Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Evolution refuted - again...

[Field Museum dioramas depicting simple, fixed marine life before the Permo-Triassic extinction, below, and the complex organisms that dominated later.]

An interesting article appeared in today’s (virulently pro-evolution) New York Times entitled Marine Life Leaped From Simple to Complex After Greatest Mass Extinction. This article is based on an article published in Science magazine, which demonstrates that a “great extinction” which occurred 251 million years ago “erased 95 percent of species in the oceans (and most vertebrates on land). But new research suggests that it was followed by an explosion of complexity in marine life, one that has persisted ever since. Moreover, it happened quite suddenly, according to the study, which was led by scientists at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago…The shift to complicated, interrelated ecosystems was more like a flip of a switch than a slow trend.”

Perhaps I am missing something here, however doesn’t this totally contradict evolution? The American Heritage Dictionary defines evolution as “A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form”. That’s “gradual” not “quite suddenly”.

Darwin wrote in Origin of Species Chapter 10: “New species have appeared very slowly, one after another, both on the land and in the waters.” And “The process of modification must be extremely slow.”

I have my own theory about prehistory, but Darwinian evolution is now certainly a scientific fallacy.

Richard Dawkins , are you listening?


SearchingForMeaning said...

Yes, you are missing something here. Where you see a "refutation" in all this is beyond me. The NYT "flip of a switch" comment is pretty vague, at best, and you had better investigate what that means before venturing any guesses. For the scientists involved, the changes may have taken place over, say, ten million rather than a hundred million years, which in their eyes would be accelerated, but still well within the limits of current evolutionary theory. Any commentary on the article without first reading the full text of the study and the actual values, in context, is quite presumtuous, and claiming that this is in any way a refutation of evolution is downright absurd.

SearchingForMeaning said...

Furthermore, claiming since one particular aspect of Darwinian theory was mistaken, that therefore his entire evolutionary theory is "certainly a scientific fallacy", is like saying "since jewishphilospher was once wrong, everything he says is wrong" (a notion which i'm sure you would take great issue with). And to my knowledge, the basic concepts of Darwinian evolution, if not the details, are still considered absolutely relevant and valid in the scientific community.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Agree with searching.

JP, you speak of Darwin as though his word on the way evolution works, written a long time ago, is exactly the way scientists believe it works in all of details today. Having studied evolution at the university level, I can tell you that is false. It is like readin a book on astronomy from 200 years ago and assuming that nothing had changed.

If you want to sensibly discuss the matter, you should probably read something a little more current.

The fact that a dictionary defines evolution as gradual doesn't have any bearing on how scientists see it. Evolution is a natrual process by which species develop from others. That is how scientists see it. As to the time span, scientists have long recognized that much evolution occurs in relatively short times (I say relative because, as Searching pointed out, a "small" time period for scientists may be millions of years, which, from our perspective, is a very long time).

topshadchan said...

i read elsewhere that the fact that 95% of marine life died, means there were no competitors for the other 5% so evolution worked faster or something to that effect.

jewish philosopher said...

I haven’t examined the original research and I doubt I am qualified to do so in any case, however I think the New York Times generally does a very accurate job of reporting so I am relying on that unless there is reason to believe otherwise.

I would assume that “flip of a switch” means “so quickly that we cannot, at this point, estimate how quickly it was”; which might be anything from 0 to perhaps several millions of years. But remember, we aren’t talking about one new species changing, we’re talking about virtually all life on earth radically changing. Even a few million years would still be very, very fast. It think that was the main point of the article.

Now if you read my post carefully, I didn’t say that this article proves that universal descent from a common ancestor is false or that it proves that creationism is true. I said that it proves that Darwinian evolution is false.

The core concept of Darwinian evolution is that all life developed through gradual change over geological time as a result of randomly occurring variations and natural selection. Allegedly, through this process, it was possible for highly complex seemingly intelligently designed organisms to appear without any intelligent designer. This is what Professor Dawkins terms “Climbing Mount Improbable”.

As this Times article points out, this is not what actually happened. What happened was not evolution but rather catastrophism and saltation. At most, a determined Darwinist might claim that evolution was part of the story, and perhaps a small part.

The only problem which scientists, Professor Dawkins and the editors of the Times might have is: How can catastrophism and saltation be reconciled with materialism and determinism? Well, there really is no answer to that question, and therefore we will continue seeing most scientists claim that “evolution is a fact”, no matter what the facts are.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Again, scientists today don't agree with most of Darwin's details, so I am not sure why you think it newsworthy to disprove a 200 year old idea that most experts already have rejected.

And, I don't understand what materialism or determinism has to do with evolution. Please explain.

jewish philosopher said...

That’s good news that evolution has been discredited totally. Now let’s convince the National Academy of Sciences and all the textbook authors.

Atheists generally believe in determinism and materialism and therefore Darwinian evolution is the only possible way they can explain how we got here. Have you ever noticed how atheists almost swoon with admiration when discussing Darwin?

Cameron said...

"That’s good news that evolution has been discredited totally. Now let’s convince the National Academy of Sciences and all the textbook authors."

- Yeah its just a conspiracy of those evil scientists and text book authors - you know, the so called 'experts'.

The other commentators above have it correct, the explosion of life forms after an extinction event (what Stephen Jay Gould called 'puntuated equilibrium') is while still a puzzle for scientists, nevertheless not a refutation of science.

Scientists disagree all the time about a wide variety of things, however, they do agree on standards of proof and evidence (unlike yourself), and so eventually the truth is sifted out from competing theories. This is how Dawkins and Gould can agree completely that evolution is a fact, but disagree on Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium.

They also agree that a certain bearded invisible being who favours only those who previouly dwelt in a dessert, endorse (and practiced) slavery, and who sexually mutilate their children in his name - plays any role in how ancient life developed.

Cameron said...

Sorry, that last line was a bit tortured, it should read 'doesn't play' any role....'

I wouldn't want my slip up to be considered yet more proof of evolutions failure ala the poor choice of words from a NYT article.

jewish philosopher said...

Interesting, Cameron. So only theists are biased by their beliefs, not atheists. I wonder how you know that.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

I Said: "Again, scientists today don't agree with most of Darwin's details."

You said:"That’s good news that evolution has been discredited totally."

Well, I don't even think you read my post before responding it, so try again. If you are claiming that evolution in the exact way Darwin said it happened 200 years ago is not correct, you are about 50 years to late for a nobel prize. Scientists have accepted this for years. Because a detail is incorrect, one need now throw away an entire theory. The first theorists rarely get every detail right. It is like saying "Newton got some details wrong, so physics is disproven."

Like I said before (if you had taken the time to read it carefully), evolution is about how species develop from others. That theory has not been disproven at all.

Physiocrat said...

I can't understand why some people who follow a religion have a big problem with evolution at all. Perhaps you could explain this?

If you want to disagree with Darwin you need to read what he actually wrote first. It is not inaccessible to any reasonably well-educated English-speaking person. You should read it. Consider the evidence before judging.

As regads the "disproof", Darwin formulated his theory between his voyage on the Beagle in 1833 and his publication some 25 years later. As a good middle-of-the-road member of the Church of England, which at the time was inclined to scriptural literalism, he was afraid of the scandal it would cause.

If I recall correctly, he got wind of a rumour that Wallace was about to publish the theory so he came out with Orgin of Species. There was a famous debate in Oxford with Bishop Wilberforce taking roughly the same stance as yourself, I think that was in 1859. Catholics have never had a problem with evolution as they do not follow a literal interpretation of scripture.

When Darwin wrote, he had little idea of how evolution could have worked. Since Darwin, we had an whole body of discovery which shows how it was possible. First came Mendel's work on inheritance. Then came a whole body of discovery in a variety of fields; the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift gives an explanation of the geographical distribution of species, genetics explain the mechanism of inheritance and the science of ecology shows how species interact with other and drive them to develop in particular directions.

In the light of subsequent discoveries, it is only to be expected that Darwin's original theory has been fleshed-out with additional detail, but far from disproving it, the theory is given added force. Mass extinction events due to natural catastrophe would have left vacant ecological niches and existing species would occupy these with natural selection favouring certain characteristics to enable them to best survive in these niches, followed by differentiation into separate species. You can actually see species in the process of differentiation eg the Herring Gull/Lesser Black Backed Gull, which exist as two species in Western Europe but as intermediate forms elsewhere. If you keep a garden, you can see evolution and natural selection at work. You can also see it at work in, for instance, hospital wards, as organisms change in response to the drugs used against them. If there had been a better understanding of evolution 60 years ago, we might not have been plagued with the widespread problem of antibiotic resistance that is resulting in so much infection in modern hospitals.

People are regularly sentenced to death in your country on the basis of evidence that is a lot less solid than that for evolution. Where's the problem?

jewish philosopher said...

Adam, evolution means “slow change”. The fossils demonstrate rapid change. Yet you contend that evolution has not been falsified. Am I banging my head against a fossil?

Henry, evolution first of all contradicts the first chapter of the Bible, which states that species were created not evolved. Second of all it invalidates the teleological argument for God's existence. Richard Dawkins, for example has pointed out "Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist." I agree.

Therefore to many theists, including this author, evolution is anathema.

Physiocrat said...

"Slow" and "rapid" are relative. Given the geological evidence of earth's history of periodic catastrophic events interspersed by long periods of relative stability, you would expect evolution to take place in cycles, with long periods of minor change interspersed by short periods of rapid change as life-forms adapted to new circumstances. It does not invalidate the fundamental concept.

Who is obliged to accept the literal meaning of scripture? It is not a fundamental tenet of either Judaism or Christianity that anyone has to. To take scripture literally is to ingore its significance as spritual metaphor and the fact that it is written in the poetic idiom typical of the time it was written. In fact, scriptual literalism demeans the scriptures.

It is also the case that words change their meanings over time. That is how languages are formed. There are many words with have different meanings depending on if you are in Britain or the USA. The Hebrew word used in the Genesis chapter 1 is "Yom", which can most certainly be a metaphor standing for a period of time, not necessarily 24 hours.

Insisting that people accept scripture literally is a carry-over from sixteenth-century Protestant Christianity. Jews should know better than to run up that blind alley. It dicredits religion generally amongst sensible well-meaning people and promotes atheism. Perhaps that is your intention.

Evolution does not invalidate the teleological argument. If God can do anything then he can create the evolutionary process, you do not have to be an atheist to accept that evolution and other natural processes are how God operates. Most orthodox (ie not Protestant) Christians are happy to accept evolution and believe in God. So what is your problem - it is defending something that does not need to be defended, and getting into a big intellectual pickle on the way.

jewish philosopher said...

Henry, interesting. However if global nuclear war were tomorrow to wipe out 95% of life on earth, would you expect in to soon find new, far more advanced species flourishing in our place? Exactly what natural process would accomplish that magic?

Physiocrat said...

If "soon" means a few million years (that is the timescale we must think in terms of), and 95% of species were wiped out, the surviving species would diversify to occupy the ecological niches left vacant, just as has happened following catastrophic events in the past.

But what do you mean by an "advanced" species? All species are perfectly well adapted to their means of life. Whether life with consciousness similar to that of humans would arise again is an entirely different matter. Evolutionary theory purports only to explain observations, it cannot predict what kind of creatures will evolve except in the most general terms. All ecosystems on land and sea, in all climatic conditions, have a variety of sizes of plants and animals, with a food chain in which the larger tend to prey on the smaller.

Human intelligence has arisen through a series of apparently chance events. It has taken 60 million years from the last major extinction event. Whether it would arise again in less than that time is unlikely.

But why are you so determined to hold to a sixteenth century Protestant interpretation of scripture? It seems an odd thing to do.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

"Adam, evolution means “slow change”.

It might have meant that to Darwin, or the english dictionary, but scientists don't believe that. If you are making the claim that Darwinin evolution in all details is incorrect, you are 50 years too late. Scientists know that and readily admit it. That is not what scientists think happened, and thus you haven't disproven anything. I suggest you read any elementary text (written recently, not 200 years ago) on the theory of evolution.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

And it is very funny to end your post by wondering whether Richard Dawkins is listening. If he was, he would laugh, because he doesn't believe in ancient form of evolution that you have discovered is incorrect (50 years after eveyone else did).

jewish philosopher said...

Henry, the Talmud does teach a non-literal meaning for certain verses, for example "an eye for an eye" actually means financial payment, however the creation of species is not one of those verses.

Adam, if evolution means fast changes, then the name should be changed to "revolution". And someone should notify Professor Dawkins. This is a quote from a review of his 1997 book "Climbing Mount Improbable":

How do species evolve? Richard Dawkins, one of the world's most eminent zoologists, likens the process to scaling a huge, Himalaya-size peak, the Mount Improbable of his title. An alpinist does not leap from sea level to the summit; neither does a species utterly change forms overnight, but instead follows a course of "slow, cumulative, one-step-at-a-time, non-random survival of random variants"--a course that Charles Darwin, Dawkins's great hero, called natural selection.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

Again, like I said, nobody today believes in the form of evolution you think you have disproven. If it makes you happy, you can call the current version revolution, but it doen's change the basic fact about what evolution explains: how species develop from others. So, if it makes you happy, you have disproven (or should I say scientists have and you simply cite them) one of the details about how species develop from one another. I am not sure where that gets you, or why it is at all noteworthy. Science is not static, unlike religion, it changes over time to take new evidence into account. I still fail to see what point you are trying to make or why you think this is a big deal.

Physiocrat said...

Personally I don't think much of Dawkins any more than you do, Stephen Jay Gould presents a more balanced view, however, the current view of evolution presents it like climbing a mountain by going up along gentle slopes with relatively short steep climbs from time to time.

Since when did the Talmud puport to be a text book of biology. Surely it is the repository of spiritual truths? You would not resort to the Talmud for its expertise in the theory of electricity or mechanics.

jewish philosopher said...

Adam, I think that would be a huge step in the right direction. If textbook publishers and Richard Dawkins would write “Until recently it was believed that life on earth had developed through a gradual process of evolutionary development as explained by 19th century British naturalist Charles Darwin. Today, however, we know that this is not the case. Life on earth has developed primarily through a series of rapid biological revolutions whose causes are still very unclear.” I think it’s obvious why they don’t – because some wise guys like me will then start asking an uncomfortable question “Causes are unclear – so maybe God did it?”

Henry, if the Bible is of divine origin it must be inerrant. If the Bible says “created” but actually it evolved, I think it would be a little intellectually dishonest to say on an ad hoc basis “the Bible really meant evolved”.

Anonymous said...

"Henry, if the Bible is of divine origin it must be inerrant. If the Bible says “created” but actually it evolved, I think it would be a little intellectually dishonest to say on an ad hoc basis “the Bible really meant evolved”."

Jewish Philospoher, you are absolutly right! But since the Bible is not of divine origin and is not inerrant, I don't see the problem.

By the way, you have a bit of a nerve in citing intellectual dishonesty. Your entire blog is intellectually dishonest. Since when has it been possible to use the words "religion" and "intellectual" in the same sentance and keep a straight face?

jewish philosopher said...

It's quite easy when your religion is based on intellect as mine is.

Anonymous said...

"Life on earth has developed primarily through a series of rapid biological revolutions whose causes are still very unclear.” I think it’s obvious why they don’t – because some wise guys like me will then start asking an uncomfortable question “Causes are unclear – so maybe God did it?” "

The causes are well understood. If the environment changes, which it can for all sorts of reasons, then some species will become extinct and others will arise quickly to fill the ecological niches left vacant and created by the environmental changes.

To say "God did it" does not mean that species were created by some unknown and unknowable process. Why should he not have created the variety of species we see through the ordinary physical and biological processes which we can observe in action today?

Accepting that the bible is inerrant does not mean that it has to be interpreted according to its literal meaning. Nobody knows what that is anyway as meanings of languages have changed with the millenia.

jewish philosopher said...

A logical consequence of a global catastrophe, such as a huge meteor strike, should be a diminishing or disappearance of complex, advanced life. Blowing up a building will not create new, bigger buildings.

But in fact, that is what happened.

That's why naturalism cannot explain it. That’s why textbooks don’t write it.

SearchingForMeaning said...

Uuuughgh! I'm not even going to start. OK, fine, you forced me.

"...Life on earth has developed primarily through a series of rapid biological revolutions...”

Umm, not exactly. No one said anything about rapid revolutions, you are making leaps and bounds that scientists never made. We are modifying the original theory. Rather than gradual evolution, we have a revised theory of punctuated, more uneven change.

"I think it’s obvious why they don’t – because some wise guys like me will then start asking an uncomfortable questions..."

No. You are extrapolating on exactly what you see go on in the orthodox world - censorship and suppresion of questions - to prevent wiseguys from uncovering problems with Torah and halacha. Unlike the way things are done in your world, the scientific community promotes wise-guys and such to challenge assumptions, that is the way science grows and builds, and the way religions come undone.

"Causes are unclear – so maybe God did it?"

And maybe the invisible team of pink monkeys on my shoulder did it. Maybe my kitchen sink did it. There is just as much evidence of those, and both are just as reasonable conclusions.

"Henry, if the Bible is of divine origin it must be inerrant. If the Bible says “created” but actually it evolved, I think it would be a little intellectually dishonest to say on an ad hoc basis “the Bible really meant evolved”"

But wait - that's exaclt what most Rabbis do say! the vast majority of Orthodox rabbi's today agree that the earth is not 5760 years old. Furthermore, the Torah says "an eye for an eye", yet we say "the Bible really meant money". There are countless examples. Our own Gemara soundly refutes your last statement. So think again.

Anonymous said...

I am not really au fait with the nuances of orthodox Judaism - is JP just presenting his own take or a minority view on the subject? It is curious that it closely reflects US Calvinist interpretations of these texts.

jewish philosopher said...

Search, evolution is dogma, not science. It makes no testable predictions and it cannot be falsified. If the fossils show slow change, of course that's evolution. If they show sudden change, that's punctuated equalibrium. If an organ is perfectly formed, that's a result of natural selection. If it's imperfectly formed, it's the result of random mutation.

Adam Shajnfeld said...

If it shows no change at all, that would be a problem with evolution. JP, you fail to mention that category. It is falsifiable.

Anonymous said...

"It makes no testable predictions and it cannot be falsified."

JP, you are describing religion here, not evolution. Get a grip man! You do your cause no favours with your sweeping statements on a subject about which you clearly know very little.

jewish philosopher said...

Why don't you try describing to me an event which if it happens will prove evolution to be false? Or describe evidence which if found would falsify evolution?

Adam Shajnfeld said...

No evidence of transformation having occurred, only species appearing and disappearing with no connection to other species, would falsify evolution.

Anonymous said...

If someone could prove that radiometric analyses in rocks are out by about a factor of 500,000, therby indicating that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, then that ought to do it.

I've got a few more if you're interested.

Incidentally, perhaps you could offer up some actual evidence of your own to support the young earth theory and the creation myth, and I do mean EVIDENCE, not opinion, conjecture or the spoon fed dogma of the church.

jewish philosopher said...

Adam, that's exactly what the fossil record does show.

Goat, I don't believe in a young earth and I don't believe that that an old earth automatically confirms evolution.

Anonymous said...

An old earth gives time for evolution to happen, it is not something that takes place overnight, though if you look you can see it going on in front of your eyes.

jewish philosopher said...

The type of evolution which is being disputed by religious fundamentalists is the spontaneous appearance of new limbs and organs in plants and animals. Is this happening in front of your eyes? How much are you drinking, Henry?

Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, I know a guy who had twelve toes and no eyes. He had to have the extra toes removed. And some types of cats have no tails, and others are hairless. And before they are born, people have webbed feet and hands. And have you never kept tadpoles? They start off as blobs of jelly, then they look a bit like fish, then they grow legs and then the tail disappears. Some salamanders are fish-like throughout their lives and live in the water but sometimes they grow legs and live on the land.

Offspring do not always resemble their parents - a change in a single gene can make for a radical difference in body pattern.

More commonly, species separation occurs gradually, like the Herring Gulls I referred to in another post. We definitely have two species of gulls here, but you have a single intermediate form. That is how species start off.

Incidentally, how do species start off in creationism? Do they hatch out from lumps of stone? Or do they just materialise out of nothing at all?

jewish philosopher said...

The mutations you mention actually reinforce the creationist argument - all are detrimental and would not be naturally selected.

God created each species from earth and/or water.

Anonymous said...

Quite right. So you believe in natural selection. Progress. And if there was a beneficial mutation would it not be selected for survival? And since mutations can be inherited would their offspring not have an advantage over their unmutated cousins?

We are all made of earth and water and air so that is not a problem. The question is how?

When I am out in the sea I do not suddenly come across brand new species never seen anywhere before, though I do come across a range of variation within species and individuals it is not always possible to assign to one species rather than another, and the two types of seagull I referred to earlier.

Anonymous said...

Score one for Henry. C'mon JP, get out of that one.
"God created each species from earth and/or water"
What bollocks!

Where exactly did this earth and/or water come from?

The problem with this debate is that anytime a theist is pinned with logic and reason, he can always come back with "God did it".

If you are going to have a pop at science JP, why not fight science with science, instead of resorting to the supernatural all the time?

jewish philosopher said...

Henry, there are no positive mutations which involve a new limb or organ. So where did all the new limbs and organs come from over the past 500 million years?

Anonymous said...

There are. At the early stage in the development of the embryo, body form can be significantly altered by just a single gene. Usually they are freaks but occasionally they are beneficial. A mutation of these control genes can cause extra limbs can appear or disappear in a single generation.

jewish philosopher said...

Do you know of anyone with an original physically visible mutation which gave him a reproductive advantage?

Anonymous said...

Twelve working fingers are not all that unusual. You might have a good career as a concert pianist, earn lots of money and be able to have lots of children, some of whom would also have twelve fingers and in time their descendants might dominate the entire classical piano scene.

Lots of domestic plants and animals have mutations which give them a reproductive advantage as people select them and breed more of them.

Industrial melanism is an advantage to insects which live in smoky environments as they are less likely to be picked off and eaten.

You get all sorts of variations and mutations in the wild which are advantageous in different situations.

What is your problem with this notion?

Anonymous said...

You're getting your ass kicked here JP.

jewish philosopher said...

Goat, my ass is in prime condition, thank you.

Henry, what I would like to see is an example of one, just one, human being born within the past century who has:
- a new original genetic mutation
- which is visible to the naked eye and
- which clearly helped him have more children.

According to evolutionists, such people should be born all the time, or at least once in a while. Such individuals are engines who have changed bacteria into eagles, elephants and oak trees. But, out of what, 10 billion people, there are none. Suspicious isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Why does the mutation have to be visible to the native eye? And why restrict to a single species? In any case some parameters are determined by environment plus a complex of genes eg height.

There will undoubtedly have been mutations and genetic variations with survival value in some circumstances. Though since human society has culture, physical characterists are less important than mental ones, which cannot be seen, and nor can mutations at the cellular level which are important even though they cannot be detected except under the microscope or through biochemical assay.

That said, I suspect that white skin colouration will tend to die out in populations in some parts of the world, and dark skin colouration elsewhere as there are definite advantages of different skin colours according to climatic conditions.

jewish philosopher said...

The type of mutation which I have described is exactly the thing which has allegedly created all complex life on earth over the past 600 million years or so. Yet even within billions of members of the species about which we know the most, such mutations never occur. This alone should prove evolution is false.

Anonymous said...

There are lots of quite recent visible human mutations, if you bother to think about the matter. Red hair. Milky white skin. The latter stops children getting rickets. The former is something people find sexually attractive, so both have survival value.

The species we know the most about is the fruit fly. The produce dramatic mutations and transformations in body form. And haven't you ever kept tadpoles which start off fish-like with gills and grow four limbs and lungs and lose their tails?

jewish philosopher said...

Red hair is not a new mutation, it's just a different variety which has all along been there. For a bacterium to become a blue whale, there have a to be a lot of very new, very visible mutations occuring. Yet in nature we find none.

Anonymous said...

You are shifting your ground. And red hair in humans is quite recent. Red-haired variants of the MC1R gene probably arose about 20-40 000 years ago. Except in cloudy environments it is a disadvantage, but it goes with the milky white skin which makes the most of UV to produce vitamin D.

If you do not accept the young earth idea, there is bags of time for a single celled creature to evolve into all the things we have today. And there are perfectly plausible mechanisms for this.