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An Honest Presentation of the Evidence in our Public Schools

Let’s face it, the reason Darwinian evolution is so controversial, especially in the public schools, is that it has profound implications concerning who we are, where we came from, and whether or not our lives have ultimate meaning and purpose. This is not the case in chemistry, physics or mathematics. Schoolchildren are not as unperceptive as some people would like to believe, and they pick up on these implications immediately, as my daughter did in the seventh grade.

Darwinian theory has been singled out for special scrutiny in public education not only for this reason, which should be enough, but because the evidence is not nearly as solid as it is in the hard sciences such as those mentioned above.

In a previous thread (http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1514) I commented about the suppression of evidence and discussion concerning Darwinian theory in the public schools. I don’t advocate for the teaching of ID in the public schools, and I do agree that evolution has occurred. Things are not now as they once were, so “evolution” has taken place by definition — living things have changed over time. There is no substantive controversy here.

What I object to is an incomplete at best, and dishonest at worst, presentation of the evidence for Darwinian theory in public education. Here are some proposals for how the evidence could be more appropriately presented without “subverting science.” Perhaps commenters could add to the list, and I’d be curious as to why anyone would object to such an approach.

***

Present the evidence of changing finch beaks with changing weather conditions, and talk about how some scientists propose that these changes can be extrapolated over long periods of time to explain the origin of completely new and different life forms. But also mention that these changes have been observed to be cyclic, and that some question the validity of extrapolating these minor changes to explain major biological innovation. Ditto for peppered moths.

Point out that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance through the evolutionary process of natural selection, but add that experiments with thousands of generations of bacteria subjected to harsh selection pressures have yet to produce a fundamentally new variety of bacteria.

Observe that scientists propose that the development of embryos suggests the recapitulation of evolutionary history, but point out that the similarities assumed in the past are not what they were once thought to be, and that the earliest stages of development are not the most similar.

Mention all the classic examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, but also mention that some prominent paleontologists (e.g., Gould and Eldredge) have questioned whether or not the overall fossil evidence supports the traditional view of Darwinian gradualism. Offer the incompleteness of the fossil record as a possible explanation, but observe that the seamless gradation of living forms predicted by Darwinian theory has yet to be conclusively established.

Discuss the Cambrian explosion. Offer the standard explanations for this remarkable phenomenon (incompleteness of the fossil record and the likelihood that soft-bodied predecessors would not fossilize), but also mention that some argue that the Cambrian explosion presents a problem for standard evolutionary theory because so many new body plans appear in such a short period of time, and this would seem to contradict the proposal that new body plans should originate in the leaves of the tree of life and not the trunk.

Mention the Miller-Urey experiment and the formation of amino acids by a natural process (after all, it is a classic event in the history of origin-of-life studies), but mention that scientists now believe that conditions on the early earth were not those used in the experiment, and that no concrete explanation has been offered for how those amino acids could have formed biologically meaningful proteins by undirected chemical means.

Talk about various origin-of-life theories and the fact that many scientists are confident that an explanation will eventually be found, but mention that the current state of affairs in origin-of-life studies is many mutually contradictory hypotheses, and that the origin of information in DNA is a particularly difficult problem.

***

I don’t see why such an approach would be unreasonable at all, why students could not understand such a presentation of the evidence, why they would be confused by it, or why it would subvert science. Students could evaluate for themselves whether or not they find the evidence convincing, which should be their prerogative. After all, where they came from and why they are here is a very important matter.

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115 Responses to An Honest Presentation of the Evidence in our Public Schools

  1. How can you suggest this Gil. If you give kids any reason to question “Evolution” then the free world as we know it will fall, people will start marrying their sisters and mobs will form in the streets seeking to burn down the observartory.

    You don’t want that happening do you ? Do YOU !!!

    Excellent post by the way, seems like an entirely reasonable set of suggestions that I would whole heartedly support.

  2. How about a brief discussion on the first day of science class about the definition of science and the various assumptions that this definition requires?

  3. The Miller-Urey experiment was a failure on more then one level. The simulated earth atmosphere they used included methane and ammonia, ammonia being needed to produce amino acids. What was discovered later was that the atmophere was very different with a lot of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapor. Subsequent tests using the revised estimation of earth’s early atmosphere have failed in producing the necessary amino acids. Also the amino acids produced by Miller-Urey would have perished immediately if they hadn’t used a “cold trap” mechanism which separated the amino acids from the environment in which they were produced. So the experiment did prove somethings, just not what they were hoping for.

    Later Harold Urey said

    “All of us who study the origin of life find that the more we look into it, the more we feel it is too complex to have evolved anywhere. We all believe as an article of faith that life evolved from dead matter on this planet. It is just that its complexity is so great, it is hard for us to imagine that it did.”

    In the science journal Earth this was published in 1998:

    “Geologists now think that the primordial atmosphere consisted mainly of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, gases that are less reactive than those used in the 1953 experiment. And even if Miller’s atmosphere could have existed, how do you get simple molecules such as amino acids to go through the necessary chemical changes that will convert them into more complicated compounds, or polymers, such as proteins? Miller himself throws up his hands at that part of the puzzle. “It’s a problem,” he sighs with exasperation. “How do you make polymers? That’s not so easy.”

  4. Nice one, Gil. After all, science should be about balancing the evidence for and against. Sadly when it comes to origins and evolution, it’s more like a turf war.

  5. Perhaps the most perceptive point made by Judge Jones in his decision is that to single a particular scientific topic out for special “critical analysis” of the evidence without doing the same for other established theories (e.g. gravitation, quantum theory, continental drift) conveys a false impression of the status of natural selection in the scientific community. I’m all for critical analysis, but it would have to be applied fairly, without singling out a particular topic for religious or philosophical reasons. This would mean enormously expanding the time devoted to science in the public schools. So any such proposal needs to be accompanied by a discussion of which nonscientific topics are to be cut to make room for elementary or secondary students to engage in a level of scientific critical analysis that is currently reserved for college or graduate school. Civics? History? Mathematics? English? Math? Gym? (I’ll vote for that one)

  6. I take some issue with some of the points mentioned in Gil’s post. But I’ll leave that aside, for now.

    The problem, as I see it, is that science teachers in most high schools and middle schools are not trained as either scientists or as philosophers. And the ID/evolution debate expects of them to be both — in order to be able to present, in a form that adolescent minds can grasp, problems such as the difference between science and non-science, the different forms that science can take, what makes something count as a good explanation, the role of inference to the unobserved in scientific theorizing, and the under-determination problem.

    Now, some quibbles — regarding which I’m sure others will have more to say than I will:

    (a) punctuated equilibrium may conflict with what Darwin actually said (“gradualism”), but it does not conflict with the Modern Synthesis — as G & E have said, the contention is over the tempo of evolutionary change, not its mechanism;

    (b) the Cambrian explosion likewise does not pose a serious challenge to the neo-Darwinian story, esp. if that story is supplemented with evo-devo. (Would we then have to talk about “the postmodern synthesis”? I hope not!)

    (c) the point made about the Urey-Miller experiment is a good one, but I’m not sure it passes the “so what?” test — I still think that the central problem in abiogenesis research is not that there are no plausible scenarios, but that there are too many, with no current way of determining which of them was actually used (if any of them were). This could be an excellent way to teach kids that science is an on-going process, not a set of doctrines — and it’s a process they can be a part of. That’s what got me hooked, after all.

    (d) the $64,000 question is, “are microevolutionary processes necessary and sufficient to explain macroevolutionary patterns?” The neo-Darwinian story is that they are; if not, then something besides random mutation and natural selection would be required. I think it would be enough to show how important this question is, and that even neo-Darwinian scientists have heated and loud debates among themselves about how, exactly, microevolutionary processes explain macroevolutionary patterns.

    The most important thing in science education is to stress that science does not and cannot provide any final or absolute explanations. But that does not mean that there are not better and worse explanations, as judged by the light of presently available evidence.

  7. Trll — agree. If we had to teach every single version of quantum mechanics, it would be a nightmare.

  8. “(b) the Cambrian explosion likewise does not pose a serious challenge to the neo-Darwinian story, esp. if that story is supplemented with evo-devo. (Would we then have to talk about “the postmodern synthesis”? I hope not!)”

    I don’t think so. You run into same prb dumping all of that change onto evo-devo instead of just evo :)

  9. trrll

    Evolution via random mutation & natural selection is singled out because it is a dogmatic belief lacking empirical support. Gravitation, continental drift, quantum mechanics, are not in question because they are well supported by empirical evidence. There’s nothing sinister afoot. The Darwinian evolutionary narrative is simply lacking sufficient credible evidence to give it the exclusivity enjoyed by graviation, continental drift, quantum mechanics, and etcetera.

  10. Carlos

    Name some of these many plausible abiogenesis scenarios. I don’t believe there is a single plausible scenario to say nothing of many plausible scenarios.

  11. Gil,

    Here, in outline, is what I want my kids to be taught in their public school biology class regarding evolution:

    1. Life has been on the planet about 4 billion years. “Evolution” is the observed fact that species have come into existence over that time, and that most species that have existed have become extinct.

    2. As such, evolution is not a theory. It is an observed fact that needs a theory to explain it.

    3. Vitalism, Lamarckism and many other hypotheses were given during and well before the 19th century in an effort to explain the observed fact of evolution. They were all eventually discounted.

    4. The process of natural selection is an observed fact. Mutation and variation in species are observed facts in nature.

    5. Charles Darwin proposed that natural selection acting on mutation and variation completely explains the observed fact of evolution. He used the fossil record and slightly differing traits among existing species as evidence. In the later 19th century and early 20th century this was generally accepted as the valid theory to explain evolution.

    6. During that period, biology, information theory, automata theory, and biochemistry were either very primitive or unknown. Organisms were primarily understood at their gross anatomical level.

    7. In the later half of the 20th century and the early part of the current century, the understanding of these new sciences has unveiled much of the basic unit components of life, and how those components are coded for, constructed, and reproduced.

    8. In light of this newer science, some scientists, mathematicians, and information theorists have posed challenges to the Darwinian Theory as a valid and complete explanation of the fact of evolution. The concepts of probability, irreducible complexity, specified complexity, fossil evidence and others are used in their arguments.

    9. As an extension of their negative arguments against the Darwinian Theory, some have proposed that these concepts show that intelligence and telic goals may be at work in evolution. The character or identity of any proposed intelligence is outside the scope of a natural science class, but may be addressed in social science classes or student groups.

    Now, educational step 1) will be a non-starter for young earth creationists or any who believe that all creatures that ever existed were created de novo at the same time.

    Step 2) will pose problems for some because I’m essentially saying that there is no such thing as “The Theory of Evolution”. Evolution is a fact that needs explaining, a theory is what will explain it. That was the view of natural history in the early 19th century. For example, there is no “Stellar Red Shift Theory”. The Big Bang Theory is proposed to explain the observed fact of stellar red shift.

    But steps 3) through 7) should pose no objections to anybody who gets to them. Right? Dedicated materialists will balk at 8) while some Darwinists might accept it. But, of course the final point, 9), however carefully and briefly made is what the real problem is about. Right?

    In any public educational program parents ought to be allowed to exclude their children from programs that conflict with their beliefs or values. Young earth creationists could opt to pull their kids from the whole course, strict materialists could pull theirs from steps 8) and 9), thoughtful Darwinists could pull them from just step 9).

    I’d want my two kids to have the full meal deal.

    Stu Harris
    http://www.theidbookstore.com

  12. Two of the numbers in my post just above got turned into smilies. They should both be the number eight.

    Stu Harris
    http://www.theidbookstore.com

  13. stu

    Evolution is an inference drawn primarily from the fossil record. It is not strictly a fact. I am hesitant to advocate teaching anything as fact that can’t be directly observed. Chickens hatch from chicken eggs is a fact. We can observe it. Chickens descend from ancestors that were not chickens is not something we can observe. It’s an inference. The difference between facts and inferences should not be disregarded.

  14. Gil concludes by writing,

    “Students could evaluate for themselves whether or not they find the evidence convincing, which should be their prerogative. After all, where they came from and why they are here is a very important matter.”

    1. There is no way a beginning biology class could present the evidence at a depth that would allow high school students to reasonably “evaluate for themselves” whether the issues mentioned by Gil are significant challenges to mainstream scientific conclusions.

    In fact the problem with a list such as Gil proposes (mostly taken from Wells) is that all the items are presented at a shallow enough level that it can be made to look like someone could “evaluate for themselves” after just a small amount of study.

    It would be much more reasonable for those who think these issues are significant to present the evidence to the scientific community and ask them to evaluate for themselves. As I said on another thread, if ID-oriented conclusions do eventually persuade the scientific community, then we’ll teach the students that.

    2. But the bigger problem here is contained in the second sentence in the quote above: “After all, where they came from and why they are here is a very important matter.”

    Despite the story Gil told about his daughter on another thread, the question of the evolution of species is separate form the religious question of “where we came from” and where we are going. Millions of Christians belief that the theory of evolution, as the accepted and well-established theory of how species have changed over time, does not conflict with their religious beliefs about where they came from and where they’re going; and of course millions (billions) of people of other religious likewise have no problems with evolution even though they have different beliefs than Christians about these issue of coming and going.

    So what is Gil trying to say when he lists these objects and ties them to religious belief? More bluntly, why should a student see evolution as contradicting a belief in God?

  15. The religious indoctrination in our public schools at the hands of the Darwinists is inexcusable, but I await the day that ID is allowed to be discussed without being pinned as a violation of the establishment clause. It may or may not be science, but it sure as hell isn’t religious instruction. The day will come.

  16. Gil, I applaud your effort to find a common ground on how best to teach this delicate material to our children. I disagree with your implication that the current presentation of the evidence “subverts science”, since I feel it accurately represents the consensus of the scientific community. However, I do find your approach reasonable, and I hope both sides can discuss your suggestions honestly. Looking over your suggestions, I like how they attempt to portray the evidence more accurately, but taken as a whole, I think they paint an overly skeptical picture of the state of the evidence. I’d like to go over a few of these to show you what I mean.

    “Present the evidence of changing finch beaks with changing weather conditions, and talk about how some scientists propose that these changes can be extrapolated over long periods of time to explain the origin of completely new and different life forms. But also mention that these changes have been observed to be cyclic, and that some question the validity of extrapolating these minor changes to explain major biological innovation.”

    I don’t think that finches’ beaks alone are extrapolated to explain the origin of new and different life forms, and they should not be presented as such (if in fact they are). I think they are a great example of how selection can produce gradual changes in morphology, and I would hope that any section on finch beaks emphasizes that point.

    Point out that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance through the evolutionary process of natural selection, but add that experiments with thousands of generations of bacteria subjected to harsh selection pressures have yet to produce a fundamentally new variety of bacteria.

    I would include random mutation in the evolutionary process you describe. I don’t see a purpose to mentioning your second clause. I don’t think anyone really expects to create a fundamentally new variety of bacteria through the experiments you describe, at least within a reasonable timeframe (like the length of an academic career).

    Observe that scientists propose that the development of embryos suggests the recapitulation of evolutionary history, but point out that the similarities assumed in the past are not what they were once thought to be, and that the earliest stages of development are not the most similar.

    I agree that it’s important to teach that the concept of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” was once highly regarded, but is now basically defunct. That organisms generally look more similar at the embryonic stage than they do as adults is undeniable though. Haeckel’s drawings should be replaced by actual photos of the embryos at the gastrula stage. Students should also be shown the hourglass model, and the current explanations for it.

    Mention all the classic examples of transitional forms in the fossil record, but also mention that some prominent paleontologists (e.g., Gould and Eldredge) have questioned whether or not the overall fossil evidence supports the traditional view of Darwinian gradualism. Offer the incompleteness of the fossil record as a possible explanation, but observe that the seamless gradation of living forms predicted by Darwinian theory has yet to be conclusively established.

    I would also include that Gould and Eldredge favored a model of punctuated equilibrium, and how the fossil record supports either interpretation. I think horse fossils would provide an excellent example. I don’t think your second sentence is necessary.

    Mention the Miller-Urey experiment and the formation of amino acids by a natural process (after all, it is a classic event in the history of origin-of-life studies), but mention that scientists now believe that conditions on the early earth were not those used in the experiment, and that no concrete explanation has been offered for how those amino acids could have formed biologically meaningful proteins by undirected chemical means.

    The Miller-Urey experiment demonstrated that biomolecules could be formed from molecules present in the early Earth, abolishing the perceived barrier between organic and inorganic molecules. I agree that it’s important to note that our current idea of what the conditions of the early Earth were like has changed since Miller’s first experiments, but others have found some success replicating Miller’s experiments with other environmental conditions, though not to the degree of success Miller found. I would change your last clause to, “While a definitive theory of abiogenesis has yet to emerge, a number of models have been developed, and abiogenesis remains an active area of research”.

    Talk about various origin-of-life theories and the fact that many scientists are confident that an explanation will eventually be found, but mention that the current state of affairs in origin-of-life studies is many mutually contradictory hypotheses, and that the origin of information in DNA is a particularly difficult problem.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s necessary to say that “many scientists are confident that an explanation will eventually be found”. It’s better to just say that it’s an active area of research, and leave it at that.

  17. Jack Krebs

    Regardless of your desire to assign sole discretion of what gets taught in public school science classes to a majority of scientists that just isn’t how the system works. What you want in this is an aristocracy of sorts. That’s repulsive to me and many others who believe that every adult, regardless of who they are, gets an equal say in the matter. One person, one vote. It’s a good system. Embrace it.

  18. Carlos wrote:
    “The problem, as I see it, is that science teachers in most high schools and middle schools are not trained as either scientists or as philosophers. And the ID/evolution debate expects of them to be both”

    As a science teacher I am trained to do and teach science. I am not a philosopher, and am not qualified to teach philosophy, period. If the scientific community does not accept an idea as science, I do not teach it to teenagers. Period. This is not how education is done. I would not express my view of politics in a science class, either. It’s unprofessional to step outside of my area of knowledge.

  19. Dear Minlay,

    I appreciate your thoughtful and respectful comments but you got one thing exactly backwards with this: “I disagree with your implication that the current presentation of the evidence ‘subverts science.’” Those of us who raise the challenges that I did are accused of subverting science.

    What you are basically proposing is that my facts and observations be entered into evidence, but stripped of their implications.

  20. “Regardless of your desire to assign sole discretion of what gets taught in public school science classes to a majority of scientists that just isn’t how the system works.”

    Actually, that IS how the system works. Historians set the standards for what is taught in history. Mathematicians do so for mathematics. Ideas are not equal, and ideas are not chosen by popular vote. I suspect the American public is lead to believe this; “participate in our poll! Log on to CNN.com and vote whether you think OJ Simpson was guilty or innocent!” As if the general public can make that judgment with no training and without hearing the evidence presented in a court of law.

    Not everything is determined democratically, and opinions do not carry equal weight. I am a professional science educator, and I teach what the nation’s science organizations have deemed appropriate for the age of my students and what is accepted by the scientific community. I do not go off on my own, assuming that I can represent centuries of knowledge and the work of countless scientists on my own. That is the epitome of arrogance, and I am appalled that anyone would think that it consitutes professional behavior. Sorry to rant; sometimes these discussions make me think that education is on the level with washing laundry-everyone can do it and everyone has a valid opinion of how it should be done. Makes me wonder why I trained so long and hard to become a secondary school science teacher. All my years of trying to learn as much as I can about my subject and how kids learn was a total waste of time, since any joe on the street can walk in and take my place.

  21. If I read “The Privileged Planet” correctly “evolutionism” is hardly being singled-out.

    Also “consensus of the scientific community” is nonsense if the data that led to said consensus cannot be objectively tested nor verified. Which is what we have with evolutionism.

    Gil is right on this one- Present the data we do have and give the options for that datas’ existence.

    Life exists. Either it came into existence via some blind watchmaker-type process or it was directed to exist via some intelligence. The same goes for the universe. Did the universe create itself? Doubtful. Therefore any and every scenario requires something outside of the universe (and outside of nature) for a first cause.

    BTW I would tell the students there is a HUGE difference between organic molecules and living organisms.

    We should also teach them that just throwing (father) time at any issue is NOT how science is conducted. Oops that would mean big trouble for evolutionism.

    Discuss genetic homeostasis and oscillating variation- ie biologic reality.

    Tell them flat-out that we DON’T know what makes an organism what it is. And without that knowledge any theory of common descent is pure speculation.

    And finally we should let them know that the greatest scientists to walk this planet were Creationists. Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, et al., all knew they were uncovering God’s handiwork. Therefore being a Creationist in no way hinders your scientific ability.

    However if it were up to me- at this point in time I would present the two videos- “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet” to all students. Then set them free to attend regular classes.

    If the kids today are anything like I was (30+ years ago) that would be more than enough (for starters).

    Jack Krebbs:
    As I said on another thread, if ID-oriented conclusions do eventually persuade the scientific community, then we’ll teach the students that.

    In due time- that is once this old guard is replaced by forward thinking scientists.

    Jack Krebbs asks:
    More bluntly, why should a student see evolution as contradicting a belief in God?

    Because there isn’t any difference between no “god” and a “god” who created via some blind watchmaker-type process.

    The bottom line is it DOES matter. IF we are here via intent and purpose we will NEVER find out under the current paradigm. And IF science seeks to explain the reality to our existence then the current model is not only a detriment to science but to all who dwell on this planet. And if science doesn’t care about the reality to our existence then it is as worthless as the corn on my big toe.

  22. I find Dave’s point baffling. The vast majority of citizens, if asked to identify countries on a map, would get many of them wrong. A substantial fraction of Americans don’t know what causes the seasons or the phases of eth moon. Should we give everyone a vote of which country is Pakistan? What is we applied this principle to medical school?

    I really don’t see how you think that the public school science curriculum should be chosen on a “one-man one vote” principle in areas where there is expert knowledge and people who know what young learners need to know in order to master further applications of the subject at hand.

  23. KL

    I don’t know where you live but in Texas there exists a body of elected members called the Board of Education. These popularly elected members decide each year what textbooks will be used in Texas public schools. Texas public school teachers teach from these. In principle it is quite democratic. Often the BoE will require changes be made in a text before accepting it for use in Texas schools. Open meeting laws ensure that the decision process is open to the public.

    Because Texas is both the second largest producer and second largest consumer of K-12 textbooks its decisions have a large influence on other states.

    How does the textbook selection process work where you live?

  24. Jack Krebs: “More bluntly, why should a student see evolution as contradicting a belief in God?”

    You still don’t get it. The “evolution” taught in the public schools is not the “evolution” mentioned in my essay. It is the blind, purposeless, undirected, goalless Darwinian mechanism, which is why my daughter in the seventh grade asked the teacher, “Does this mean God doesn’t exist?” to which she received the reply, “Yes.” She figured out the implications immediately.

    If she were taught that “evolution” is change over time commensurate with transcendent design, which is what theistic evolutionists believe, she would never have asked the question she did. You guys want to have your cake and eat it too: Imply that we are the product of a blind, purposeless, undirected, goalless Darwinian mechanism, but that this in no way contradicts a belief that we are more than that.

    It doesn’t work that way, and most people have figured it out.

  25. Joseph wrote:

    “The bottom line is it DOES matter. IF we are here via intent and purpose we will NEVER find out under the current paradigm. And IF science seeks to explain the reality to our existence then the current model is not only a detriment to science but to all who dwell on this planet. And if science doesn’t care about the reality to our existence then it is as worthless as the corn on my big toe.”

    The bottom line is that, to science, it DOES NOT matter. Science is not equipped to answer philosophical questions as why we exist and how we contemplate that existence. To use science in this way violates the strict requirements of scientific inquiry and cheapens the philosphical endeavor. Under the current scientific paradigm we will not discover the intent and purpose of our existence. Not under ANY scientific paradigm would this happen.

  26. Evolution via random mutation & natural selection is singled out because it is a dogmatic belief lacking empirical support.

    Ah, but you see that simply is not true. There is an immense amount of empirical support, of exactly the same kind that supports the other theories I mentioned. Experimental and observation studies testing the predictions of the theory. Empirical support includes (but is by no means limited to):

    1. Genomic sequencing data proving that all differences between species are consistent with an accumulation of mutational change and testing predictions as to the degree of relatedness, the number of mutations separating species, the origins of major protein families in short-generation time origins, similarity of genetic code, etc., etc.

    2. Computer simulations of evolutionary mechanisms, demonstrating their power at finding novel solutions to problems, even solutions not known are anticipated by their programmers.

    3. Studies of gene frequency and morphological change in the wild under conditions of selective pressure.

    4. Chemical evolution studies in the laboratory, in which mutation/selection mechanisms have been used to evolve enzymes and ribozymes with novel activities in vitro.

    5. Mutational studies demonstrating that fundamental mechanisms of gene regulation are conserved across species, as predicted by the theory.

    6. An incredible track record of guiding biological research, which is the real reason why biologists continue to adhere to the theory–it is a tried and true recipe for success in the difficult business of making novel discoveries.

    7. And of course, all of the old stuff, fossils, finches, &c.

    By scientific standards, evolution is one of the most extensively tested and confirmed theories in the history of science, surviving experimental tests that could not have even been conceived of by its founders. Any honest course in biology would have to convey this information.

  27. Evolution is an inference drawn primarily from the fossil record. It is not strictly a fact. I am hesitant to advocate teaching anything as fact that can’t be directly observed.

    Evolution has not relied on the fossil record for decades; fossils are today a rather minor part of the evidence supporting the theory.

    And of course, science is all about things that cannot be directly observed. Subnuclear particles cannot be directly observed, the path of a photon cannot be directly observed, the gravitational field cannot be directly observed, the Schrodinger wave equation cannot be directly observed. The behavior of the earth’s core cannot be directly observed. The list goes on and on.

  28. I don’t live in Texas, but my folks do. I am free to select my own books, and I do so after careful review of the contents. A text is only one of many tools a teacher uses; many of my colleagues teach without texts, or teach with many texts. I don’t think the textbook selection process in Texas is appropriate; I don’t think school boards made up of people elected by vote and working outside the teaching profession should determine curriculum or texts. I suspect that may be considered heresy by some; however, I believe that teachers should make those decisions. State-wide selections take the power away from teachers who should be making the decisions that best suit their own schools and students. I get guidance from scientists, college professors, state and national science teaching organizations, etc., not from the local hardware store owner, lawyer, politician or parent. There’s something about teaching school; although the public expects us to be well educated and well trained, ironically the public also thinks that they know best how to teach. No other profession is treated this way to this magnitude. Maybe it’s because we were all students once, therefore we can all imagine how teaching is done and consider it a simple task that anyone can do.

  29. Regardless of your desire to assign sole discretion of what gets taught in public school science classes to a majority of scientists that just isn’t how the system works. What you want in this is an aristocracy of sorts. That’s repulsive to me and many others who believe that every adult, regardless of who they are, gets an equal say in the matter. One person, one vote. It’s a good system. Embrace it.

    One man, one vote is how we decide political questions, because we believe that an individual’s right to have a say in his own governance trumps all concerns about his judgement or competence. But the fact that in this one area we have agreed to ignore the fact that people differ in their levels of knowledge, skill, experience, and overall competence does not mean that we should reduce all matters of fact and learning to the lowest common denominator. You don’t choose a random person to fix your car or take out your appendix–you choose somebody with knowledge, experience, and skill. The term sometimes applied to that is not aristocracy, but meritocracy.

  30. I find Jack Kreb’s point specious. Textbook selection in Texas is accomplished by the state board of education. The members of the board get there by winning a popular vote. Texas ranks #24 in the Smartest State awards while states with comparable population numbers New York is #10 and California is #46. California is the only comparable state by size and demographics. New York doesn’t have to deal with a high percentage of students who don’t speak english as does Texas and California.

    Demonstrably, selection of public school textbooks by democracy rather than meritocracy has not led to any educational disasters.

  31. Gil, I think you are generally on the right track, but your presentation of the evidence still seems watered down and way too accommodating of traditional orthodoxy and old ideas. Two examples:

    “Present the evidence of changing finch beaks with changing weather conditions, and talk about how some scientists propose that these changes can be extrapolated over long periods of time to explain the origin of completely new and different life forms. But also mention that these changes have been observed to be cyclic, and that some question the validity of extrapolating these minor changes to explain major biological innovation. Ditto for peppered moths.”

    Or perhaps discuss what can really be learned from these observations, rather than assumed. “Some question the validity . . .”? Perhaps students should be asked to grapple with the more basic question of whether it is even reasonable to extrapolate in the first place. Also, perhaps we could point out what I believe is the major takeaway from these observations (at least insofar as we are going to stick with the actual observed evidence, rather than proposing theoretical extrapolations), namely, that a number of species exibit the ability to temporarily adapt to changing conditions, *while ultimately resisting fundamental change.*

    “Point out that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance through the evolutionary process of natural selection, but add that experiments with thousands of generations of bacteria subjected to harsh selection pressures have yet to produce a fundamentally new variety of bacteria.”

    “. . . develop resistance through the evolutionary process of natural selection . . .”? Possibly, but only as long as we ignore all pre-existing resistance within the population and as long as we also ignore all hypermutation mechanisms that the bacteria have to find a survival solution. Then we could ask students to determine whether the so-called “mechanism” of natural selection in fact has anything at all to do with resistance, and if so, in what cases and to what extent. We could also ask students to think about what would be required to develop a hypermutation mechanism. We could also point out essentially the same thing we saw with the finches and the moths: life appears designed to have the ability to temporarily adapt to natural stresses and changing conditions, while ultimately resisting fundamental change.

  32. “Demonstrably, selection of public school textbooks by democracy rather than meritocracy has not led to any educational disasters.”

    I think we can do better than just avoid “disasters”.

  33. Eric,

    You are right. I was way too generous. I repent.

  34. trrll

    I don’t dispute common descent. All the evidence you site is in support of common descent and/or allele frequencies within the same species. Give me the empirical evidence supporting RANDOM mutation as the mechanism behind the generation of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. Be sure to describe to me what tests were performed to discriminate between random and directed mutations.

    Also, I want to know where these so-called predictions were made. The way I’ve seen it play out in my lifetime is that observations are made and then an explanation of how RM+NS is responsible is carefully crafted to explain the observation. Darwinists stopped making predictions about the time it became evident that the prediction that the fossil record would eventually reveal a gradual story of small changes accumulating to produce large variation didn’t pan out. But feel free to point me to where these predictions were made prior to the observation confirming it if you can.

  35. “I think we can do better than just avoid “disasters”.”

    And I encourage to vote according to your personal convictions! Just don’t try to disenfranchise someone else’s right to vote because you’re convinced of your own superiority.

  36. trrll “You don’t choose a random person to fix your car”

    Correct. I fix it myself. The point is that the law doesn’t require me to choose an expert to fix my car and the law doesn’t require me to choose an expert to select the textbooks used in public schools. The law does require me to choose an expert to remove my appendix.

    So tell me, trrll, since a significant percentage of experts at removing appendixes don’t believe in evolution by chance and necessity do you ask the physicians, surgeons, and other professionals who deliver your health care if they believe in evolution by chance and necessity before allowing them to touch you or is that not enough of a concern for you to ask? :razz:

  37. And my God, trrll. It just occured to me that physicians and surgeons aren’t required to take any classes in evolution or swear they believe it before being allowed to diagnose, prescribe, and cut. Yet they somehow still get through medical school, residencies, and are allowed practice medicine. It’s a miracle we aren’t all dead for this egregious gap in the education of medical professionals. Oh the humanity! :lol:

  38. I haven’t had time to read the thread, but here is what I think would help — just teach MORE BIOCHEMISTRY, and EARLIER. Period. End of story.

    Once you learn the current views of biochemistry, especially before you learn about Darwinism, Darwinism just looks dumb. You don’t even need to teach anything against it — just stand Darwinism next to biochemistry and Darwinism clearly loses.

    Teach transposons — and their regulation. Teach the interaction of biochemical pathways. Teach the regulation of mutation. Teach the way that DNA is accurately copied. Do this _first_. Then teach evolution. Watch the kids laugh.

    That’s all you need. More biochemistry. Teach it before evolution. Problem solved.

  39. “I don’t think school boards made up of people elected by vote and working outside the teaching profession should determine curriculum or texts. I suspect that may be considered heresy by some; however, I believe that teachers should make those decisions. State-wide selections take the power away from teachers who should be making the decisions that best suit their own schools and students. I get guidance from scientists, college professors, state and national science teaching organizations, etc., not from the local hardware store owner, lawyer, politician or parent. There’s something about teaching school; although the public expects us to be well educated and well trained, ironically the public also thinks that they know best how to teach. No other profession is treated this way to this magnitude. Maybe it’s because we were all students once, therefore we can all imagine how teaching is done and consider it a simple task that anyone can do.”

    - KL

    Perhaps your real problem is that you work in a government school, where attendance is mandatory for those without the means to choose a private school or the time & inclination to homeschool. Since most parents have little choice in the education their kids get, elected school boards are the only way they can express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their kids’ education.

    The meddling from non-experts is a necessary consequence of forcing kids to attend government schools. I’m sure most parents would be happy to leave the educational details to you if they knew they could go elsewhere when you started to underperform.

  40. I have a very simple, and perhaps simplistic, suggestion to teaching biology – teach biology, not an hypothetical history.
    Teach what constitutes a cell, how DNA is transcribed, how systems work, which amino acids form to make which proteins – teach the science, that which can be observed, measured and tested.
    When, and why, did it become mandated that a philosophical version of the history of those systems was part of biology?
    When you study physics you study laws, not the hypothetical origination of those laws.
    When you study chemistry you study components and reactions, not where somebody thinks chemicals came from.

  41. Jack

    More bluntly, why should a student see evolution as contradicting a belief in God?

    Because evolution was primarly written to counter the arguement from design, postulated by Paley. In the sence, it is a creation account without the Creator. Of course, that will have mataphysical implications.
    The fact that there are theists who assume that one can have a belief in God and be an evolutionist doesn’t change the inherent nature, and inttended goal of the Darwinian thesis.

    One should evaluate the sources and the evidence of the theory, not the people who believe in it.

  42. “Perhaps your real problem is that you work in a government school, where attendance is mandatory for those without the means to choose a private school or the time & inclination to homeschool. Since most parents have little choice in the education their kids get, elected school boards are the only way they can express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their kids’ education.”

    Nope. I teach at an independent secondary school, private, owned by a church denomination. My administration and my students’ parents, who pay a lot of $ for their kids to attend, expect me to to be a professional, and to do the best job I can according to the standards articulated by the organizations made up of people in the same field. I can’t see why public school teachers (or “government” schools, as you put it) should be treated with less respect. Other professions have the same expectations. I don’t see elected boards setting medical procedures and standards; I expect the AMA and related organizations do that. Why should teaching be any different? As far as being accused of feeling “superior”, I don’t. However, I have been an educator for a long time, and I have earned the right to my professional opinions on this matter. I would not have much confidence in my opinions on other matters. If fact, I don’t try to claim expertise outside my own discipline. I certainly don’t expect to tell my son’s history teacher how to conduct his class or what text to choose.

    All I am trying to say is: don’t assume that public opinion is the correct way to set school curriculum. If the public as a body has that kind of expertise, then the education of our children should be left entirely to them. Who need teachers? Doesn’t that sound rather silly?

  43. KL

    Where the people want experts to dictate policy with the force of law, they legislate the requirement. More often experts are consulted on policy matters and the final decision carrying the force of law is left to others who may or may not follow the advice of the experts. This system of government employed in the United States has been quite successful by almost any metric compared to any other system of government in the world. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  44. “Where the people want experts to dictate policy with the force of law, they legislate the requirement. More often experts are consulted on policy matters and the final decision carrying the force of law is left to others who may or may not follow the advice of the experts.”

    Which is exactly my point. Why don’t people want experts to set school curriculum? Why does public opinion rule the day on this one? Are people so sure that educators “conspire” to lead children astray and need to be reined in? Funny that some parents, who pay no tuition, want their political and religious issues to influence school curricula, while others, who pay thousands (above and beyond taxes that support other schools) trust their schools and faculty to make good choices. Why is that? A college development officer once told me that some donors give tens of thousands in unrestricted gifts, giving said college full power in how it is spent, but others expect to have a say in college policy and practice because they gave $50. Odd, but true.

    If a teacher does not follow the guidelines set by their “governing” organizations, then there is cause to be concerned. If a teacher tries to teach material outside their area (although, I think expressing political and religious opinions in science class isn’t “teaching”) then they should be dealt with. But no teacher should be asked to teach anything outside what is accepted by the professionals in their field.

    If ID has scientific merit, in another generation or so it will trickle down through organizations such as AAAS and NSTA to people like me (if I am still alive and in the classroom) along with guidelines, curriculum, standards, etc. Until then, KEEP IT OUT. The fuzzy edges of any theory in any science are not taught to kids. Issues still being debated about the mechanisms, pathways, etc in evolutionary theory are meaningless to kids who don’t yet know the basics of biology, biochemistry, and genetics. They are not in high school long enough to build a sufficient platform to deal with the finer points in sciences; there is only a couple of years between early adolescence, when their math and abstract reasoning is still in its elementary stages, and graduation. They must fit basic Chemistry, Physics and Geology in there, as well as all the other disciplines. We don’t yet do a good job of tying the various sciences together; science education in the US is largely segregated by discipline when an integrated approach makes much more sense. To waste any time on topics that are speculative is wrong.

    It’s interesting how scientists on science blogs discuss frontline topics in evolutionary science, like HOX genes, information transfer between organisms, etc. Most of this is years away from being included in basic high school biology. Other sciences have similar leading edges that are still being worked out, but these also are not taught. Science educators stick to the basics, building the framework in students that, down the road, in college or beyond, will give them the tools they need for the advanced stuff.

    I don’t engage myself in debating these advanced topics, as I have no expertise in these areas. I do find them fascinating. The only place my opinion matters at all is in my own area, secondary science education.

    Going to work now. My kids (gotta love them) are waiting.

    Please excuse me if this post shows up twice. I’m not sure it took.

  45. Josepsh wrote,

    “Jack Krebbs asks: ‘More bluntly, why should a student see evolution as contradicting a belief in God?”

    Because there isn’t any difference between no “god” and a “god” who created via some blind watchmaker-type process.”

    But there is a difference between no God and the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God of Christianity who is continually and creatively present in the world in ways that are beyond our limited human understanding.

    Simply put, what is chance to us is not chance to God. Just because we see something as as random, contingenct, or lucky doesn’t mean that it was so to God.

    Consider a simple coin toss that comes up heads. This is the epitome of a random event to us. Did God know the coin was going to come up heads, or was the coin toss a random event to God also? Obviously the orthodox Christian answer would be that God knew that the coin would come up heads (because he is omniscient), and he could have had it come up differently if that was his Will (because he is omnipotent).

    So teaching that evolution, or any other natural phenomena, has elements of randomness or contingency is *** not *** teaching, either explicitly or implicitly, that the God of Christianity does not exist or that He has not been actively involved.

    P.S. Thanks to KL for all his comments about teaching.

    P.P.S. My name is Krebs, not Krebbs. A small point.

  46. KL,

    On another thread I made a comment that some of what is taught in a lot of biology classes relative to evolution and Darwin is dishonest and proceeded to give an example that was on the internet. The dishonest example was by a well respected biologist at a very respected university.

    I also claimed that a lot of the text books used for biology in the US present information on evolution in a dishonest way. Why does this have to be done this way. You punted to the experts opinion where I can show you that what experts teach on this topic is often at best speculative.

    What a lot are saying here is that many of the ideas taught in high school and college biology courses on evolution have no scientific merit but yet they are taught anyway. This does not seem to concern you as you hide behind the so-called standards of experts which are questionable in this area. You say that high schools should not waste time on subjects that are speculative, then high school science teachers should limit Darwin’s ideas to the small area which it has merit and eliminate it from the speculative areas that are currently being taught. This by your own words should be your objective. By the way some are trying to get evolution taught as early as kindergarten. Why?

    So you should support those here who want to change the current high school and grade school curriculum to eliminate the speculative science. If you don’t supprt this effort then maybe some would have to question your true motives.

  47. Darwinists stopped making predictions about the time it became evident that the prediction that the fossil record would eventually reveal a gradual story of small changes accumulating to produce large variation didn’t pan out. But feel free to point me to where these predictions were made prior to the observation confirming it if you can.

    Are you suggesting that the people digging for Tiktaalik just happened to be hanging out 600 km from the North Pole?

  48. “Does this mean God doesn’t exist?” to which she received the reply, “Yes.”

    Have you reported this biology teacher to her supervisors yet?

  49. jerry: “Darwin’s ideas to the small area which it has merit and eliminate it from the speculative areas that are currently being taught.

    The vast majority of biologists and other scientists working in related fields is that the Theory of Evolution is a strongly supported scientific explanation for the observed evidence and makes a strong empirical predictions in a wide variety of different scientific areas, from geology to genetics.

    franky172: “Are you suggesting that the people digging for Tiktaalik just happened to be hanging out 600 km from the North Pole?

    Lucky guess. (Tiktaalik has gills, scales, but the ribs and neck of a tetrapod, and legs and wrists which end in fins. Just happened to be in strata dated at 375 million years ago associated with tropical stream waters. Nested hierarchy stuff. Like I said — just a lucky guess.)

  50. “The bottom line is it DOES matter. IF we are here via intent and purpose we will NEVER find out under the current paradigm. And IF science seeks to explain the reality to our existence then the current model is not only a detriment to science but to all who dwell on this planet. And if science doesn’t care about the reality to our existence then it is as worthless as the corn on my big toe.”

    KL:
    The bottom line is that, to science, it DOES NOT matter.

    Who are you to say that?

    KL:
    Science is not equipped to answer philosophical questions as why we exist and how we contemplate that existence.

    HOW KL- HOW we came into existence IS a scientific question. And no one, I repeat NO ONE, should put limitations on what science can and cannot do.

    KL:
    To use science in this way violates the strict requirements of scientific inquiry and cheapens the philosphical endeavor. Under the current scientific paradigm we will not discover the intent and purpose of our existence. Not under ANY scientific paradigm would this happen.

    Perhaps you should read “The Privileged Planet”. Through scientific investigation the authors have determined a purpose to our existence.

  51. Again until we know what makes an organism what it is ANY “theory” of common descent is pure speculation. IOW that premise cannot be objectively tested.

    With evolutionism we are told there is no way to predict what will be selected for at any point in time. We also can’t predict what mutations will occur.

    And given what we do know about proof reading and error correction to say “Genomic sequencing data proving that all differences between species are consistent with an accumulation of mutational change and testing predictions as to the degree of relatedness, the number of mutations separating species, the origins of major protein families in short-generation time origins, similarity of genetic code, etc., etc. is NOTHING but laughable nonsense.

    Also given what we do know pertaining to even the most beneficial mutation will be lost in a population as opposed to becoming fixed evolutionism just does NOT jive with the data.

    Then there is the fact that we don’t even know if the changes required by evolutionism/ CD are even possible via any mechanism. Add to that the number of mutations that would not only have to occur but become fixed and evolutionism fails miserably.

    For example the genetic differences between chimp & human were once thought to be only 1%. Now we know it is greater than that and may even be greater than 10%. And that difference evolutionism can only overcome via a miracle.

  52. Jack Krebs:
    But there is a difference between no God and the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God of Christianity who is continually and creatively present in the world in ways that are beyond our limited human understanding.

    I don’t care about christianity Jack. But you are corect- there is a difference.

    JK:
    So teaching that evolution, or any other natural phenomena, has elements of randomness or contingency is *** not *** teaching, either explicitly or implicitly, that the God of Christianity does not exist or that He has not been actively involved.

    ID does not say anything about God. You know that, right?

    It isn’t that what is being taught has “elements or randomness or contingency”, it is what is being taught is pure chance/ randomness, purposeless/ goal-less- IOW “sheer-dumb-luck”.

    There was a paper signed by 38 Nobel Laureates that you should be familiar with. The following is a passage from that paper:

    “Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.”

    How does Jack feel about the following:

    However if it were up to me- at this point in time I would present the two videos- “Unlocking the Mystery of Life” and “The Privileged Planet” to all students. Then set them free to attend regular classes.

  53. Joseph: “HOW we came into existence IS a scientific question.

    Quite so. And there is a methodology to science which can help answer this question.
    http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2.....ethod.html

    Joseph: “ID does not say anything about God.

    So ID can say nothing about any possible intention on His, er, the undesignated Designer’s part.

    Joseph: “Through scientific investigation the authors have determined a purpose to our existence.

    ‘Why’ is an entirely different question than ‘How’. So then, what is the scientifically determined purpose to human existence?

  54. “All I am trying to say is: don’t assume that public opinion is the correct way to set school curriculum.”

    It is the correct way to set _public_ school curriculum. The fact is that what the “experts say” depends almost entirely on your choice of experts, does it not? If we used microbiologists from the discovery institute we’d get different standards than if we used microbiologists from the NCSE, with the same qualifications of people making the recommendations.

    “Why does public opinion rule the day on this one?”

    Very simple. Because the result arrives from assumptions which are not shared by the general public. Science is supposed to be a public endeavor. The public has decided to “audit the books” so to say, and has found that origins research has been writing checks that the data can’t cash.

  55. Zachriel,

    I said “limit Darwin’s ideas to the small area which it has merit and eliminate it from the speculative areas that are currently being taught.”

    and you said

    “The vast majority of biologists and other scientists working in related fields is that the Theory of Evolution is a strongly supported scientific explanation for the observed evidence and makes a strong empirical predictions in a wide variety of different scientific areas, from geology to genetics.”

    Which is basically sophistry.

    Maybe you are new to this site but most of us agree with the idea that natural selection and genetics can explain a lot of micro-evolution. There is not much debate there though some will question some of the findings.

    However, for most of what this debate is about is macro-evolution, the evolution of novel things and origin of life. Here Darwin has no relevance as far as the evidence. What many do is conflate the evidence in micro-evolution as proof for these other areas of evolution. Are you doing that or do you have anything substantive to contribute in these other areas except to evoke the claim that experts believe it. So take the UD challenge and be the first supporter of Darwin to provide a defense of Darwin in these other areas. Or any other naturalistic mechanism you come up with. Despite the vast acceptance by biologists and the science community no one has yet been able to step up to the challenge.

    Be the first and if validated by the evidence you will be given a Nobel Prize for Science. If any scientist were able to do that, then that would be their prize. Does anyone doubt that?

  56. macro-evolution, the evolution of novel things and origin of life. Here Darwin has no relevance as far as the evidence. What many do is conflate the evidence in micro-evolution as proof for these other areas of evolution. [...] So take the UD challenge and be the first supporter of Darwin to provide a defense of Darwin in these other areas.

    I have to admit, I am a little curious as to what would count as evidence for something beyond micro-evolution. The origin of new body parts? Metabolic pathways? What?

  57. franky

    “what would count as evidence for something beyond micro-evolution”

    For brevity I use the phrase novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans.

  58. Zachriel: “The vast majority of biologists and other scientists working in related fields is that the Theory of Evolution is a strongly supported scientific explanation for the observed evidence and makes a strong empirical predictions in a wide variety of different scientific areas, from geology to genetics.”

    jerry: “Which is basically sophistry.

    My statement was fact. Most scientists in the relevant fields of study do consider the Theory of Evolution, including the Theory of Common Descent, to be solidly based in empirical and predictive science. I note you ignored the specifics of Tiktaalik, and the predictions based in evolutionary science entailed in its discovery.

    jerry: “However, for most of what this debate is about is macro-evolution, the evolution of novel things and origin of life.

    Start with common descent of vertebrates, which is supported by the nested hierarchy of morphology, the succession of fossils, and the recently discovered nested hierarchy of genomics. There is no point discussing the mechanisms of diversification from common ancestors, if you reject common descent.

  59. DaveScot: “For brevity I use the phrase novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans.

    You would consider then that humans and chimpanzees are only differing as to microevolution, as they have the same cell, tissue, organs and general body plans. Just a bit bigger brain, a bit shorter arm-leg ratio, flatter feet, less hair. Or cats and dogs. Or mice and elephants. Except for that long proboscis. And the legs on Tiktaalik, just extended distal endochondral bones and synovial joints of its pectoral fin.

    Microevolution.

  60. What’s been more amusing is that a lot of things that I previously had no trouble ascribing to Darwinism (simple speciation, for instance) I later found out had very little empirical support as a general mechanism. For observed cases of speciation, symbiogenesis has been much more likely the cause than natural selection. However, RM+NS remains in the textbooks, while symbiogenesis is left out. Yet symbiogenesis has much more empirical support. What gives? I’ll tell you what — it’s a worldview.

  61. The bottom line is that there are serious and legitimate questions and challenges concerning evolutionary theory as taught in the public schools, but these challenges are not allowed to be aired, despite the fact that 85% of Americans don’t buy the blind-watchmaker thesis, which is what is taught.

    Please refer once again to the six proposals I made in my essay. I would like to know why any of these challenges would be inappropriate in the curriculum if included with the traditional presentation of evolutionary theory. Are any of the facts in my challenges wrong? Do they promote religion? Are they too esoteric for students to understand? If none of these, what is the real motivation for excluding them?

  62. And another thing I tell the students:

    If living organisms did NOT arise from non-living matter via unguided, unplanned processes there would be NO reason to infer its subsequent diversity arose solely due to those types of processes. And right now we do not know how living organisms came to be, even though it is an active area of research.

  63. DaveScot: “For brevity I use the phrase novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans.”

    Zachriel: “You would consider then that humans and chimpanzees are only differing as to microevolution, as they have the same cell, tissue, organs and general body plans.”

    No. I see human/chimp difference as a gray area. Novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans are large milestones that evolution somehow obtained. Why bother with lesser steps when the big steps are easily delineated and in need of explanation? In other words, if you can demonstrate that RM+NS has the capacity to generate novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans then I will concede it can do lesser things.

    In actuality I want it demonstrated to me how RM+NS created the DNA/ribosome combination and if that can be done I’ll concede RM+NS’ creative power to accomplish everything that followed. But since DNA/ribosome is subject to the but that’s not part of Darwinian evolution I instead pick the milestone events that followed to avoid the argument over what “evolution” entails.

  64. Zach

    It seems that what you ask is that by demonstrating the theoretical ability of RM+NS to generate small beneficial changes that I then accept a huge extrapolation that many small things add up to big things. I do not accept that extrapolation. It’s too large a leap. You can make high pile of rocks one rock at a time but you can’t pile them so high that they reach the moon. Small things don’t always add up to big things.

    So I make the very reasonable request that the big things be demonstrated. If it can’t be done then it can’t be done and as honest inquirers into the nature of things we need to admit the limits of our knowledge and not make up narratives out of whole cloth and treat those narratives as axioms in a grand pretense that the limit doesn’t exist. I don’t know that what I ask cannot be demonstrated. All I ask is that until it IS demonstrated we don’t teach our children that sole narrative explanation in a vacuum devoid of criticism or alternative explanations.

  65. And my God, trrll. It just occured to me that physicians and surgeons aren’t required to take any classes in evolution or swear they believe it before being allowed to diagnose, prescribe, and cut. Yet they somehow still get through medical school, residencies, and are allowed practice medicine. It’s a miracle we aren’t all dead for this egregious gap in the education of medical professionals. Oh the humanity!

    No, we don’t teach medical students much about evolution. For that matter, we don’t teach them much basic science at all; they are expected to get that from their undergraduate curriculum. In medical school, they get the bare minimum of basic science required to understand the medical curriculum. It has been a long time since physicians other than MD/PhDs received scientific training. While evolution is absolutely critical for biological research, it is not that relevant to the practice of medicine. After all, physicians only have to work on one species, man. They need to understand how things work, not where they came from.

  66. Zachriel wrote: “franky172: “Are you suggesting that the people digging for Tiktaalik just happened to be hanging out 600 km from the North Pole?”

    Lucky guess. (Tiktaalik has gills, scales, but the ribs and neck of a tetrapod, and legs and wrists which end in fins. Just happened to be in strata dated at 375 million years ago associated with tropical stream waters. Nested hierarchy stuff. Like I said — just a lucky guess.)”

    So, then, Zachriel, shouldn’t we expect that in strata that dates 370 million years ago we should find a specimen that not only has all the features of Tiktaalik, but with fins that are now taking on the form of digits? He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword. You’re basically arguing that this specimen is right where the geological record should find it, which then becomes an argument for the ‘perfection’ of the fossil record. But this then destroys the excuse that Darwinists use for the lack of transitional forms: that is, the ‘imperfection’ of the fossil record. You can’t have it both ways.

    Further, when you consider that the paleontologists involved here were looked for a specific type of environment, isn’t the best answer to the appearance of Tiktaalik simply that of an adaptation to its environment? Though NS might be a part of this process of adaptation, it is no more than adaptation. In other words, this isn’t an example of ‘progressive evolution’ (=’macroevolution’), but of simple adaptation (=’microevolution’).

  67. trrll:
    While evolution is absolutely critical for biological research,…

    What/which “evolution” is “absolutely critical for biological research”?:

    1. Change over time; history of nature; any sequence of events in nature
    2. Changes in the frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population
    3. Limited common descent: the idea that particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor.
    4. The mechanisms responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification, chiefly natural selection acting on random variations or mutations.
    5. Universal common descent: the idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor.
    6. “Blind watchmaker” thesis: the idea that all organisms have descended from common ancestors solely through an unguided, unintelligent, purposeless, material processes such as natural selection acting on random variations or mutations; that the mechanisms of natural selection, random variation and mutation, and perhaps other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, are completely sufficient to account for the appearance of design in living organisms.

    BTW evolutionists only think they know where they came from…

  68. Sorry trrll, but MD’s often engage in both research and treatment of patients. They also work with other species in the research. Just as an example I refer you to open heart surgery which was perfected by surgeons experimenting first on dogs. The fact of the matter is that modern biology is the study of living tissue. The similarities and differences between human hearts and dog hearts can be empirically observed. There is absolutely nothing useful to be obtained by believing that the observed reality is the historical result of chance or design. It doesn’t matter. The living tissue of humans and dogs remain in the same comparative state regardless of how they got there. That’s why MDs in practice or in research don’t need to know jack-diddly-squat about historical biology and in bold proof of that fact no courses in evolution are required to become a medical doctor. If there was the import you pretend exists then the study would be a requirement in pre-med syllabus.

  69. I don’t dispute common descent. All the evidence you site is in support of common descent and/or allele frequencies within the same species. Give me the empirical evidence supporting RANDOM mutation as the mechanism behind the generation of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. Be sure to describe to me what tests were performed to discriminate between random and directed mutations.

    Random mutation is of course the null hypothesis, since some additional mechanism would have to be invoked to provide a direction. It is not as if people have not looked for directed mutation, but no convincing evidence has been found. The closest anybody has been able to get is evidence that the frequency of random mutations is increased under certain circumstances when accelerated evolution might be useful.

    Of course, there is no reliable way to prove that a specific sequence of events is random, since a random sequence has been shown to be mathematically indistinguishable from a perfectly compressed nonrandom sequence. Therefore, it is mathematically and scientifically impossible to prove that mutations are truly random, as opposed to pseudorandom.

    As a scientist, I find this apparent horror of randomness among ID advocates to be nearly incomprehensible. Randomness is so fundamentally bound up in the fabric of the universe that almost everything important has a random element. In quantum mechanics, there is an irreducible randomness about the trajectory of a particle. In chemistry and thermodynamics, all reactions, including the fundamental biochemical reactions of life, are driven by entropy, the randomization of energy. Even something as fundamental to life as the folding of proteins into their active forms is driven by random interactions with solvent molecules. Signaling between neurons works by random diffusion of neurotransmitter molecules and random binding to neurotransmitter receptor proteins, producing neurotransmission by biasing the random thermal fluctuations of receptor protein structure.

    Stepping away from science for a brief moment, it is worth noting that our definition of randomness is inherently tied to our inability as finite human beings to see the future. It is questionable whether the term would even have meaning for a being capable of transcending time. So there is a nice big loophole where you are welcome to insert the religious belief of your choice.

  70. I haven’t had time to read the thread, but here is what I think would help — just teach MORE BIOCHEMISTRY, and EARLIER. Period. End of story.

    Once you learn the current views of biochemistry, especially before you learn about Darwinism, Darwinism just looks dumb. You don’t even need to teach anything against it — just stand Darwinism next to biochemistry and Darwinism clearly loses.

    Teach transposons — and their regulation. Teach the interaction of biochemical pathways. Teach the regulation of mutation. Teach the way that DNA is accurately copied. Do this _first_. Then teach evolution. Watch the kids laugh.

    I’m all for teaching more biochemistry (of course, we’ll have to decide what to cut from the curriculum to make room). I’m not particularly concerned about it undermining understanding of evolution. As a biologist, I can tell you that the strongest supporters of evolutionary theory among my colleagues are the biochemists and molecular biologists.

  71. Sorry trrll, but MD’s often engage in both research and treatment of patients. They also work with other species in the research. Just as an example I refer you to open heart surgery which was perfected by surgeons experimenting first on dogs.

    It is certainly true that the closer an organism is to man evolutionarily, the more reliable the results of research. But somebody doing clinical (as opposed to basic biological) research doesn’t need to know why this is true. All they need to know is: monkeys are better than dogs, dogs are better than rats. Most clinical research is largely a cut-and-try affair; it simply doesn’t involve a lot of basic biological knowledge. For projects in which such knowledge is required, the researcher is usually a MD/PhD with training in basic research, or is collaborating with a basic researcher.

    As a member of the basic science faculty of a Medical School, I can tell you that the we are all convinced of the importance of evolution for biological research. We choose not to teach it to medical students because we don’t think that it is crucial for treating patients. We make no attempt in general to teach typical medical students how to do basic biological research; that is something that we reserve for the MD/PhD curriculum.

  72. And given what we do know about proof reading and error correction to say “Genomic sequencing data proving that all differences between species are consistent with an accumulation of mutational change and testing predictions as to the degree of relatedness, the number of mutations separating species, the origins of major protein families in short-generation time origins, similarity of genetic code, etc., etc. is NOTHING but laughable nonsense.

    Error correction is irrelevant, because when we talk of the mutation rate, we are talking about the mutations that happen in spite of error correction and proof reading. Even after error correction, the mutation rate is high enough that almost every individual carries some novel mutation

    Also given what we do know pertaining to even the most beneficial mutation will be lost in a population as opposed to becoming fixed evolutionism just does NOT jive with the data.

    Actually it does. Mathematical derivations and computer simulations confirm that beneficial mutations do not become “lost in the population.” Indeed, even a neutral mutation has a nonzero probability of fixation.

  73. “As a biologist, I can tell you that the strongest supporters of evolutionary theory among my colleagues are the biochemists and molecular biologists.”

    How would things go for these folks if they started questioning evolutionary theory (NDE)? Would open criticism of evolutionary theory be a career-neutral activity?

  74. Jack Krebs: “Millions of Christians belief that the theory of evolution, as the accepted and well-established theory of how species have changed over time, does not conflict with their religious beliefs about where they came from and where they’re going…”

    Which “theory of evolution” is it that they believe in? I guarantee it isn’t the blind, purposeless, undirected, goalless Darwinian mechanism, as taught in the public schools. These people are probably mostly theistic evolutionists, so they definitely don’t believe in the blind-watchmaker brand of the product, which is what is being marketed in public education.

    Jack Krebs: “In fact the problem with a list such as Gil proposes (mostly taken from Wells) is that all the items are presented at a shallow enough level that it can be made to look like someone could ‘evaluate for themselves’ after just a small amount of study.”

    Actually, it wasn’t mostly taken from Wells. It’s all over the literature these days. Darwinian theory as currently presented to high school and junior high students is at a shallow level, of necessity, and they are expected to swallow this shallow presentation completely uncritically.

  75. trrll:

    I can tell you that the we are all convinced of the importance of evolution for biological research.

    Alright then. I’m fair and open minded. Explain to me why it’s important for a biological researcher to believe that random mutation and natural selection independently created camera eyes in mollusks and mammals. Contrast this with the same researcher who believes that the information needed to construct a camera eye was part of the genome of the common ancestor of mollusks and mammals and the information was incorporated as part of an intentional design. How will the researcher who believes life was designed be compromised by his belief?

  76. trrll:
    Error correction is irrelevant, because when we talk of the mutation rate, we are talking about the mutations that happen in spite of error correction and proof reading.

    But the mutations that occur in spite of proof reading and EC don’t appear to be the type of mutations required to drive common descent.

    trrll:
    Even after error correction, the mutation rate is high enough that almost every individual carries some novel mutation.

    True but the probability of any individual’s unique mutation becoming fixed in a population is directly related to the size of that population. And although small populations tend to be better suited for this, they are also closer to exiting the gene pool.

    Also given what we do know pertaining to even the most beneficial mutation will be lost in a population as opposed to becoming fixed evolutionism just does NOT jive with the data.

    trrll:
    Actually it does. Mathematical derivations and computer simulations confirm that beneficial mutations do not become “lost in the population.” Indeed, even a neutral mutation has a nonzero probability of fixation.

    Again it depends on population size. Alleged computer simulations of living organisms are really computer simulations of the programmer’s idea of living organisms. And the math demonstrates that Simpson was corect when he stated that even the most beneficial mutation had a better chance of being lost than it does at becoming fixed.

    trrll:
    As a scientist, I find this apparent horror of randomness among ID advocates to be nearly incomprehensible. Randomness is so fundamentally bound up in the fabric of the universe that almost everything important has a random element.

    You are msitaken on what IDists think and say about “randomness”:

    Intelligent design is a good explanation for a number of biochemical systems, but I should insert a word of caution. Intelligent design theory has to be seen in context: it does not try to explain everything. We live in a complex world where lots of different things can happen. When deciding how various rocks came to be shaped the way they are a geologist might consider a whole range of factors: rain, wind, the movement of glaciers, the activity of moss and lichens, volcanic action, nuclear explosions, asteroid impact, or the hand of a sculptor. The shape of one rock might have been determined primarily by one mechanism, the shape of another rock by another mechanism.

    Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of “neutral,” nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important.

    Having a “random element” is not questioned by IDists nor Creationists. Saying randomness brought this all together is a bit much.

    I wonder what the students would say if they were told the materialistic alternative to ID is basically “sheer-dumb-luck”…

  77. To Joseph: it would be highly inaccurate to tell the students that “the materialistic alternative to ID is basically ‘sheer-dumb-luck’…”

  78. 78

    trrll likes to make baseless claims about the “truth” of Darwinism that are unfounded on reality. I doubt he’ll back up any of his claims about evolution. He just likes to dodge the question like a typical Darwinian. Don’t get your hopes up about getting a straight answer from any evolutionist. The hoax is slowing getting exposed by the truth. He obviously isn’t up to date on the current literature out there with proof that evolution is nothing but a myth.

  79. Joseph,

    “Alleged computer simulations of living organisms are really computer simulations of the programmer’s idea of living organisms. And the math demonstrates that Simpson was corect when he stated that even the most beneficial mutation had a better chance of being lost than it does at becoming fixed.”

    This is ironic. You recently demonstrated how little you care about math (see posts sixty six and following in

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....5#comments ).

    This may be too much for you, but perhaps some here will understand: The computer simulations implement dynamical MODELS of systems. Mathematical analysis requires that one adopt a mathematical MODEL of a system. Every model is a simplification.

    A problem with mathematical (analytic) models of evolution is that they are often too simple. There are complex nonlinear dynamics in evolution that are generally very difficult to handle mathematically. Furthermore, finite populations tend to be problematic, so mathematical models often assume infinite populations. The advantage of a mathematical model is that you can prove its properties. The disadvantage is that the properties of a simplistic model may not approximate those of nature. The advantage of a simulation model is that you can study a complex dynamical system. The disadvantage is that you have to study it empirically, as though it were given to you by nature.

    To give you some idea of the importance of evolutionary simulation and the weakness of mathematical results derived under the assumption of an infinite population, I’ll mention some work by David and Gary Fogel. They used computational simulations to study the famous evolutionary stable strategies of Maynard Smith. They made the population size on the order of five to ten thousand, as I recall, and discovered that the strategies often did not lead to the stable population proportions of different types that Maynard Smith had derived. Instead, the proportions fluctuated wildly. They concluded that “Evolutionary stable strategies are not always stable under evolutionary dynamics.” See

    http://www.natural-selection.c.....tegies.pdf

    So, Joseph, do you know what assumptions Simpson made in deriving his results?

  80. How would things go for these folks if they started questioning evolutionary theory (NDE)? Would open criticism of evolutionary theory be a career-neutral activity?

    Scientists are far more pragmatic than political. What makes a difference for a scientist is not politics but success at making significant discoveries. So if a scientist established a strong track record of making important discoveries and then announced that he had been guiding his research based upon hypotheses derived from intelligent design, other scientists would flock to test those hypotheses. But of course, that would require having testable hypotheses, and I’ve never to hear any from the ID crowd, even from Behe. Moreover, the only ID person with any kind of real biochemical research experience, seems not to have had little if any research success since he got into ID. That hardly attracts other scientists to the cause.

  81. Alright then. I’m fair and open minded. Explain to me why it’s important for a biological researcher to believe that random mutation and natural selection independently created camera eyes in mollusks and mammals. Contrast this with the same researcher who believes that the information needed to construct a camera eye was part of the genome of the common ancestor of mollusks and mammals and the information was incorporated as part of an intentional design. How will the researcher who believes life was designed be compromised by his belief?

    Scientist A uses evolutionary theory, which makes specific predictions about conservation of genes and degrees of genetic homology between species—quantitative hypotheses that can readily be tested. So scientist A tests them, makes discoveries, and advances his career. Scientist B choses intentional design, a vague, handwaving notion that makes no testable predications. So scientist B can’t think of any experiments to do, wastes his time pontificating about how his theory is really better, even though he has no results to show. His scientific career languishes and he ends up doing public relations work for Discovery Institute.

  82. But the mutations that occur in spite of proof reading and EC don’t appear to be the type of mutations required to drive common descent.

    As it happens, they are. Genomic studies have shown that all of the differences between species are due to DNA sequence changes that are of the same type as those produced by the mutations that occur in spite of proof reading and error correction.

  83. Gil,
    Your initial proposal sounds reasonable enough for a college level course. I could quibble with a few of the details, but overall it’s a fair account of the state of things. From there, a college-level student could then further explore the issues.

    DS: “Alright then. I’m fair and open minded. Explain to me why it’s important for a biological researcher to believe that random mutation and natural selection independently created camera eyes in mollusks and mammals. Contrast this with the same researcher who believes that the information needed to construct a camera eye was part of the genome of the common ancestor of mollusks and mammals and the information was incorporated as part of an intentional design. How will the researcher who believes life was designed be compromised by his belief?”

    I think a significant part of the answer has to do with what you *don’t* do as a RM+NS scientist. If you believed strongly that the information for complex structures was front-loaded in the ancestral genome, then you are also committed (IMO) to the belief that the mechanisms for unleashing that information in a directed manner are also contained therein. For instance, we observe that many evolutionary changes resulting in new function, etc occur through nucleotide mutations, transposon insertions, genomic rearrangements, etc. I suspect this would be the case if we were to examine the phylogenetics of the various eye proteins, etc, involved in your proposed mammal/mollusk scenario. As a front-loader, you are, I would argue, committed to the notion that most, if not all, of these mutations are orchestrated by the genomic “programming” itself (i.e. they are not random). So you would spend a great deal of effort trying to figure out how that unfolding process of information occurs. What are the precise biological mechanisms that orchestrated these mutations, thereby directing the evolution of these complex structures? The problem is that we have no indication whatsoever that they exist. Transposons jump in the middle of genes, causing recessive and dominant diseases galore. Ditto for nucleotide mutations and genomic rearrangements. The raw mutations don’t seem to be orchestrated in any way. If they were, you’d have to explain why these pre-ordained orchestrated mechanisms seem to be inclined to kill us or otherwise generate undesirable effects. So I think as a ID-based biological researcher, you’d spend a lot of time and effort looking for the components that allowed the unfolding of this master design. As for positive instances of evolutionary knowledge, I would suggest pharmacogenomics, viral evolution and epidemiology, transposon biology, cancer metastasis among others as areas where RM+NS vs. design would strongly influence the generation of hypotheses and how research is conducted.

  84. “Scientists are far more pragmatic than political. What makes a difference for a scientist is not politics but success at making significant discoveries.”

    Then why was Richard Sternberg treated the way he was treated?

    And how do scientists, of all professionals, end up being more pragmatic than political? Don’t they care about career success and the respect of their peers like people in every other profession? Don’t they care about better jobs, more money, greater prestige? Is science more altruistic than other professions?

    To take an example, I’ve always read that one of the major barriers to medical discoveries is that researchers jealously hide their findings from one another, and are reluctant to share information. That doesn’t seem very “pragmatic”. In fact it seems like medical researchers, at least, are like all the rest of us. If they’re so interested in taking credit and reaping financial rewards, then perhaps they’re not above political maneuvering to protect their scientific turf, their grants, and their positions of honor and influence. I don’t know. Seems like they’re regular people, too.

  85. Jack,

    “But there is a difference between no God and the omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God of Christianity who is continually and creatively present in the world in ways that are beyond our limited human understanding.

    Simply put, what is chance to us is not chance to God. Just because we see something as as random, contingenct, or lucky doesn’t mean that it was so to God.”

    So you’re saying God is the ultimate cause of the universe and all life, that he knows exactly how all things will unfold, that His creativity and presence is nonstop and permeates all things.

    But all this is in the realm of something called faith, a mysterious item that is utterly cut off from all things we might call real, all things we see and experience, and has no basis in any of them. Everything that we call real and of which every particle is under the control of God gives the appearance of being devoid of God or Mind and will forever do so. Our universe looks and acts just like it might if there were no God. Yet such a no-God universe, if your belief is correct, has no possibility to even exist.

    If your God is true it means that he was necessary for things to be as they are, and that without God exerting his attributes, our world would not be here.

    This is why I find theistic evolution incoherent. On another thread, someone said that in Catholic school they had been taught that God could create however he wanted, even through evolution. Do you not see a fundamental disconnect between the true materialist and one who thinks there is a God who ‘used’ evolution? In other words, your only argument with ID is that you think the design in the universe MUST be invisible. But why insist that the universe is cleverly constructed to forever hide from human intelligence that a Mind was required? To insist upon that, is to insist that the universe, upon investigation, will always yield a false answer.

    The false answer it will yield is that matter is the sufficient starting point of existence, rather than consciousness or Mind.

  86. avocationist

    The argument that the God of Abraham is indetectable to science is a sham if the bible and history of Christianity is believed by the proponent. The bible and both the oral and written histories of Christianity are chock full of witnessed miracles. A witnessed miracle IS God revealing himself. Presumably science can investigate these miracles and make a determination of whether there is a natural cause or not. The scientific testing done on the Shroud of Turin comes to mind. I’m sure there are more examples. Regardless of whether there is an investigation, if a miracle happens and it’s witnessed it becomes rather obvious that God isn’t hiding. So the bottom line is that the proponent of God-in-hiding theory must deny that God performs miracles and thus repudiate all the miracles described in the bible and all the miracles in Christian history. They won’t. It’s like asking them to deny God.

  87. DaveScot: “No. I see human/chimp difference as a gray area.

    According to your own definition, humans and apes are separated only by microevolutionary steps. Even adaptations such as wings are just modifications of existing tetrapod structures which are themselves just modification of fins.

    DaveScot: “Novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans are large milestones that evolution somehow obtained. Why bother with lesser steps when the big steps are easily delineated and in need of explanation?

    Why deny what can be determined? In other words, if mammals or vertebrates can be shown to be related by common descent, then that is valuable knowledge about the history of life. From these relatively easy cases, we can then discuss the mechanisms of divergence, and possibly extrapolate to even more primitive lineages, such as vertebrates or even eukaroytes.

    PaV: “You’re basically arguing that this specimen is right where the geological record should find it, which then becomes an argument for the ‘perfection’ of the fossil record.

    Spending years camping out in the Arctic wastelands digging in rocks is hardly an indication of the perfection of the fossil record. And due to the vagaries of fossil preservation and exposure to the surface, Tiktaalik might never have been found. But it was. Tiktaalik once waddled in tropical streams. The evidence exists. It doesn’t go away because it doesn’t fit your preconceptions. Tiktaalik has intermediate features between fish and tetrapods. Tiktaalik limbs are just an “expanded array of distal endochondral bones and synovial joints“. Microevolution.

    Joseph: “Also given what we do know pertaining to even the most beneficial mutation will be lost in a population as opposed to becoming fixed evolutionism just does NOT jive with the data.

    Not only can mutations be seen to become fixated, but mathematical models can predict when such mutations are likely to become fixated and compared successfully to empirical observations. It is clearly related to how beneficial or detrimental a mutation is. And even neutral mutations can and do become fixated within a statistical measure.

  88. But the mutations that occur in spite of proof reading and EC don’t appear to be the type of mutations required to drive common descent.

    trrll:
    As it happens, they are.

    Wishful thinking.

    trrll:
    Genomic studies have shown that all of the differences between species are due to DNA sequence changes that are of the same type as those produced by the mutations that occur in spite of proof reading and error correction.

    We don’t know what makes species what it is therefore we can’t possibly know what makes the differences. We do know that although genes may influence every aspect of development they do NOT determine it.

  89. Jack Krebs:: it would be highly inaccurate to tell the students that “the materialistic alternative to ID is basically ’sheer-dumb-luck’…”

    It would be highly accurate. If not by design it has to be “sheer-dumb-luck”- The laws that govern nature if not intelligently designed had to have originated via “sheer-dumb-luck”. The position of our planet in the universe had to have arose via “sheer-dumb-luck”. Our Moon- “sheer-dumb-luck”.

    But I could be wrong Jack, So please if not “sheer-dumb-luck”, what?

    ———————————————————————————–

    “Alleged computer simulations of living organisms are really computer simulations of the programmer’s idea of living organisms. And the math demonstrates that Simpson was corect when he stated that even the most beneficial mutation had a better chance of being lost than it does at becoming fixed.”

    Tom English:
    This is ironic. You recently demonstrated how little you care about math

    And you have demonstrated how little you care about reality.

    Seeing that ALL computer simulations are intelligently designed I take the people who use them to determine biological reality would have no problem with living organisms also being intelligently designed.

    Tom English:
    The computer simulations implement dynamical MODELS of systems.

    This may a bit much for you to understand but in order to model anything you first have to understand what it is you are modeling. And seeing at this point in time we do NOT even know what makes an organism what it is we canNOT model biological reality.

  90. Joseph: “Seeing that ALL computer simulations are intelligently designed I take the people who use them to determine biological reality would have no problem with living organisms also being intelligently designed.

    There are regularities in nature, such as the inverse square law guiding gravitational attraction. These regularities can be modeled by computer without the assumption that the regularities are due to intelligent design.

    Joseph: “This may a bit much for you to understand but in order to model anything you first have to understand what it is you are modeling. And seeing at this point in time we do NOT even know what makes an organism what it is we canNOT model biological reality.

    We do not know *everything* about “what makes an organism what it is.” That is not to say that we do not know *anything* about “what makes an organism what it is.” Computer modeling can make predictions that can be successfully validated by empirical observation. There are a variety of such models, and most of modern genetics requires the use of computers and statistics to crunch the data.

  91. Dave Scott,

    The Shroud of Turin is still a mystery as far as I understand. My wife and some friends were able to see it when it was on display in 1998 and I then read quite a bit about it. While the carbon dating said the shroud was made of material from the 1200′s there is no explanation for the image. It is certainly not a painting and the process that produced an image of a crucified man remains to be explained. One of the problems is like in evolution that it is sometimes hard to sift out the good research from the wishful speculation. A lot of people want the Shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ so one has to be careful when looking at the findings.

    There is a very elaborate site run by one of the original researchers in the 1978 investigation of the Shroud from which the carbon dating came from. It is http://www.shroud.com. He is a Jew and the last time I read the site in detail he claims he is still a Jew in terms of religious belief but believe the shroud to be the burial cloth of Christ. He had said his original intention was to debunk the Shroud but obviously has changed his mind. Here is the opening paragraph from the website.

    “The Shroud of Turin is a centuries old linen cloth that bears the image of a crucified man. A man that millions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. Is it really the cloth that wrapped his crucified body, or is it simply a medieval forgery, a hoax perpetrated by some clever artist? Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the Shroud. It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history, and we know more about it today than we ever have before. And yet, the controversy still rages. This web site will keep you abreast of current research, provide you with accurate data from the previous research and let you interact with the researchers themselves. We believe that if you have access to the facts, you can make up your own mind about the Shroud.”

    I certainly don’t want to lead this thread to a discussion of the Shroud but those interested should go to the website or any others they find if they are interested. Like evolution is it interesting and an enigma

  92. Back to the topic of this thread before it dies. See my comment #61. I’d like answers to the questions I posed:

    I would like to know why any of these challenges [the six proposals in my essay] would be inappropriate in the curriculum if included with the traditional presentation of evolutionary theory. Are any of the facts in my challenges wrong? Do they promote religion? Are they too esoteric for students to understand? If none of these, what is the real motivation for excluding them?

  93. Gil,

    The answer to your question is obvious. They don’t have an honest answer to your reasonable suggestions. They know it is the kiss of death for neo Darwinism as the universal answer and their proselytizing machine.

    Since they never do and it is often a reason why threads often veer off the original objective. There should be a mechanism whereby extraneous comments like mine just above get published on a sub thread or maybe even banished.

    Keep pushing and you will continue to embarrass those who object.

  94. We don’t know what makes species what it is therefore we can’t possibly know what makes the differences. We do know that although genes may influence every aspect of development they do NOT determine it.

    So if they influence every aspect of development, what part do you think that they do NOT determine? How would you test that hypothesis experimentally?

  95. GilDodgen: “But also mention that these changes have been observed to be cyclic, and that some question the validity of extrapolating these minor changes to explain major biological innovation.

    I doubt if finches are a typical topic for children’s biology courses, but the “some question” is quite problematic considering the broad scientific consensus on evolution.

    NATIONAL ACADEMY of SCIENCES: “The theory of evolution has become the central unifying concept of biology and is a critical component of many related scientific disciplines.”
    http://books.nap.edu/html/creationism/

    GilDodgen: “Point out that bacteria develop antibiotic resistance through the evolutionary process of natural selection, but add that experiments with thousands of generations of bacteria subjected to harsh selection pressures have yet to produce a fundamentally new variety of bacteria.

    As the Theory of Evolution posits that “fundamental” changes can take millions of years, this would be confirmation of theory. In addition, highly adapted organisms rarely depart from niches where they are successful. In any case, children will soon find out from real life that microorganisms are more than capable of evolving and developing dangerous adaptations.

    GilDodgen: “[re; Gould and Eldredge] Offer the incompleteness of the fossil record as a possible explanation, but observe that the seamless gradation of living forms predicted by Darwinian theory has yet to be conclusively established.

    This seems to be a bit of a misinterpretation of punctuated equilibrium and modern scientific understanding of evolution. Punctuated equilibrium attempts to explain apparent discontinuities at the finest level of resolution in the fossil record and in no way disagrees with the basic idea of common descent through natural mechanisms. In addition, modern evolutionary theory posits that evolution is much more varied and episodic than previously believed.

    GilDodgen: “[re; The Cambrian Explosion] would seem to contradict the proposal that new body plans should originate in the leaves of the tree of life and not the trunk.

    Modern evolutionary theory posits that rapid radiation and adaptation is expected when filling new niches. Though there are many questions about that epoch, it is known that many of the phyla were already established before the Cambrian Explosion and that millions of years is still a lot of time.

    GilDodgen: “[re; Miller-Urey] mention that scientists now believe that conditions on the early earth were not those used in the experiment, and that no concrete explanation has been offered for how those amino acids could have formed biologically meaningful proteins by undirected chemical means.

    Miller-Urey have historical value in being the first experiment to show that complex organic compounds could spontaneously assemble. Certainly, your points are valid concerning an experiment that is decades old. No complete theory of abiogenesis has been demonstrated.

    GilDodgen: “Talk about various origin-of-life theories and the fact that many scientists are confident that an explanation will eventually be found, but mention that the current state of affairs in origin-of-life studies is many mutually contradictory hypotheses, and that the origin of information in DNA is a particularly difficult problem.

    Certainly, if abiogenesis is a topic of study, then this should be mentioned.

  96. Our universe looks and acts just like it might if there were no God. Yet such a no-God universe, if your belief is correct, has no possibility to even exist.

    Isn’t this a self-contradiction? If the universe cannot exist without God, the obviously it does not look and act just like it might if there were no God.

    Or to put it another way, do you believe that God is incapable of creating a universe that behaves according to His wishes without His direct interference at points subsequent to its inception?

    But why insist that the universe is cleverly constructed to forever hide from human intelligence that a Mind was required?

    Isn’t that similar to asking why God doesn’t make regular public appearances to clarify all of these questions regarding His existence and his role in the creation and maintenance of the universe?

  97. We don’t know what makes species what it is therefore we can’t possibly know what makes the differences. We do know that although genes may influence every aspect of development they do NOT determine it.

    trrll:
    So if they influence every aspect of development, what part do you think that they do NOT determine?

    The type of organism, for starters. Also by influencing development we know that “malfunctioning”genes can cause a loss or displacement of body parts. However they do not determine the body part itself, eg. a mouse eye or a fly eye.

    trrll:
    How would you test that hypothesis experimentally?

    Take a gene (or genes) from a mouse and place it in a fly and observe that a fly-part(s) develops.

    Only a very small fraction of all known genes, such as the developmental fate switching genes, can be imputed to have any sort of directing or controlling influence on form generation.- Michael John Denton in “Uncommon Descent chapter 9 pg 172

    Just like workers on an assembly line- they surely can influence the product but they do not determine it. Got it?

  98. DaveScot: “A witnessed miracle IS God revealing himself. Presumably science can investigate these miracles and make a determination of whether there is a natural cause or not.”

    Dave’s comment brings us to a reason for Jews, Muslims, and Christians to object to teaching of ID in the schools. Bill Dembski has defined intelligence as those causal factors that change one probability distribution into another. In the extreme, what this means is that intelligence can change the likelihood of an event from zero to one, making the impossible certain to happen.

    So what’s wrong with saying that intelligence can work miracles? ID asserts that intelligence is natural, and thus miracles can arise naturally. Many believers have problems with such a statement. Ironically, by trying to steer clear of problems with supernaturalism in the courts, ID has run afoul of various theologies.

  99. Re: 88.

    Please see my response at (6) above for my take on your challenges. Or, to re-present:

    (1) the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is evidence of evolution, in part because bacteria don’t have well-defined species boundaries (whereas sexual organisms do).

    (2) punctuated equilibrium takes issue with the tempo and pace of gradualism, but it does not provide any reason to doubt that the mechanism of phyletic change is mutation and selection. (In any event, this is a red herring, since evolutionary theory has changed massively since Darwin’s day.)

    (3) the Cambrian “explosion” is a puzzle, but not a mystery. For one thing, there are older animals than the Burgess Shale fauna. For another, we know that the genes which control development are older — by about 50 million years — than the Burgess Shale fauna itself. So it didn’t come out of nowhere. Besides which, without the puzzles and unexplained phenomena, science wouldn’t be any fun!

    (4) I wouldn’t present embryological similarities as ‘recapitulation’ — though later structures in ontogeny tend to be correlated with the emergence of later structures in phylogeny. (This includes cognitive structures — human children under one year perform at about the same level as chimp infants of the same age.) Also, the diversity of reproductive physiology may explain why the earliest stages of development exhibit a great deal of diversity. So that’s something of a red herring.

    (5) I’d responded to the point about abiogenesis here and elsewhere. Again, my take on it is that if you consider the various scenarios — the RNA world, the metabolism-first model, the replication-first model — and my personal favorite, clay crystals as living organisms (the Cairns-Smith proposal) — all of them have some degree of plausibility, as well as weaknesses — and that it may be a long time, if ever, before we can determine which of these just-so stories describes what actually happened.

  100. Tom English:
    ID asserts that intelligence is natural, and thus miracles can arise naturally.

    I would like to see the reference in which ID asserts that.

    However intelligence is natural in that it exists in nature, but that does NOT mean it was produced by nature.

    Tom English:
    Many believers have problems with such a statement. Ironically, by trying to steer clear of problems with supernaturalism in the courts, ID has run afoul of various theologies.

    ID steers clear of “supernaturalism” because it is irrelevant. It is irrelevant because all scenarios “turtle down” to something outside of nature for a first cause. It can’t be avoided.

    ————————————————————————————–

    Carlos:
    (1) the emergence of antibiotic resistance in bacteria is evidence of evolution, in part because bacteria don’t have well-defined species boundaries (whereas sexual organisms do).

    You may want to read the following:

    Is Bacterial Resistance
    to Antibiotics an Appropriate Example of Evolutionary Change?

    As for your abiogenesis scenarios they are only “plausible” to the ardent anti-IDist. There isn’t any scientific findings that would render any of them “plausible” in the real world. What we do know is that only life begets life.

  101. Gil,

    We should reasonably expect all sciences to identify for the general public their most important controversies. High school students should learn something about the controversies in physics, chemistry, and biology. You think the Cambrian explosion is a big deal? Physicists can’t explain why things fall.

    There are various fringe groups with barely-hidden agendas that would like to impugn science by trumping up controveries. The courts will never look just at the logic of what those groups are saying, but their histories as well. Something IDists fail to see, over and over, is that legal judgment is not, and never was, logic.

    I do see in your post not an attempt to “tell the truth,” but instead an attempt to engender doubt disproportionate to the actual weakness of neo-Darwinian theory. If your proposal were evaluated in light of the history of the ID movement (and it would be in court), it would be easy to relate it to design inference. That is, the design inference procedure is

    1. Find a gap (argue that something is unlikely to have arisen through natural causes)
    2. Find a pattern (and infer intelligent cause to fill the gap),

    and your mission is to show schoolchildren the gaps. Many judges would see this as a veiled attempt to pursue the agenda of ID.

  102. 1. Find a gap (argue that something is unlikely to have arisen through natural causes)

    Unguided, unplanned causes- Nature could not have arisen via natural causes as natural causes only exist in nature. Got it?

    2. Find a pattern (and infer intelligent cause to fill the gap),

    When X is observed and the cause is known that cause is always an intelligent agency. So when we observe X and the cause is unknown we can safely, at this point in time, infer an intelligent cause.

    Seems reasonable.

  103. Tom English: “I do see in your post not an attempt to ‘tell the truth,’ but instead an attempt to engender doubt disproportionate to the actual weakness of neo-Darwinian theory.”

    As Eric Anderson pointed out in comment #31, if anything, my suggestions understate the weaknesses and presumptions: “…your presentation of the evidence still seems watered down and way too accommodating of traditional orthodoxy and old ideas.” It should be questioned whether or not extrapolation based on changes in finch beaks is valid at all, much less valid as an explanation for the entire history of life. I conceded RM+NS as an explanation for antibiotic resistance in bacteria, but, as Eric points out, no one really knows if the mutations are indeed totally random and un-engineered. It is assumed that they are, but not demonstrated.

    Tom English: “Many judges would see this as a veiled attempt to pursue the agenda of ID.” It’s a not-at-all-veiled attempt to introduce some semblance of balance to a controversial subject that has profound implications for the worldviews of other people’s children, who are under the forced stewardship of the state (at least for those who cannot afford private school). Darwinian evolution as currently taught is a not-at-all-veiled attempt to avoid or obfuscate the growing difficulties with the theory. I don’t care what judges might think; I care about what is right and reasonable.

    My suggestions involve not primarily pointing out gaps, but making reasonable challenges to conclusions (many just speculations) drawn from the evidence. Your point #2 is made up out of whole cloth, based on my suggestions. You never did answer the three questions I posed.

  104. 104

    Dave,

    The problem with Biblical miracles is that they are hearsay. No one sees them personally. And anyway, my point is about the universe as we find it and can study it. If God reveals himself in miracles, this does not address the problem of whether the existence of intelligence as a necessity can be inferred by the nonmiraculous, every-day, mundane world.

    Trll,

    Trill said: Isn’t this a self-contradiction? If the universe cannot exist without God, the obviously it does not look and act just like it might if there were no God.

    Indeed – that is exactly my point. I find theistic evolutionists are indulging in this self-contradiction.

    Trll said: Or to put it another way, do you believe that God is incapable of creating a universe that behaves according to His wishes without His direct interference at points subsequent to its inception?

    Shortly, yes. The very question is typical, but odd. I don’t conceive of a separate God who is unconnected to this universe, although that is the common (mis)conception that gives rise to funny ideas like deism. The universe arises directly out of God, is part of God. People think the universe is like a house, and God can get in his car and drive away, maybe never come back.

    Again, I don’t think in terms of a God who interferes “at points” in an otherwise independent little clockwork universe.

    But even if God could create a universe that behaves according to his wishes without interference, the whole entire shebang, from its very existence at all, would be entirely the result of this very intelligent Mind which caused it all and nothing, not the existence of matter in the first place nor the basic laws of nature should give us the impression that it is causeless and chaotic.

    I said: But why insist that the universe is cleverly constructed to forever hide from human intelligence that a Mind was required?

    Trill answered: Isn’t that similar to asking why God doesn’t make regular public appearances to clarify all of these questions regarding His existence and his role in the creation and maintenance of the universe?

    No. Completely different idea! Just back to what I said before – theistic evolutionists and materialists are comforted by the idea that if there is a God it is in some realm called “supernatural” and can be known only through a baseless faith and need not bother anyone with being a real part of our world.

    The idea of God making appearances is an anthropomorphism in my opinion. To expect that is to be barking up the entirely wrong tree.

  105. Joseph: “Seeing that ALL computer simulations are intelligently designed I take the people who use them to determine biological reality would have no problem with living organisms also being intelligently designed.”

    Zachriel:
    There are regularities in nature, such as the inverse square law guiding gravitational attraction. These regularities can be modeled by computer without the assumption that the regularities are due to intelligent design.

    Inverse square- didn’t Newton, a Creationist, give us that? Yes he did.

    But I digress what does your response have to do with my post?

    Joseph: “This may a bit much for you to understand but in order to model anything you first have to understand what it is you are modeling. And seeing at this point in time we do NOT even know what makes an organism what it is we canNOT model biological reality.”

    Zachriel
    We do not know *everything* about “what makes an organism what it is.” That is not to say that we do not know *anything* about “what makes an organism what it is.”

    OK Zachriel I am all ears. What do you think we know?

    Zachriel:
    Computer modeling can make predictions that can be successfully validated by empirical observation.

    That is the problkem then isn’t it? Evolutionism doesn’t have any empirical observations. And it certainly can’t be validated. How can one validate the premise that, for example, cetaceans “evolved” from land animals via some blind watchmaker-type process? It can’t be done.

    Zachriel:
    There are a variety of such models, and most of modern genetics requires the use of computers and statistics to crunch the data.

    Those models are so good humans are afraid of mosquitos and birds…

  106. Evolutionism doesn’t have any empirical observations. And it certainly can’t be validated. How can one validate the premise that, for example, cetaceans “evolved” from land animals via some blind watchmaker-type process? It can’t be done.

    We do have a reasonably decent fossil sequence from fully terrestrial mammals to fully aquatic mammals (i.e. ancient and modern whales). Along the way we find some truly spectacular intermediate species, such as Pakicetus and Ambulocetus.

    Now, does this demonstrate that whales evolved? How one answers this question depends on what one thinks a good demonstration is.

    Astronomers think that they have a reasonably good picture of the inside of the sun and other stars, despite never having left the earth. Physicists think they have a reasonably good picture of the quantum world, despite never having seen a quark or muon with the naked eye. In both cases there is an “inference to the unobserved,” as Hume put it.

    Hume himself, the good empiricist that he was, was skeptical about such inferences. There have been some fascinating attempts to get around this problem (Carnap, Popper). But these attempts do not work, as pointed out by Quine’s criticisms of Carnap and Putnam’s criticisms of Popper.

    One of the consequences of their work has been a revival of scientific realism: the view that science tells how the world is, and not merely how the world appears to us. But we accept realism about stars and quarks, why not accept realism about natural selection? In all cases, there is an “inference to the unobserved” which provides the most parsimonious explanation of the available evidence.

    The broader lesson here, and one that has big implications for the evolution/ID metacontroversy, is that there’s no simple, unproblematic way of drawing the line between science and metaphysics. The Humean vision of drawing such a line, which thrived in the English-speaking world well into the twentieth-century, still finds its adherents, but they are getting fewer and farther between.

  107. Zachriel:Tiktaalik once waddled in tropical streams. The evidence exists. It doesn’t go away because it doesn’t fit your preconceptions. Tiktaalik has intermediate features between fish and tetrapods.

    First, you don’t know that it ‘waddled’. It’s just as likely that it used its forelimbs to catch prey. And we know nothing at all about its hind limbs. Waddling is pure supposition; nothing more.

    Second, when you say that “Tiktaalik has intermediate features between fish and tetrapods”, this is no more than you ‘fitting things into your own preconceived ideas.’ For it to be ‘intermediate’ means that it IS the forebear of all tetrapods. How in the world do we know that? It’s, again, pure supposition.

    Third, in your original post, you satirically suggested that it was just ‘luck’ that the authors found this fossil in just the right strata–transitional between the Silurian and the Devonian. So your protestations that this in no way implies a kind of ‘perfection’ of the fossil record simply ring hollow.

    Again, if this is a transitional form, and ‘intermediate’, then where are the OTHER transitional forms? I can just hear the Darwinsit reply: “Oh, we just can’t find them—but they really did exist! Honest! You just have to believe me.” Sorry, I don’t

  108. Carlos:
    We do have a reasonably decent fossil sequence from fully terrestrial mammals to fully aquatic mammals (i.e. ancient and modern whales). Along the way we find some truly spectacular intermediate species, such as Pakicetus and Ambulocetus.

    Out of the 50,000+ transitions that should be IF such a transition took place only Am natans qualifies. Paki is no more than a dog-like animal with an “ear” similar to cetaceans.

    No one even knows whether or not nostrils can move from the tip of the snout to the top of the head.

    Also fossils cannot tell us anything about a mechanism. Nor can it distinguish between phenotypic plasicity and changes due to genetic mutations.

  109. Joseph:
    You are critical of the proposed evolutionary sequence leading from the artiodactyls to the cetaceans. As you probably know, there are several independent lines of evidence in support of this process. The original suggestion, which was made on anatomical grounds, is verified by DNA evidence by three different independent lines or comparisons: the amino acid sequence of proteins, mitochondrial DNA and short and long interspersed elements in the genomes. So this is strong inferential evidence in favor of a common ancestry of the two groups.

    I am trying to figure out the different mechanisms that are compete on this site with the evolutionary model. One mechanism, I gather, involves “front-loading” the genome of an ancestral organism, which enables an evolving organism to adapt to different ecological niches. I am not sure if you subscribe to this notion since you are also questioning the possibility of morphological changes during evolutionary progression.

    The only other mechanism I can think of is some form of special creation that occurred at various times, giving rise to new phyla, orders, etc.

    I would appreciate it if you – or anybody else – could point out other possible explanatory mechanism so I can compare them all. I realize that this may be going somewhat off-topic.

  110. Ofro, I think the question is quite on-topic. I too am uncertain as to just what excatly is considered in doubt, and in particular whether common descent is considered in doubt.

    It seems to more “reasonable”, from some point of view, to hypothesize that God guides genetic changes in order to produce changes in species through the process of reproduction and parent-child birth relationships that it does to hypothesize that species are instantaneously materialized into existence.

    I think this question is pertinent because, going back to the opening post, I would think that a curious student would want to ask the question, “If evolution didn’t happen, what did?” It would seem like ID advocates should be working on offering hypotheses about this issue, and ways to test those hypotheses.

  111. Ofro:
    You are critical of the proposed evolutionary sequence leading from the artiodactyls to the cetaceans.

    Any objective person would be. That is given what we have and what we know.

    Ofro:
    As you probably know, there are several independent lines of evidence in support of this process.

    Very subjective lines. One or a few fossils compared to what there should be-> 50,000+.

    Ofro:
    The original suggestion, which was made on anatomical grounds, is verified by DNA evidence by three different independent lines or comparisons: the amino acid sequence of proteins, mitochondrial DNA and short and long interspersed elements in the genomes. So this is strong inferential evidence in favor of a common ancestry of the two groups.

    Or a common design of living organisms.

    One other alternative is that the organisms on Earth were placed here via direct colonization efforts.

    What we need to substantiate ANY mechanism is a way to objectively test it. And right now we cannot objectively test the premise that cetaceans “evolved” from land animals. Sure there are plenty of subjective tests but those assume the very premise which we are trying to explore!

    Perhaps if the CDists could tell us what mutations afforded what changes. Or even better a way to test the premise that genomic changes can afford such changes- we don’t even know that.

    All we do have is a speculation based on an assumption.

    Evolutionism (CD) needs to explain the differences NOT the similarities.

    Note: I do not reject the premise of UCD. I am questioning its scientifc validity in the light that it cannot be objectively tested. However if it is assumed then it is easy to find what we could consider supporting evidence. But that could be done with just about anything.

  112. Ofro,
    Unfortunately I must expose my ignorance here and ask some real questions which are not nevessarily going to pan out to be challenges.
    Not so long ago it was as good as confirmed that whales evolved from hooved carnivores called mesonychids. Pakicetus was one of those, was it not? Gingerich was quite sure.
    But molecular researchers said that no, the studies showed that artiodactyls are most closely allied with whales.
    Gingerich said “you’re wrong”.
    Then he found a part of an ankle bone (he called it a whale’s ankle bone, did he not?) and then decided that the molecular researchers were right, and that whales did descend from artiodactyls.

    My questions, if my chronology and facts above are accurate, are these:
    Is pakicetus now an artiodact?
    How come? The ankle-bone was not that of pakicetus, was it?
    If it is not now an artiodactyl, is it still considered an ancestor to the whale?
    If it is now an artiodactyl, how does the DNA evidence “converge” with the fossil evidence when the fossil claims can be dictated by the DNA claims? The fossils obviously have no DNA, and their relatedness to living species is also a matter of interpretation.
    How does interpreting the two lines of data as convergent stand as evidence of convergence?

  113. Charlie,

    The mesonychid-whale connection was based on (a) similarities between tooth structure and (b) not really knowing where else to put cetaceans. That connection was posited before Pakicetus was discovered.

    The DNA evidence put cetaceans in with the artiodactyls, and in particular, close to hippos. This has been corroborated by protein comparisons and by gross morphology. However, the two groups seem to have developed aquatic adaptations independently.

    The discovery of an artiodactyl-like structure in the Pakicetus ankle bone therefore counts as converging with the biochemical story.

    I remember reading, as a child, about Ramapithecus, which was regarded by many paleontologists as ancestral to hominids. But Ramapithecus lived about fifteen million years ago. When new biochemical evidence put the hominid-pongid split at 5-7 million years ago, a lot of paleontologists thought that the biochemists had to be wrong — it was too late to accomodate Ramapithecus, after all.

    But subsequent fossil discoveries showed that (a) Ramapithecus is closely related to Sivapithecus, an extinct relative of the orangutang, and (b) very early hominids, dated to around 4-5 million years, have many features in common with chimps.

    I would predict that when we look at hominioid remains older than five million years, we won’t be able to tell the human ancestors apart from the chimp ancestors — which is consistent with what biochemical evidence we have.

    The trick to seeing the power of evolutionary thinking is that it allows us to integrate into a systematic explanation the results of many different lines of evidence — paleontological, behavioral, biogeographical, anatomical, developmental, genetic, etc. Without the evolutionary explanation, all one has is a whole lot of weird coincidences, or a very devious designer.

  114. Carlos:
    The discovery of an artiodactyl-like structure in the Pakicetus ankle bone therefore counts as converging with the biochemical story.

    I thought it was the ankle-like structure said to belong to the Basilosaurus

  115. It would be interesting to see the students’ reaction to the following quote from “The Privileged Planet” after being told the Earth-Moon system formed by “sheer-dumb-luck” (the materialistic anti-ID position):

    “There is a final, even more bizarre twist. Because of Moon-induced tides, the Moon is gradually receding from Earth at 3.82 centimeters per year. In ten million years will seem noticeably smaller. At the same time, the Sun’s apparent girth has been swelling by six centimeters per year for ages, as is normal in stellar evolution. These two processes, working together, should end total solar eclipses in about 250 million years, a mere 5 percent of the age of the Earth. This relatively small window of opportunity also happens to coincide with the existence of intelligent life. Put another way, the most habitable place in the Solar System yields the best view of solar eclipses just when observers can best appreciate them.”

    Then have them do the math to figure out how old this system is given the recession rates and the shortest possible starting distance (The shortest distance the proto-moon would have to be in order to form as opposed to raining back on the proto-earth).

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