the limb…) with tetrapods that are not present in other fish? What do molecular phylogenies place these lobe-finned fishes closer to tetrapods than to other fish?

  8. Sal, why post something with the the title “Two-faced Nick Matzke” when given the chance you’ll suck right up to him as if you were best pals. Glass houses and all that.

    wd400 – there is no such thing as a fish. Not quite sure what it is that I am allergic to, but it isn’t fish.

  9. From the OP:

    The reason Darwinists have all these phylogenetic conflicts is that the ancestors which would resolve all the conflicts are the very ones they will not admit a priori because those ancestors are conceptual, not physical, and conceptual ancestors are anathema to Darwinsits because conceptual ancestors imply ID.

    This doesn’t even make any sense.

  10. From the OP:

    When we build the hierarchical grouping purely on taxonomy, the groupings look sensible and elegant. Darwinism instead distorts all this by putting mammals and birds as a subgroup of fish.

    More hogwash.

  11. What do molecular phylogenies place these lobe-finned fishes closer to tetrapods than to other fish?

    Molecular phylogenies rely on some suspect methods:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ictionary/

  12. 12
    Gordon Davisson

    I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to update this; it was originally written as a comment on Sal’s post Platonic forms do not suggest we evolved from fish, but I never really finished it; a lot is relevant here, so I’ve rewritten a bit. Unfortunately, the relevant bit is toward the end, because I need to address some of Sal’s concerns about phylogenetic reconstruction first. Also, this came out quite long, so I’ll try to break it into logical divisions.

    Phylogenetic reconstruction

    From Sal’s earlier discussion:

    Now if use sequence divergence to affix the ancestry of fish, you’ve circularly reasoned the MCH as true by tautology for fish, and hence by fiat you’ll just prevent the problem of fish clustering so close to each other.

    I think you’re vastly oversimplifying how phylgenetic reconstruction is done; it’s not just a matter of looking at sequence divergences (although that may be part of the process). And there isn’t a single uniform method that tells us everything we want to know. This is true of many interesting measurement problems throughout science: we have various kinds of evidence and various ways of analysing it, each of which tells us part of what we want to know. To get the best results, you use many methods, and then put what they tell you together to form the best overall picture you can. In general, you’ll have some parts of the picture you can only get one way, some parts you can get multiple ways (which is good, because you can use multiple ways and then check them against each other), and some parts of the picture you can’t get good info about from any method (which sucks, but you’re stuck with it and you have to live with the ambiguity … at least until you find more data/more ways of analysing it/etc).

    In the case of phylogeny, our data sources include molecular sequences, phenotypes, and the fossil record. You don’t say “molecular data is best, I’m going to ignore the others”, you use all of them — even if molecular sequences provide the best info overall, the others are still useful to fill in ambiguities and provide a cross-check on what you infer from the molecular data. That said, let me start with molecular data (and a warning: I’m basically a layman at this, so take everything I say with a grain of salt). I’ll mostly defer the details to the phylogenetics 101 PDF you linked, but there are a few things I want to point out and discuss:

    * The methods are not circular; the models of evolution assumed in the advanced methods (right side of page 25 of the PDF) are models of mutation probabilities (see pages 11-21), not assumptions about the tree. You can’t just force the data to fit any assumption you want (except possibly with Bayesian methods; I’m not very familiar with them).

    * There’ll generally be some statistical uncertainty in the resulting tree. The likelyhood and Bayesian methods give you an idea how much uncertainty there is, which is almost always a good thing. Note that while reducing uncertainty is good (e.g. the Nature paper wd400 linked used 251 genes to get a good statistical sample), understanding the uncertainty — where it comes from, how it propagates through your analysis and influences the results — is actually even more important. Again, this is nothing unique vs. other branches of science, which is why you’ll see error bars on measurements, confidence intervals for statistical tests etc all over the place in science.

    * Most methods of phylogenetic reconstruction will give you an unrooted tree, ie. they tell you the topology of the family tree, but don’t distinguish ancestors from descendants. For example, if you did a reconstruction on humans, ducks, lungfish, perch, and salmon, you should get a tree like this (forgive the crude ASCII art):

        /—- sharks
      /
    <           /—- salmon
      \       A
        \   /   \—- perch
          B
            \   /—- lungfish
              C
                \   /—- ducks
                  D
                    \—- human

    Which is topologically equivalent to this tree:

                  /—- salmon
                A
              /   \—- perch
            B
          /  \—- sharks
        C  
      /   \—- lungfish
    <
      \   /—- ducks
        D
          \—- human

    And this one:

      /—- humans
    <
      \   /—- ducks
        D
          \   /—- lungfish
            C
              \   /—- sharks
                B
                  \   /—- perch
                    A
                      \—- salmon

    … and phylogenetic analysis alone won’t tell you which is correct. If you care about that, you need additional information. Generally the best way to root a tree is to include an outgroup in the analysis — something you know (from other sources of info) is less closely related than any of the species you’re interested in. If, for example, you knew that grasshoppers were less closely related to any of these species than they are to each other, you can add them to the analysis and you’ll know that the root is on the link to the grasshoppers:

       /—- grasshoppers
      /
    <       /—- sharks
      \   /
        E           /—- salmon
          \       A
            \   /   \—- perch
              B
                \   /—- lungfish
                  C
                    \   /—- ducks
                      D
                        \—- human

    This is what was done in the paper wd400 linked — they used sharks as an outgroup, since they’re safely outside the group of interest (tetrapods, lungfish, and coelacanths).

    Another option is to use mid-point rooting. Essentially, you take the largest genetic distance on the tree, and put the root in the middle of it. If the molecular clock ran at a constant rate, all of the end nodes (current species) should be equally distant from the root, so this would work perfectly. Of course, the molecular clock doesn’t run at a constant rate, so you have some uncertainty to take into account. Note that this uncertainty does NOT mean this method is inherently unreliable and shouldn’t be used. As I said before, uncertainty is inevitable (in any branch of science); you can’t eliminate it, but you do need to understand it and its effects. In this case, whether the result (the root in the tree) is sensitive or insensitive to variations in the clock rate depends on the shape and internal distances in the tree. To oversimplify a bit, if the calculated midpoint is near any of the internal nodes (branch points), you can’t be sure which side of those nodes the true root is on. On the other hand, if the calculated midpoint is in a long link, not near any of the nodes, you can be much more confident that the true root is somewhere on that link.

    Note that none of this is at all circular. Outgroup rooting does depend on additional information and midpoint rooting depends on assuming the molecular clock doesn’t vary too widely, but neither of these is circular, nor does either allow you to rearrange the tree however you want.

    Also, none of this really depends on the assumption of unguided evolution. See, for example, “Chain Letters and Evolutionary Histories”, by Charles H. Bennett, Ming Li, and Bin Ma. (Scientific American, June 2003), which uses phylogenetic techniques to reconstruct the history of a chain letter, based on similarities and differences between versions of it.

    Finally, the trees generated this way can be checked against trees generated from other data. Since most of the biochemical variation doesn’t affect the phenotype significantly, traditional trees based on phenotype are essentially independent, and can be meaningfully used as a cross check. Trees based on the fossil record (also not circular, but that’s another can of worms…) are also a good cross-check. Note that if you use one of these other sources to pick an outgroup, the root won’t be a meaningful cross-check; but the entire rest of the tree is.

    Mind you, sometimes the the cross-check doesn’t always match up. The ant genus Pachycondyla (recently featured on ENV) is an extreme example. But it’s also quite an unusual example; it’s more common for trees from different sources to match up at least fairly well if not exactly. It also appears to be a case where they knew one of the trees (the one implied by the Pachycondyla genus) was dubious (“We knew before that Pachycondyla wasn’t really a natural group. But this? This was bad.”). If you want to know how reliable the methods are, you have to look at how well they typically match up, and you can’t get that from looking at one or a few exceptional cases.

    Also, the fact that there are sometimes mismatches pretty much refutes the claim of circularity. If this were just a matter of imposing our assumptions on the data, we’d never find anything unexpected.

    Why are tetrapods fish? (the common descent version)

    Take another look at that last tree (the one with grasshoppers) above, and consider the features shared by sharks, lungfish, and the ray-finned fish (salmon and perch) that define them as fish. Each of these features either arose separately in the shark branch of the tree (between E and modern sharks), and in the ray-finned branch of the tree (between A and B), and in the lungfish branch (between C and the modern lungfish); or was present in their common ancestor E (and B and C as well). If I’d included lobe-finned fish in the diagram, the features shared by all 4 types of fish would have to have arisen 4 (!) separate times if they weren’t present in the common ancestors of the various kinds of fish. This is pretty thoroughly implausible, so we feel safe in saying that those common ancestors (E, B and C in by diagram above) were fish in any meaningful sense.

    Note that we can say this even if we never find any of the actual ancestors in question. It’d be great if we found some or all of them, but even if you can’t find and/or identify the specific organisms, we can infer enough about their features to identify the group they belong to: fish.

    So, if common ancestry is correct, tetrapods (including us) are clearly descended from fish. If you take the cladistic view, that means tetrapods should also be considered fish themselves (just rather unusual fish, in much the same sense that a wingless fly is just an unusual fly).

    The problem of identifying specific ancestors

    Look back at that last diagram again. It represents the ancestry of various modern organisms, but it’s greatly simplified; there are many intermediate species on each of those lines, as well as many many many side branches that weren’t “important enough” to include. Let me take a slightly closer look at part of the diagram, and add in an extinct side branch:

        /—- sharks
      /
    E       Y
      \   /
        X       A —- bony fish
          \   /
            B
              \
                C —- lungfish, tetrapods

    Suppose we find a fossil that looks like an intermediate between E and B — it has the features shared by all fish (those that E had), and some but not all of the additional distinguishing features that bony fish, lungfish, and tetrapods share. How can we tell if we’ve found X or Y? Well, if it also has some unique features that bony fish, lungfish, and tetrapods don’t have, we can be pretty sure that it’s a side branch — Y. But if we don’t spot any… we can’t tell for sure if we’re looking at X (a direct ancestor) or Y (the “sister group” Nick was talking about). And even if it is from a sister group, it can still give us information about the ancestors; it is, after all, a close relative and therefore similar…

    Why are tetrapods fish? (the platonic forms version)

    Up to now, I’ve been assuming common descent. I think the evidence for CD is overwhelming, but you apparently disagree, so let me consider an alternative hypothesis. Even without CD, I think there’s still a good case to be made that tetrapods (and therefore humans) are fish in a significant sense.

    Before I can argue for this position, I need to motivate it with a gripe about your argument about platonic forms in particular, and the state of ID in general. The short version is: if you want others to take this stuff seriously as science, you have to start by taking it seriously yourselves. In this instance, you’ve proposed a way of explaining the similarities between organisms, and pointed out some things it makes sense of, and then stopped. That’s not enough. If you’re serious about it, you need to flesh it out, work through the implications, figure out what it doesn’t explain, how to extend/modify/patch/etc it to make it really work (or if you can’t, discard it).

    The reason I bring this up is that the platonic forms view doesn’t intrinsically explain one of the most significant patterns in the living world: the nested hierarchy of similarity between different species. This is not a trivial feature; I don’t know of any [other] type of designed thing that follows the same pattern. Take cars: if you group them by engine type, you’ll get a pattern that doesn’t nest with (or have much of anything to do with) the pattern you’d get from organizing them by body style, or manufacturer, or transmission type, or … much of anything else. In fact, when I said “group them by engine type”, even that doesn’t really work: should a car with a gas V-6 engine group closest to one with a gas V-8, a gas straight 6, or a diesel V-6? There are a few car attributes that nest properly (for instance, I’m pretty sure cars with satellite radio nest within cars with air bags), but they’re the exception; with organisms, nesting is the rule and non-nesting is the exception.

    This isn’t necessarily a problem for the platonic form view, just something that needs to be explained. And it’s fairly easy to take into explain: think of “animal” as a fairly generic form, “vertebrate” as an animal with some of the blanks filled in, “tetrapod” as a vertebrate with more of the blanks filled in, etc. In this view, the phylogenetic trees are actually maps of the inheritance patterns between these platonic forms, not evolutionary family trees. Well, at least the ones based on phenotype; I’m not sure why neutral genetic variation would follow this pattern, but that’s a worry for some other time.

    Now, scroll back to that last phylogenetic tree (with grasshoppers added). In this view, the internal nodes (letters in the tree) represent platonic forms rather than ancestral organisms. What can you say about the platonic form represented by “E”? As with the common ancestry view, it should be the basis for the various features that define something as a fish. That means that the generic tetrapod form is a variant of the generic fish form, with some blanks filled in and some fish-like features crossed off and replaced… so (if this is correct) tetrapods are really just weird fish.

    Mind you, I’m not going to claim that this is the only possible view. You could argue, for example, that these platonic forms don’t form a nested hierarchy, and that the “fish” form and the “bony skeleton” form overlap in the bony fish, rather than nesting one inside the other. But then why is the nesting pattern so common, but not happening here? As I said, your idea needs fleshing out; and one of the plausible extensions is that tetrapods (including humans) are fish in that their design is derived from the “generic fish” platonic form.

  13. “For example this cladogram (from Universe Review) which was meant to support Darwinism actually refutes it.”

    Is that “cladogram’ from Universe Review? Clicking the link gives Universe Review, but not that cladogram.

    Looks more like something someone made up to make fun of cladistics. A someone who doesn’t want to accept the conclusions from real studies.

  14. GD:

    No, Nick’s statement is consistent with the claim that we know we’re descended from fish, although I can see how you could misread him (his wording isn’t as clear as it could be).

    Except we don’t know that as it is an untestable claim.

  15. FYI Larry Moran has blogged about this UD post.

  16. Thanks for the link, JoeCoder. Most entertaining! I hope Sal can find time to defend himself at Dr Moran’s blog. Can Larry still post here or is he banned?

  17. Yeah JoeC, thanks. It looks like Moran is still spewing his moronic BS.

    No surprise there.

  18. Most methods of phylogenetic reconstruction will give you an unrooted tree, ie. they tell you the topology of the family tree, but don’t distinguish ancestors from descendants

    Gordon,

    Thank you for you very carefully assembled response. The problem is this is a phylogenetic reconstruction, not one based purely on characters or a fair view of molecular data. I pointed out the illegitimacy of some of the molecular comparisons that ignore intergenic regions in Lungfish and humans — famous novel has almost 100% similarity to mirriam websters dictionary.

    Let us suppose for the sake of argument the phylogenetic construction is correct, it creates the bigger problem of why then the tree constructed purely on taxonomy looks like it supports the creationist or common design view where the most viable ancestors are conceptual.

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