Monday, May 30, 2011

The Amish: A Refutation of Evolution

[are they evolving or not?]

One popular version of evolution is punctuated equilibrium.

Punctuated equilibrium (also called punctuated equilibria) is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most sexually reproducing species will exhibit little evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis. When evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is localized in rare and rapid events of branching speciation.

This theory was proposed by paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould, basically as a way of explaining why the fossils seem to indicate catastrophism, or sudden changes, not evolution, or gradual change.

The theoretical mechanism behind punctuated equilibrium is geographic speciation: that species with large central populations are stabilized by their large volume and the process gene flow. New and even beneficial mutations are diluted by the population's large size and are unable to reach fixation, due to such factors as constantly changing environments. If this is the case, then the transformation of whole lineages should be rare, as the fossil record indicates. Smaller populations on the other hand, which are isolated from the parental stock, are decoupled from the homogenizing effects of gene flow. In addition, pressure from natural selection is especially intense, as peripheral isolated populations exist at the outer edges of ecological tolerance. If most evolution happens in these rare instances of geographic speciation then evidence of gradual evolution should be rare.

One immediately apparent problem with this theory, is that actually, genetically isolated populations tend to degenerate rather than improve.

The Amish, for example, suffer from higher incidences of particular genetic disorders, including dwarfism (Ellis-van Creveld syndrome) and various metabolic disorders because almost all Amish descend from about 200 18th century founders.

Likewise, in Appalachia, inbreeding in isolated communities, particularly prior to the advent of the railroad, apparently lowered intelligence.

This seems to refute the entire basis for punctuated equilibrium - rather than evolve, genetically isolated and inbred populations get sick.


NC said...

Gee, why didn't those dumb scientists think of that...

JP, evolutionary changes are measured in tens of thousands and millions of years, not 200.

Anonymous said...

You don't really understand much of what you write about, do you? Be honest.

jewish philosopher said...

"why didn't those dumb scientists think of that..."

Do you believe in transubstantiation?

If not, how can it be so wrong? Are all the priests morons?

This is merely an appeal to authority, a logical fallacy.

"evolutionary changes are measured in tens of thousands and millions of years"

By which time the Amish will be millions of times more sick. Which therefore proves what?

"You don't really understand much of what you write about, do you?"

Well, I can't wait for you to enlighten me, anonymous troll.

Joseph said...

Genetic drift is only relevant in populations that are subject to selection. Since the Amish, as do most of us, support those members of their society who are physically or mentally weaker, and often allow them to reproduce, your model is fallacious. You can't keep selectively choosing data that supports your pre-existing biases without reasonable fact-checking and expect to be taken seriously.

BTW-- your comment about transubstantiation is irrelevant and specious.

jewish philosopher said...

"Since the Amish, as do most of us, support those members of their society who are physically or mentally weaker, and often allow them to reproduce,"

I see, so we're just missing eugenics for the magic of evolution to start working.

"your comment about transubstantiation is irrelevant and specious"


natschuster said...


Genetic drift is the opposite of natural selection. It means that the genome of a population changes due to random changes in genes that have selective advantage. Darwinists use it explain how evolution can happen even if there is no selective advantage to a change. It is yet another epicycle to try to support a theory that has so many holes. Let's see, there's genetic drift, deep homology, horizontal gene transfer. Evolution sure needs a lot of tinkering.

Jeff said...

Evolution does work to preserve desirable traits, if one gives nature enough time. In areas of Africa in which Malaria is especially endemic, there is also a higher rate of sickle cell anaemia. Since someone with a recessive sickle cell gene will have higher resistance to malaria, the genetic mutation gives its carriers a higher rate of survival. See . This would be a good example of how a genetic mutation can offer a trade-off.

However, I think that it is dangerous to indiscriminately apply evolutionary theories to highlight differences between people of various geographic background. The best critique of evolution is not questioning the scientific theory, but how it has been misappropriated by the Nazis, and others, to justify genocide,ethnic cleansing, and discrimination. While humans may exhibit some genetic variation we are all far more alike than different.

NC said...

"By which time the Amish will be millions of times more sick. Which therefore proves what?"

You have no idea what will be with the Amish. Maybe Jews started the same way. Its obvious from the post that you copy and pasted from some other site, without really understanding what you're talking about. Heck, I can't say I'm a big maven either. But you appear really dumb when you try to summarily "disprove" these scientific theories with your amateurish observations and cherry picked "scientific" knowledge. Kind of like me disproving Newton's theory of gravity by showing people a Helium balloon. ("gee, that dumb Newton! didn't he see how balloons go UP?")

Don't you think that evolutionary biologists know about the Amish?

jewish philosopher said...

"You have no idea what will be with the Amish."

It is well known that inbreeding is harmful. It actually leads to extinction.

In fact, Darwin was very worried that his children's illnesses were caused by his having wed his own first cousin, a common practice in England at that time.

"Don't you think that evolutionary biologists know about the Amish?"

Sure, but they are clearly delusional. I want to write a book "The Evolution Delusion". I would send a copy to Professor Dawkins.

NC said...

"It is well known that inbreeding is harmful. It actually leads to extinction."

The same argument could be made about Hebrews, when they were a small clan, as described in the Torah. Of course at first they took outside wives, but were then marrying cousins, aunts and uncles.

Or Adam and Eve for that matter...The whole human race is just one big inbred family!!

jewish philosopher said...

"The same argument could be made about Hebrews"

Regarding Jews, in spite of all the (mainly anti-Semitic) rhetoric about the "Jewish race", in fact there has been constant traffic going both ways, in and out of Judaism. Jews are very diverse genetically.

Even so, there are still problem with some Ashkenazim.

I actually see this often myself. I am Jewish and have a handicapped child (caused by premature birth) but my wife and I network with a lot of other people in the same situation. Many of the Jewish handicapped kids have a problem which is "something genetic". Of course, I'm not rude enough to pry beyond that.

"Or Adam and Eve for that matter"

Probably what happened is that genetic defects and diseases began only once the global population was large enough that people would not be likely to acquire the same bad gene from both parents. God is smart enough to figure out that otherwise the species could not survive.

In any case, I don't think any scientists argues that the isolated, small, inbreeding populations which we know of are doing better as a result. You doctor would not recommend marrying your sister or your aunt, besides being illegal.

It's not just human's either. As a dog owner (I recently purchased a puppy to replace the late, great Prince and lover, I can tell you that inbreeding can mess up a lot otherwise great dog breeds too.

Therefore long before any useful, new organs or limbs would be produced in a small population by genetic drift and natural selection, that population would be dead.

JRKmommy said...

Question to everyone posting: are you familiar with the basics of genetics, including DNA structure and the concept of dominant and recessive genes?

No point in going into more detail in a response until a baseline knowledge is established.

Everyone said...

Answer: No, we are really not at all familiar with these topics, but we refuse to let that stop us from pronouncing on them.

Is this a problem?

jewish philosopher said...

Ignore troll.

NC said...

Seriously JP. Please submit your observations as a question to an expert in the field, and report back to us on the answer. My sense is that you are out of your league. Imagine me, little NC, "disproving" quantum theory, for example, by showing that something can't exist at 2 places at once. Wouldn't you want an expert's reaction on the matter?

jewish philosopher said...

"Please submit your observations as a question to an expert in the field"

Been there, done that.

You may not realize this, this goes back even to my pre-blogging days, however I was researching evolution about seven years ago and had a long dialog by email with Kenneth R. Miller a biology professor at Brown University. Miller, who is Roman Catholic, is particularly known for his opposition to creationism, including the intelligent design (ID) movement.

I bet he still remembers me.

Let me say first of all that Professor Miller is a heck of a nice person. He is a joy to correspond with and the time he generously gave to me was very kind of him.

However, he just didn't have good answers.

Unfortunately, when I was suddenly kicked out of my job 18 months ago, all copies of the emails were lost.

Anyway, NC, you're the atheist. Defending evolution is your job, not mine!

NC said...

"However, he just didn't have good answers."

Could it be that you just didn't want to hear the answers?

Too bad you don't have the emails any more, it would be fascinating.

jewish philosopher said...

I can only make decisions based upon my own best judgement.

natschuster said...


Interesting. When it somes to things like religion, you say that people must think for themselves. But we have to believe everything scientists say with a pure, simple
complete faith. This is despite the fact that we know empirically that scientists are perfectly capable of error and fraud. I wish I had your faith.

JRKmommy said...

JP -do you actually read through all of the last link?

I started giggling at the paper on the "geography of stupidity". In case you missed the intended sarcasm in the link, the author points out that it was hardly a reliable source.

Here's some Genetics 101:

Inbreeding does not cause a global lowering of intelligence.

It does, over time, reduce the variety of genes in a population.

Now, to give an extremely simplified explanation, genes can be dominant or recessive. Basically, genes come in pairs. Dominant genes will be cause a trait even if the paired gene is different, while recessive genes will only be expressed as a trait in both genes in the pair match.

If a baby is born with a deadly dominant gene, they won't live to reproduce, so they won't pass on the gene. The only exceptions I can think of are Huntington's Disease, which shows up later in life, and X-linked disorders. Therefore, most really bad defective genes are recessive, because they can be carried by people who are perfectly healthy. Tay Sachs disease is a classic example - carriers have no symptoms at all, but those who inherit both defective genes die in early childhood.

So yes, with inbreeding, you do have a greater chance of a defective recessive gene being expressed, but it only affects those with the genetic defect and not the global population. To use the Tay Sachs example again - 1 in 30 Ashkenazi Jews carries the defect gene, which is a rate 10x higher than the general population. However, odds are only 1 in 900 that 2 carriers will marry. If they do, the odds that a child will inherit the defective gene from both parents in 1 in 4, so the odds of an Ashkenazi Jewish child having Tay Sachs (without the use of modern genetic testing) would be 1 in 3600. That's obviously tragic from a human perspective, but not enough to affect the long-term survival of a population.

Humans also reproduce at a far slower rate than other organisms. You can see in bateria, for example, the effect of positive mutations. If just 1 in 1,000 is resistant to an antibiotic, then while 99.9% may be killed off, the surviving resistant bacteria will reproduce and produce a resistant population.

Now, the real question for evolution theory is not whether natural selection exists, but rather how new species arise. With sexual reproduction, you would need to have mutations arise that are so significant that the new offspring can't mate with the old species, and still find a mate with whom to reproduce the new species.

jewish philosopher said...

I'm not sure I'm following you, Mommy.

The problem is that punctuated equilibrium is suggesting that in an isolated inbred population good mutations will occur often enough to create useful new limbs and organs, while in reality long before that, it appears to me, harmful mutations would kill the inbred population off.

This in fact happens to royal families

And pure bred dogs

natschuster said...

JRK mommy:

The theory of punctuated equilibrium is an attempt to explain why species to species change was not recorded in the fossil record. It says that species to species change happens too fast, and only in isolated populations. But isolated populatiosn with small gene pools tend to have the opposite effect.

Now, some cases of bacterial antibiotic resistance are actually epigenetic, or a side effect of a harmful mutation.

Joseph said...

Your research is so weak that you even contradict your own links. Per a site you recommend: Darwin was not an atheist:

You still also refuse to understand the distinction between inbreeding and genetic drift. Typical of you, sadly.

BTW- I am neither an atheist nor an agnostic. I simply find your methodology and agenda to be flawed and offensive. Very reminiscent of Fred Phelps, of Westboro Baptist Church.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't think that Darwin ever was bold enough to declare himself to be an atheist, however in his later years he surely denied the existence of a personal god and believed that mindless evolution created us. I would call that atheism.

Genetic drift is a result of inbreeding, however in practice it means drifting into illness and extinction, not more advanced life forms.

If you find my blog offensive, don't read it.

natschuster said...

Genetic drift is an attempt to explain how the genome of a population changes without there being any benefit to the individual organisms. It just happens. It is yet another attempt to plug a hole in Darwinism.

Masked Offender said...

You wrote "genetically isolated populations tend to degenerate rather than improve."

This shows a complete lack of understanding of evolution. Evolution isn't necessarily improvement. It is merely change. That change may seem good or bad depending on the criteria one uses.

Much more often than not, evolution consists of extinction of a species. Even more common is the extermination of a sub-group or sub-species. Thus, observing the apparent inability of a small group to adapt over a very short period (biologically speaking) does not undercut evolution in the slightest.

You know, you are just embarrassing yourself posting such ignorant drivel for all to read.

jewish philosopher said...

Evolution means the creation of useful new limbs and organs through a process of random variation and natural selection. Communities getting sick and dying off is called extinction, not evolution.

Meg said...

Fascinating discourse. I think of evolution (as we understand it today) as the science of how life forms change genetically. Mutations are more often adverse to life and health, than they are advantageous, if only because the set of changes that would produce a desired result, is limited and finite, whereas the set of all possible changes is virtually limitless. That is why chaos is generally a bad thing: the number of desirable outcomes is very small compared to the number of possible outcomes, which provides a much greater chance of a negative outcome.

I don't see that evolution is the source or beginning of anything. In that way, I don't see a conflict between a belief in a creator, and our current understanding of science, nor do I see science's fundamental incompleteness, and its contradictions, as proof of its uselessness, but rather as evidence of its humility, when applied conscientiously.

Humans are prone to arrogance, to habit, to wanting to believe they know something, and to the desire for what they believe (or believe they know) to remain unchanging, because that is more comfortable. That is true whether they consider themselves scientists, people of faith, or both.

But I do not see a true conflict between science and faith in the mind of anyone willing to give up cherished dogmas, to incorporate the idea that our knowledge is always incomplete and therefore always subject to reconsideration. I do see a fundamental difference between the purposes of faith and science, even though each concerns itself with what is and is not true and real: Science seeks what is knowable, and faith enables people to live with uncertainty. I see the two as potentially very helpful to one another, if a person can achieve a state of inquiry that is also a state of humility.

Reading this conversation has helped me, by raising more questions and more awareness of other ways to see this, than I had before I came here. Thank you!

jewish philosopher said...

My understanding is that evolution is the atheist substitute for God. In the Atheism Tapes, Steven Weinberg, a physicist and Nobel laureate comments: 

What happened was that much of the early basis for religious belief was dissolved by science. It wasn't that scientific discoveries made religion impossible... it's that they made irreligion possible. It became possible to understand how things worked without the religious explanation and particularly, I think, more important than anything any physicist did, was what Darwin did, Darwin and Wallis.

Anonymous said...

Hi, just wanted to clear up a simple misconception you have here: while genetic isolation is indeed necessary for speciation, that does not mean that all isolated populations will undergo drastic changes. If I isolated a bunch of people in a place with no food, so they starved to death, that certainly wouldn't disprove evolution either. It's like staring at a bowl of water for two hours and then announcing that you've disproven the existence of tides.

jewish philosopher said...

"that does not mean that all isolated populations will undergo drastic changes"

In fact they do - drastically bad.

Anonymous said...

No - genetic isolation is not the same as being inbred. If half of humanity were suddenly transported to another planet (and they could survive there), then they would be genetically isolated from the other half here on earth (assuming no-one traveled between the planets after this). However, 'half of humanity' means about 3.5 billion people. This is more than enough to ensure sufficient genetic diversity.
Likewise, the Native Americans were genetically isolated from Africans, Europeans and Asians for thousands (in fact, tens of thousands) of years, longer than any Abrahamic religion in existence. They numbered in the millions, and so far as I know were not more likely to have genetic problems than anyone else.
A body of water the size of a bowl won't show tides. One the size of the Mediterranean would. Do not confuse 'isolation' with 'small breeding pool'.

jewish philosopher said...

The theoretical mechanism behind punctuated equilibrium is geographic speciation: that species with large central populations are stabilized by their large volume and the process gene flow. New and even beneficial mutations are diluted by the population's large size and are unable to reach fixation, due to such factors as constantly changing environments. Smaller populations on the other hand, which are isolated from the parental stock, are decoupled from the homogenizing effects of gene flow.

I'm not sure how small is small, but I imagine this is referring to something in the thousands not billions.

Anonymous said...

I was trying to explain that genetic isolation is not the same thing as inbreeding; you should also keep in mind that different species have different minimum population levels. For humans it's larger than for viruses, and so on.
Do you have any data on the minimum population size? Because otherwise this is just pure speculation.

jewish philosopher said...

You can't have your cake and eat it too - have a population large enough that bad mutations don't kill it off yet small enough that beneficial mutations are not diluted by the population's large size.

This is where the punctuated equilibrium theory fails, as I attempt to point out here.