Home » Intelligent Design » ID vs. Darwinism: Same evidence, different interpretations?

ID vs. Darwinism: Same evidence, different interpretations?

ID advocates and Darwinists can look at the same evidence and see different things. The recent National Geographic film March of the Penguins created a minor furore because some thought of it as pro-ID, though the filmmakers denied that.

One difficulty is that, denial or not, elements of the penguins’ behavior inevitably raise questions about Darwinism. However, some Darwinists respond to the problem simply by reinterpreting those elements along Darwinist lines.

For example, responding to the idea that the male penguins co-operate to share the body warmth, the well-known Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, replies,

A group of penguins standing upright looks like co-operation, but in fact the ones on the outside are struggling to get in and those on the inside are trying to stand their ground: it’s a classic Darwinian struggle. The idea that the life of a penguin is any more beautiful than that of a malaria virus is absurd.

Actually, the book narrative and the film do not depict a classic Darwinian struggle. The book states that the male penguins, left alone with the eggs in a harsh climate while the females return to the ocean to feed, spiral in and out of their “turtle” formation, in a slow and orderly way, taking their fair turn in the warm center of the huddle:

The males can be aggressive the rest of the year. But they are docile and cooperative now, united to protect the eggs and survive the cold. Each takes turns getting warm by spending time near the center of the turtle. The huddled mass coils around itself in an undulating spiral. The penguins on the outside move in toward the center, the ones on the inside go outward. And this rotation happens very gently in order to safeguard the eggs. (p. 75)

So the French polar team on the site saw a completely different scene from Steve Jones!

The French polars may support “evolution,” as they say (but so?). But they are clearly not convinced Darwinists, as is Jones, or they would see a struggle of the fittest for survival, just as Jones did. As my co-author Mario Beauregard (Harper San Francisco, 2007) likes to say, quoting the Talmud, “You do not see life as it is. You see it as you are.”

Note: A biologist friend writes me to say that

… there IS no “malaria virus.” Malaria is caused by a protozoan, a parasite. Biologically speaking, it’s even further removed from being a virus than a bacterium. If Darwinist Steve Jones actually said what’s quoted above, he’s surprisingly ignorant.

Of course, Jones may have been misquoted by the reporter. After all, a New York Times reporter recently quoted Discovery Institute’s Steve Meyer as referring to “biblical science,” when he actually said “biological science.” (It’s the second item.)

In any event, Jones has announced that he has given up trying to persuade “creationists” , because he fears being quoted out of context or accused of lying. So I don’t suppose he will be in any mood to discuss any of this.

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39 Responses to ID vs. Darwinism: Same evidence, different interpretations?

  1. “His talk laid out some of the evidence for evolution, such as that of changes in the HIV virus after infecting people.”

    Did the HIV virus used to be a different virus and/or not a virus at all?

  2. Denyse,

    I am puzzled. Why is cooperation amongst animals only evidence for ID? Why can’t the TOE account for cooperation amongst members of the same species? Your comments seem to imply that the TOE requires constant and harsh competition.

    I just want to add that Steve Jones made some blunderheaded comments. He is clearly not an expert on the behaviours of penguins.

  3. 3

    The problem is- you’re comparing ID with TOE. ID isn’t opposed to TOE, just the Darwinian explanation. Darwin said that life, in every species, was in fact a constant struggle between species and within them to kill the lesser among them and carry the more “successful” into the future.

  4. “Of course, Jones may have been misquoted by the reporter.”

    If you google for “Steve Jones penguins” (Without the quote marks), the first link you get is:
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk.....42,00.html

    The following apology was printed in the Observer’s For the record column, Sunday September 25 2005
    In the following article we misquoted Steve Jones, professor of Genetics at University College, London, mentioning a malaria ‘virus’. Malaria is, in fact, caused not by a virus but by a protozoan parasite. Apologies.

    Also the fourth link produced by the above google search is an entry by by you on the ID Report from July 1st:

    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.....uins_l_emg

    it’s basically a longer version of this UD post which contains the same remark about Steve Jones possible ignorance and also the following quote;

    ‘And in the UK, where the film was released in December, the Guardian Observer (September 18, 2005) sniffed about “How the penguin’s life story inspired the US religious right”. That link is precisely the same as the one I gave above containing the apology for the misquote.’

  5. Oops. The final end quote (‘) in the previous post is in the wrong place. It should be after the closing double quote following ‘religious right”‘. The last sentence is mine not yours. Also I said ‘by by’ instend of ‘by’ which may have been prescient on my part although I wasn’t aware of it at the time :)

  6. > “Did the HIV virus used to be a different virus and/or not a virus at all?”

    Yes, HIV is a descendent of SIV (Simian immunodeficiency virus). Genetic comparisons show that SIV has actually mutated into HIV several times, giving several different strains of HIV.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....ency_virus

    And, yes, naturalistic evolution can explain cooperation between individuals. It’s actually pretty easy to think of how this sort of cooperation might’ve arisen in this situation.

  7. Oh, and if you search instead for “Steve Jones Maleria” the first link is http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/d.....alaria.pdf from December 2004.

    It’s a PDF which doesn’t allow copy and paste so there may be some errors in my manual copy:

    “Last week I spent several hours in what was once a malarious swamp. The All-Party Parliamentary Maleria group was meeting in the Grand Comittee Room of Westminster Hall (…) under the joint chairmanship pf the famously blunt Ian Gibson MP and his more sedate Conservative colleage Stephen O’Brian . Both have a stake in the disease, with the Labour man an expert on certain cellular structures found within the parasite“.

    (My emphasis) I am not a jounalist, so I don’t know as much about checking sources as you. But it seems to me that Steve Jones knew that Maleria was a parasite back in 2004, and also that the BBC and the british government of the day (not that that means anything) considered him a worthy expert.

    I look forward to a prominent apology to Prof. Jones (as the Observer managed) here and at the ‘The ID Report’.

  8. Strangelove:”I am puzzled. Why is cooperation amongst animals only evidence for ID? Why can’t the TOE account for cooperation amongst members of the same species?”

    Of courst TOE can account for cooperation amongst members of the same species. There were a series of furtonate mutations in the selfish gene that caused it to mutate into the cooperation gene. Of course, this first happened in a small isolated group while the selfish gene searched the nearby genetic space to find the optimum code to cause penguins to rotate in a coopertative manner to keep each other warm-too fast and the penguins don’t warm enough, too slow and the ones on the outside freeze. Once the cooperation gene became fixed in the isolated group, the isolated group invaded the larger population and cooperation gene spread to the larger group. This is why searching the fossil record shows only the sudden appearance of cooperating penguins followed by a long period of stasis.

    Seriously though, TOE can explain anything – like why men are faithful to their wives or why they cheat on their wives – which is why TOE explains nothing.

  9. Strangelove:”I am puzzled. Why is cooperation amongst animals only evidence for ID? Why can’t the TOE account for cooperation amongst members of the same species?”

    Of courst TOE can account for cooperation amongst members of the same species. A series of fortunate mutations in the selfish gene caused it to mutate into the cooperation gene. Of course, this first happened in a small isolated group while the selfish gene searched the nearby genetic space to find the DNA code to cause penguins to rotate in the optimum coopertative manner to keep each other warm-too fast and the penguins don’t warm enough, too slow and the ones on the outside freeze. Once the cooperation gene became fixed in the isolated group, the isolated group invaded the larger population and the cooperation gene became fixed in the larger population This is why searching the fossil record shows only the sudden appearance of cooperating penguins followed by a long period of stasis.

    Seriously though, TOE can explain anything – like why men are faithful to their wives or why they cheat on their wives – which is why TOE explains nothing.

  10. Jesu: “Seriously though, TOE can explain anything – like why men are faithful to their wives or why they cheat on their wives – which is why TOE explains nothing.”

    I can provide many things that the theory of evolution cannot explain, and things that would easily falsify TOE. I get the impression that you would close your mind to such, however.

  11. 11

    I have a feeling a number of the top names in Darwinian theory would disagree and conclude that we can use the theory to explain EVERYTHING. If NS cannot explain all of human behavior, what sense would that make? Why would the theory explain most of all behavior yet somehow leave out a portion of our lives? I suspect political correctness comes into play in some refusing to theorize via NS certain things in the world.

    Sociobiologists are busy working on a million contradictory theories as we speak. Explaining “love” (merely a chemical reaction that aides reproduction…except in cases where the couple in love choose never to have children!) religion (to help calm the fear of death, except in those religious people who don’t at all fear death and never have.), etc.

    As I posted off topic in another thread- there is a new theory out that the fear of snakes helped evolve chimp like primates into humans. Yet, the same article says that some humans and other apes like snakes, and some humans even love them and worship them to some extent. In other words, the theory claims to tell us that primates fear snakes, thus we have humans, and that these same primates ALSO love snakes. Apes feared snakes, so evolved higher brain function and eyesight, but at the same time some apes aren’t afraid of snakes at all?

    I, myself, can’t think of anything that NDE hasn’t claimed to explain.

  12. //Yes, comatose materialistic processes can account for consciousness and the deepest longings of the human spirit.

    …and I’ve got some land in Florida I’d like to sell you.

  13. 13

    Scott- I used to live in Florida as a kid. Nice place. Where is the land located, and does it have any investment value? :)

  14. Jason: Ooops! Did I forget to specify that it’s 90 acres at the foot of the Florida Mountainsâ„¢? ;)

  15. Strangelove — I can provide many things that the theory of evolution cannot explain, and things that would easily falsify TOE. I get the impression that you would close your mind to such, however.

    That statement is a perfect example of Darwinian reasoning: i.e. I can rebut your argument with specifics but I won’t because you won’t accept it because you are stupid and I don’t want to waste my time so I will respond without specifics which won’t be a waste of my time!!!!

  16. JasonTheGreek: “I have a feeling a number of the top names in Darwinian theory would disagree and conclude that we can use the theory to explain EVERYTHING.”

    For evolution to be correct, it must explain everything that we see around us. The same is true for every scientific theory. So your statement should be modified: “…EVERYTHING WE SEE.” Otherwise the theory would need to be changed, wouldn’t you agree?

    JTG: “Sociobiologists are busy working on a million contradictory theories as we speak.”

    Which is why they aren’t given alot of credit. The “socio” part of that word makes it extremely difficult to study. We inherantly have problems studying ourselves. And yeah, they simply get alot of it wrong. But, pretending that the ToE somehow relies on sociobiology to be true is false. The ToE is still trying to hammer out the simpler things. It, like all other scientific theories, is a work in progress.

    tribune7: “That statement is a perfect example of Darwinian reasoning: i.e. I can rebut your argument with specifics but I won’t because you won’t accept it because you are stupid and I don’t want to waste my time so I will respond without specifics which won’t be a waste of my time!!!!”

    First of all, I didn’t call anyone stupid. I think it’s unfair to put words in my mouth. I was hoping that you would give the specifics, so I could give them to you. I’ve found that people take information in alot better after they ask for it.

    I found a particularly well written explanation of the ToE online. It discusses the evidence for evolution, the predictions of evolution, the criticisms of evolution, and potential falsifications of evolution. It supports these statements with links to peer reviewed literature and scientific journals. As you can imagine, it’s long. Scroll through to “Potential Falsifications” section, to save time. Read it all for personal edification. It is good to know exactly what it is you’re arguing against.

  17. 18

    TOE does have explanations for altruistic behavior. For example, let’s say I have four children who are in a burning building. If I hurry, I can rescue all four, but will almost certainly die myself. Both experience and sociobiology (evolutionary psychology) show that most people would save the children.

    Darwin’s idea of natural selection could not explain this because it assumed that the organism is the unit of natural selection. Thanks to biologists like Richard Dawkins and William Hamilton, however, we now know that it makes more sense to treat the gene as the unit of natural selection. If I save my four children (each of whom have, on average, half of my genes), about two total copies of my genes will survive, and one copy (the one in my own body’s cells) will die. If I let my children die, I lose two copies to save one. Our genes tend to encourage behavior which works to save the maximum number of copies.

    Perhaps there was once an organism that did not have genes like this, an organism which would let its offspring die. The genes of this organism would not spread as rapidly or as widely as the genes of a more altruistic organism.

    As for altruism among organisms not genetically related to one another, check out Daniel Dennett’s book Freedom Evolves on how evolutionary psychologists can use game theory to explain apparently selfless behavior among largely selfish organisms. Talkorigins.org also has some good stuff on this.

  18. Talkorigins? LOL.

    Here’s a data dump in response: http://www.trueorigin.org/theobald1a.asp (and it addresses the Potential Falsifications)

    Both sites, btw, are far more reflective of metaphysics than natural science.

  19. StrangeLove,

    Posting stuff from Talk Origins or Panda’s Thumb isn’t much of a response…most of the ID proponents here at UD are QUITE familar with those sites.

  20. 21

    I hadn’t really read much of Ashby’s critique, I’ll admit. But just looking at the section on vestiges, Ashby’s critique is a joke. He doesn’t mention most of the examples Thoebald brings up, nor does he represent Theobald’s points correctly before critiqueing them. He attacks the weakest arguments and completely ignores the strong ones. Blind cave fish? Whale legs? Ignored. Compare the potential falsification on Theobald’s page with what Camp argues against. And I have the sneaking suspicion that the rest won’t be much better.

    “Both sites, btw, are far more reflective of metaphysics than natural science.” What exactly does this mean?

    Patrick: “Posting stuff from Talk Origins or Panda’s Thumb isn’t much of a response…most of the ID proponents here at UD are QUITE familar with those sites.”

    I understand how you would be tired of that stuff, but there are more than a few posters here that don’t understand the content in those sites. I’m sure there are many more lurkers who do not either. Remember why I posted that link in the first place: Jehu was convinced that the ToE could explain everything, and hence nothing. I merely pointed at the “potential falsifications” sections that he apparently didn’t know about. You cannot ignore all information from certain sites simply because you don’t like what you read.

  21. Strangelove — He attacks the weakest arguments and completely ignores the strong ones.

    He’s attacking the entire concept of universal common descent and showing that the 29 Evidences don’t apply, one of which is anatomical vestigal structures which gets us to:

    “Both sites, btw, are far more reflective of metaphysics than natural science.” What exactly does this mean?

    Take for example the claim “no organism can have a vestigial structure that was not previously functional in one of its ancestors”. That’s a claim of truth that can’t be backed up by experiment. Can the ancestor be produced to show that it was fully functional? Can the fossil be shown to belong indisputably to the ancestor? Do you think the brontosaurus actually existed (it didn’t).

    And why would something “not fully developed” be evidence of macro-evolution? And how do you know something is vestigial? Was the pinal gland vestigial? How about the appendix?

    And that is why I think those who embrace evolution without reservation are practicing metaphysics.

    Concerning cave fish, he may not have addressed them specifically because he believes evolution explains the blindness. That, however, would fall in the realm of micro-evolution which I don’t think anybody disputes.

    A more interesting thing to ponder would be could these fish ever evolve their sight back which would be more in line with Darwinism.

  22. 23

    tribune7: “Take for example the claim “no organism can have a vestigial structure that was not previously functional in one of its ancestors”. That’s a claim of truth that can’t be backed up by experiment.”

    The claim here is an assertion of the ToE. It’s a potential weak spot. If we find a vestigial organ that never had a function in any of the animal’s ancestors, then the ToE would be unable to explain it. That is why it’s under the “Potential Falsifications” section.

    tribune7: “And why would something “not fully developed” be evidence of macro-evolution? And how do you know something is vestigial? Was the pinal gland vestigial? How about the appendix?”

    From the link I sent you: “Existing species have different structures and perform different functions. If all living organisms descended from a common ancestor, then both functions and structures necessarily have been gained and lost in each lineage during macroevolutionary history. Therefore, from common descent and the constraint of gradualism, we predict that many organisms should retain vestigial structures as structural remnants of lost functions.”

    I don’t know about every vestigial organ, so let me use one I think I understand: whale legs. The ToE claims that whales descended from land animals. Every now and then we discover a freak whale with poorly developed legs. Those legs are clearly a vestige from early land-walking ancestors.

    Can you remind me how ID explains the existance of vestigial organs?

  23. If we find a vestigial organ that never had a function in any of the animal’s ancestors, then the ToE would be unable to explain it.

    Actually, what would happen is that ToE proponents would declare that it was not a vestgial organ after all, and that, my friend, is the problem.

    The ToE claims that whales descended from land animals. Every now and then we discover a freak whale with poorly developed legs. Those legs are clearly a vestige from early land-walking ancestors.

    Which is very possible. OTOH, there are those who insist that that conclusion is a done deal even to the point of shouting down/marginalizing a person who should express a different view even if the person offers it as an opinion.

    Can you remind me how ID explains the existance of vestigial organs?

    It doesn’t try. Don’t mix it up with creationism.

  24. Strangelove,

    You might want to do more reading on ID before you continue here. ID is actually fairly limited in scope and thus is compatible with both Universal Common Descent and Creationism.

  25. tribune7: “Actually, what would happen is that ToE proponents would declare that it was not a vestgial organ after all, and that, my friend, is the problem.”

    Do you have any examples of such? I’m sure that if they would do it, as you are so certain, then they probably have already.

    tribune7: “Which is very possible. OTOH, there are those who insist that that conclusion is a done deal even to the point of shouting down/marginalizing a person who should express a different view even if the person offers it as an opinion.”

    Do you think the view that the earth is flat is a valid opinion as well?

    Patrick: “You might want to do more reading on ID before you continue here. ID is actually fairly limited in scope and thus is compatible with both Universal Common Descent and Creationism.”

    I do alot of reading on ID. For every person I find on here saying that ID is compatible with Universal Common Descent, I find 10 who don’t and are convinced that ID not only supports but requires creationism. Take the arguments about vestiges for example. A good deal of the posters here are reading straight from the creationist boilerplate. Which is an artefact of “the big tent” strategy. It might be worthwhile to convince these ID proponents that ID does in fact, not rule out Universal Common Descent. How many people here think the earth is less than 10,000 years old?

    If you personally don’t disagree with what I say, then don’t argue against me.

  26. Do you have any examples of such? I’m sure that if they would do it, as you are so certain, then they probably have already.
    Your tailbone, your pinal gland.

  27. I still regularly see people claim the appendix as vestigial. I’d really like that dogma to die.

    http://www.sciam.com/askexpert.....38;catID=3

    For years, the appendix was credited with very little physiological function. We now know, however, that the appendix serves an important role in the fetus and in young adults. Endocrine cells appear in the appendix of the human fetus at around the 11th week of development. These endocrine cells of the fetal appendix have been shown to produce various biogenic amines and peptide hormones, compounds that assist with various biological control (homeostatic) mechanisms. There had been little prior evidence of this or any other role of the appendix in animal research, because the appendix does not exist in domestic mammals.

    Among adult humans, the appendix is now thought to be involved primarily in immune functions. Lymphoid tissue begins to accumulate in the appendix shortly after birth and reaches a peak between the second and third decades of life, decreasing rapidly thereafter and practically disappearing after the age of 60. During the early years of development, however, the appendix has been shown to function as a lymphoid organ, assisting with the maturation of B lymphocytes (one variety of white blood cell) and in the production of the class of antibodies known as immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies. Researchers have also shown that the appendix is involved in the production of molecules that help to direct the movement of lymphocytes to various other locations in the body.

    In this context, the function of the appendix appears to be to expose white blood cells to the wide variety of antigens, or foreign substances, present in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, the appendix probably helps to suppress potentially destructive humoral (blood- and lymph-borne) antibody responses while promoting local immunity. The appendix–like the tiny structures called Peyer’s patches in other areas of the gastrointestinal tract–takes up antigens from the contents of the intestines and reacts to these contents. This local immune system plays a vital role in the physiological immune response and in the control of food, drug, microbial or viral antigens. The connection between these local immune reactions and inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as autoimmune reactions in which the individual’s own tissues are attacked by the immune system, is currently under investigation.

    In the past, the appendix was often routinely removed and discarded during other abdominal surgeries to prevent any possibility of a later attack of appendicitis; the appendix is now spared in case it is needed later for reconstructive surgery if the urinary bladder is removed. In such surgery, a section of the intestine is formed into a replacement bladder, and the appendix is used to re-create a ’sphincter muscle’ so that the patient remains continent (able to retain urine). In addition, the appendix has been successfully fashioned into a makeshift replacement for a diseased ureter, allowing urine to flow from the kidneys to the bladder. As a result, the appendix, once regarded as a nonfunctional tissue, is now regarded as an important ‘back-up’ that can be used in a variety of reconstructive surgical techniques. It is no longer routinely removed and discarded if it is healthy.

  28. “(Update: Apparently, it was indeed a reporter’s error: An alert reader on another blog has noted that The (Guardian) Observer’s For the record column for Sunday September 25 2005 stated: …”

    Actually I wasn’t so alert. I was feeling jolly pleased with myself for finding the ARN piece via Google, and I only later noticed that it was directly linked here under the word “furore” in the second sentence.

  29. Patrick: “I still regularly see people claim the appendix as vestigial. I’d really like that dogma to die.”

    I still regularly see people think vestigial organs are functionless. I’d really like that misconception to die.

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vestigial_organs

    “Although the structures most commonly referred to as “vestigial” tend to be largely or entirely functionless, a vestigial structure need not necessarily be without use or function for the organism. Vestigial structures have lost their original main purpose, but they may retain lesser functionalities, or develop entirely new ones.[1] Thus, a “vestigial wing” need only be useless for flight to be vestigial; it may still serve some other purpose than that of a wing.”

  30. Vestigial structures have lost their original main purpose . . .
    Or maybe their purpose is their purpose.

  31. Where have you seen people with this misconception? There IS a reason that in my other comment I said \”vestigial organs OR a loss in functionality\”. I know there is a reason to separate the two.  Also, thanks for making my point for me:

    In WikiPedia

    The vermiform appendix is a vestige of the cecum, an organ that was used to digest cellulose by humans\\\’ herbivorous ancestors. Analogous organs in other animals similar to humans continue to perform that function, whereas other meat-eating animals may have similarly diminished appendices. The modern functionality of the appendix is still controversial in the field of human physiology, although most scientists and physicians believe that it has little or no function.

    I just take issue with people arbitrarily assigning the label of vestigial when the evidence is limited or there is another perfectly good explanation (or the structure might retain its original function, evolved or not). I also edited the Wikipedia entry a little…let us see how long it lasts till the editors kill it.

  32. Vestigial structures have lost their original main purpose, but they may retain lesser functionalities, or develop entirely new ones.

    Was thinking about this a little further…in the light of the modern sense of NDE isn’t this part of the definition of vestigial now useless? After all, pretty much everything would have evolved by Indirect Darwinian Pathways (Co-Option) and thus would have “lost their original main purpose”. So does that make everything a vestigial organ?

  33. Wikipedia’s Darwin Police strikes again…a mod already removed my edit:

    The vermiform appendix is assumed to be a vestige of the cecum, an organ that was used to digest cellulose by humans’ herbivorous ancestors. Analogous organs in other animals similar to humans continue to perform that function, whereas other meat-eating animals may have similarly diminished appendices. Unfortunately the appendix does not exist in other domestic mammals. The modern functionality of the appendix used to be a controversial subject in the field of human physiology, although many scientists and physicians still believe that it has little or no function. The appendix serves an important role during development and among adults is involved primarily in immune functions. Researchers have also shown that the appendix is involved in the production of molecules that help to direct the movement of lymphocytes to various other locations in the body.

    In the supposed spirit of Wikipedia I tried to keep my modifications nonbiased. Now if I really wanted to bias that article I could have removed speculation related to ancestry…but I didn’t. Perhaps modifying the 4th sentence was going a bit too far since in a sense this subject is still “controversial”. But I really don’t see a reason to remove the 2 last sentences I added. Whatever. As usual the unstated rule at Wikipedia is “thou cannot even hint at contradicting Darwinism”.

  34. 35

    Patrick asks me: “Where have you seen people with this misconception?”

    I’ve seen plenty of creationist papers that attempt refute the vestigial designation solely by providing the functions of the organ. In fact, your post at 28 is a prime example. You claim that the appendix is not vestigial by providing a list of it’s functions. What is that supposed to be proving? We all understand that vestigial organs can have functions. The appendix is still a rudimentary, diminished version of an organ in other animals, making it vestigial. If you can show that it isn’t, then supply that evidence.

    While I believe that you understand that vestigial organs have functions, you seem to be furthering the misconception with comment #28.

  35. 36

    Patrick: “Was thinking about this a little further…in the light of the modern sense of NDE isn’t this part of the definition of vestigial now useless? After all, pretty much everything would have evolved by Indirect Darwinian Pathways (Co-Option) and thus would have “lost their original main purpose”. So does that make everything a vestigial organ?”

    This is an interesting point. Drawing lines and making definitions in biological systems is always very difficult. (What exactly is a species again?) My guess is that once the organ develops enough of it’s own functionality and loses it’s resemblance to it’s non-diminished form, then it is no longer called a vestige. You’re right, it’s a vague definition. But what in biology isn’t a vague definition? There are still debates over what it means to be alive for goodness sakes.

  36. Hmmm…you’re right. That quick off the cuff response in #28 does seem to support that misconception. Oops.

    I’d have to look into the evidence related to the assertion that the appendix is a vestige of the cecum before making any more comments. But I’m not sure how anyone would show “definitely” that it isn’t…only that the case for this is weak and convergent evolution or some other explanation fits the evidence better.

  37. 38

    Patrick,

    Not many that enter into this debate, on either side, are able to admit to any error, no matter how small. I applaud you. I look forward to discussing other topics on other threads in the future. I just need to find/make the time to join in on an intersting discussion.

  38. [...] why should Jones “of all people” know better? Steve Jones was the biologist who insisted that, in the dramatic sequence in March of the Penguins where the male penguins are moving slowly [...]

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