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122 Responses to “ Darwin’s Doubt: Spoken Word ”

  1. Another (oh, God! yet another) God O’ The Gaps argument — although the rhyming is a nice touch, not to mention the Matrix screen caps at the end.

    There are many transitional fossils, human and other: either show why they aren’t real, or well, here’s a big steaming cup of STFU.

    Guided evolution? In other words, we don’t understand [fill-in-the-blank], so God must have been responsible for [fill-in-the-blank].

    Can’t explain the Cambrian explosion? Must have been God.

    If evolutionists present a naturalistic explanation of [fill-in-the-blank], it’s not a problem — there’s always something they can’t explain, and as long as there’s something they can’t explain, there’s a place for God to hide.

    You keep moving the goalposts: once it was humans, then it was the eye or other complex object, now it’s the cell itself.

    You need to pick something and agree that when we find a physical explanation, you’ll acknowledge that evolution is the explanation and enjoy a big steaming cup of STFU.

    Otherwise, you’re dishonest, all you’re doing is searching for something (anything!) science can’t explain, and yelling “God did it!!!”

    What’s actually interesting here: creationists don’t even try to argue against Darwinian evolution any more, all they can do is search for some detail not yet understood, and argue it creates doubt and an opportunity for God to intervene.

    (All that said… am I the only one to notice that if you hit replay a couple of times, you get a video of Ellen twerking? That totally worked for me.)

  2. You need to pick something and agree that when we find a physical explanation, you’ll acknowledge that evolution is the explanation and enjoy a big steaming cup of STFU.

    Until quite recently, geologists explained things in terms of geosyncline theory. Clearly, just because scientists have a widely-accepted physical explanation doesn’t mean that The Truth has been discovered. Why, then, should the rest of the world be under a moral or epistemic obligation to bow the knee to whatever physical explanation is currently in vogue, as you seem to imply?

    Agree with scientism or STFU, hmm? Thanks for the choice, but take a hike. You talk like you’re in charge, but you ain’t the boss.

  3. @Keith,

    Your strawman summary of the video tells us much more about you: you know what a “God O’ The Gaps” argument is. Congratulations.

    Granted: the accusation is a lovely rhetorical tactic for dismissing any challenge to materialism. But do us a favor: instead of brandishing it unthinkingly, please demonstrate that it has even the remotest connection to the video that you are criticizing. Using logic would be nice. Making reference to the content of the video would be nice.

    While you are at it, you might also consider the following peer-reviewed analysis of the relative value of “God O’ The Gaps” reasoning: http://www.springerlink.com/content/vk42523g35985h5r/fulltext.pdf

  4. Evolution also neatly explains why my cat isn’t grumpy (obviously, domestic cats have evolved to please their feeders sufficiently). It’s amazing how useful a theory it is!

  5. Oh, it’s very useful.

    Our cat doesn’t like it when one side of her food dish is empty, even though the other side is full. For some reason she wants to see food in both sides of her dish so she meows loudly until I fill it up. I couldn’t figure out why she does this until one day I discovered the answer: Evolution.

  6. I’d like to see anyone even try to explain adaptive cat behaviour like this using anything but evolution.

    That sentence seems to me to be a very good example of theory-laden observation.

  7. Darwin…stated that his own theory would suffer
    If fossils could not be found to agree
    After all these years, his very worst fears
    Have confirmed…

    Rather to the contrary.

    Not enough time and not enough chance
    In this whole universe could ever produce
    These body forms, structures, processes, pieces

    Phil Long can assert that, following Meyer. I think TWBW will appreciate that that’s a long way from establishing such a thing. Feel free to place your bets, but don’t pretend that the ‘fact of the matter’ is established yet.

  8. Them scientists is so smart. It’s us foolish folk that don’t got the understanding that’s the problem!

  9. Feel free to place your bets, but don’t pretend that the ‘fact of the matter’ is established yet.

    Rubbish. The Fact has been Established. Science Says. Consensus has been Reached. No True Scientist disagrees. Evolution is a Fact, and that’s that! Richard Dawkins has said so repeatedly, and who are you to disagree with him and his superior application of evidence and reason? Evidence and Reason, man. Evidence and reason.

  10. That sentence seems to me to be a very good example of theory-laden observation.

    Actually, it was more an example of triumphalism. A theory-laden observation is more along these lines: the vocalisations and reflexive tongue movements on display in this feline have no survival benefit, and are thus likely an effect of sexual selection pressures, or possibly a spandrel associated pleiotropically with some other adaptation.

    Do you think I could bluff my way through a peer reviewed biology paper? Or at least an undergraduate biology essay?

    Meanwhile, of course, creationists come up with some lame, non-scientific excuse for an explanation like, “God made cats like that because it’s funny.” Seriously, where’s the science in that, people? Where?

  11. TFBW –

    Rubbish. The Fact has been Established… Evolution is a Fact, and that’s that! Richard Dawkins has said so repeatedly

    Macroevolution has, in fact, been established, yes. Even by fossils. Abiogenesis, which is what the part I quoted was discussing, has not been.

  12. @Ray
    That was a good comic. That is probably what is going on here.

    The problem for me is I believe what the article is saying. I mean, I’d believe it if I was a naturalistic scientist. After all, what else is there to do the explaining except for cat genetics, cat biology and an adaptation to a specific cat environment? What other options does a scientist have?

  13. Macroevolution has, in fact, been established, yes. Even by fossils.

    Hey, now — that’s not a nice thing to call Richard Dawkins. Oh, wait… you’re referring to all those animals we see evolving into other animals in the fossil record. Yes, all that lovely, lovely evidence, which No True Scientist disagrees about. Quite so. The decision of Science is final, and no correspondence will be entered into.

    Abiogenesis, which is what the part I quoted was discussing, has not been.

    True. There is still a little leeway there to argue about which naturalistic mechanism produced LUCA. It’s “case closed” as regards the naturalistic part, of course, but the other details aren’t quite nailed down yet.

  14. Ray #16,
    I don’t see PZ offering up any alternative explanations. I see him arguing that EP explanations are premature because we haven’t done the research/testing. He’s right about that. What PZ is saying doesn’t change my broad, big picture, question though. His commentary only tells me we don’t have all the details figured out – which I know already.

    My broad, big picture question is what else could a naturalist point to as a possible explanation for modern cat (or human) behavior other than evolution writ large? Is there a non-evolutionary option even on the table?

  15. A theory-laden observation is more along these lines

    Using the word “adaptive” immediately makes it a theory-laden observation.

  16. Using the word “adaptive” immediately makes it a theory-laden observation.

    Good call. We become so immersed in these theories that we forget that we are using theory-laden language.

  17. TFBW –

    Yes, all that lovely, lovely evidence, which No True Scientist disagrees about.

    Yeah, pretty much. Some scientists speculate about MOND and such, but nobody questions the basic concepts of Relativity either.

    There is still a little leeway there to argue about which naturalistic mechanism produced LUCA. It’s “case closed” as regards the naturalistic part, of course, but the other details aren’t quite nailed down yet.

    You’re appropriating a lot more snideness there than you actually have in the bank. If/when abiogenesis is taught as a theory rather than a hypothesis, particularly at the K-12 or undergraduate level, you’ll have cause to be that snide. (Provided, of course, it also obtains that the evidence isn’t forthcoming.)

    Until then, you’re just annoyed that some people are placing different bets than you.

  18. nobody questions the basic concepts of Relativity either

    That doesn’t actually mean a great deal. Nobody questioned Newtonian mechanics for almost 200 years, and Aristotle’s physics for many hundreds of years prior to Newton.

  19. Bigbird – Except in modern times people actually continue to test the predictions of Relativity. There’s a huge incentive to find exceptions or inconsistencies. And when possible inconsistencies are found with actual, y’know, data, they get a lot of work and attention, not excommunication.

    People are actually looking for reasons to go past Relativity. The fact that nobody’s succeeded yet is data, too. The same applies to evolution, too – when the ID crowd proposed possible ‘irreducibly complex’ structures, the putative examples were examined… and found wanting. Another recent example – ORFANs.

  20. Except in modern times people actually continue to test the predictions of Relativity. There’s a huge incentive to find exceptions or inconsistencies.

    It wasn’t much different then either. People continued to test the predictions of Newton. For 150 years or more.

    And when possible inconsistencies are found with actual, y’know, data, they get a lot of work and attention, not excommunication.

    Mmm, that’s a cheap shot. You seize on the one example where the church overstepped the mark (and based on the science, they were quite correct to criticize Galileo), and you imply that’s how science worked in those days?

    When inconsistencies were found in those days, they also received a lot of work and attention.

    My point is, we really don’t know what science that we accept nowadays will be discredited in the future. History tells us, probably a lot of it.

  21. Using foul language in an acronym is still using foul language. Got it? That was early in the thread, and I missed it yesterday, but I didn’t want to ignore it once I saw it.

  22. I still think it’s funny that “macroevolution has, in fact, been established.”

    It’s never been observed.

    Theories for how genes could accomplish it (or rather, how variation and selection could accomplish it via genes) have run hard into contrary empirical evidence.

    Its empirical support amounts to fossil evidence for common descent, as if that entailed evolution and no other explanation; and observed microevolution, as if the extrapolation from micro to macro were known to be feasible.

    And its additional supporting evidence amounts to “GodDidn’tDoIt.”

    Did I miss anything?

  23. Tom Gilson –

    Theories for how genes could accomplish it (or rather, how variation and selection could accomplish it via genes) have run hard into contrary empirical evidence.

    Nuh uh! (Absent an actual description of such evidence, I don’t see where I have to do any more than you did: offer an assertion.)

    Its empirical support amounts to fossil evidence for common descent, as if that entailed evolution and no other explanation

    A few alternate explanations have been proposed… but they haven’t actually held up. And the evolutionary account keeps covering the bases as new evidence comes to light.

    Did I miss anything?

    The molecular evidence? Ring species?

    (Leaving aside the fact that when I pressed for an exact definition of ‘macroevolutionary change’, the conversation got dropped.)

  24. If/when abiogenesis is taught as a theory rather than a hypothesis, particularly at the K-12 or undergraduate level, you’ll have cause to be that snide.

    You got me there. Natural theories hypotheses of abiogenesis are just one class of many such theories hypotheses which are vigorously discussed and analysed in such educational contexts. Let a thousand flowers bloom! In fact, the only constraint is that they must be properly scientific hypotheses, which, in layman’s terms, means that they must not be remotely suggestive that God is either necessary or involved. And you “intelligent design” priests-in-labcoats aren’t fooling anyone: who is this intelligence exactly, if not God, hmm?

  25. Natural theories hypotheses of abiogenesis are just one class of many such theories hypotheses which are vigorously discussed and analysed in such educational contexts.

    Your snark about the distinction between theory and hypothesis is noted, and hereby derided. 🙂

    But can you give me some examples of what you’re objecting to? What K-12 or undergraduate curricula “vigorously discuss[] and analyse[]” origin-of-life models? Can you offer some textbook quotes or course outlines or lecture notes or something? Most K-12 biology classes barely cover evolution because of all the blowback… is it that the hypothesis of abiogenesis shouldn’t even be mentioned in K-12 biology classes?

  26. bigbird –

    It wasn’t much different then either. People continued to test the predictions of Newton. For 150 years or more.

    Yup, and anomalies accumulated. The precession of Mercury, etc. My point is that has not happened with Relativity so far.

    based on the science, they were quite correct to criticize Galileo

    I wasn’t referring to Galileo. I was contrasting how the various churches have handled ‘heresy’ against their religious doctrines versus how it’s generally handled in science regarding scientific ‘doctrines’. If you want a specific example of that, Giordano Bruno was burned for theological claims, not scientific ones.

    My point is, we really don’t know what science that we accept nowadays will be discredited in the future. History tells us, probably a lot of it.

    Yes… and no.

  27. @Ray Ingles:

    I was contrasting how the various churches have handled ‘heresy’ against their religious doctrines versus how it’s generally handled in science regarding scientific ‘doctrines’. If you want a specific example of that, Giordano Bruno was burned for theological claims, not scientific ones.

    What is your point?

    The theological debates along the history of Christianity were very lively, *fierce* actually, rather than not existing. Suggesting otherwise is just dismal ignorance of history. I mean, at least, the Catholic Church did make clear that it was a heresy and *why* it was a heresy. And the reason why it was, and in a sense it must be so, is that theological matters do actually *matter* in the subjective sense, that is, they matter to us as human beings and for how we live our lives, while the question whether Evolution is true or not, or whether the Higgs exist or not, or whether Poincare’s conjeture is true or not, while all supremely interesting, have no direct ethical and moral impact. This is just an apples and oranges comparison, betraying an enthralment to a shallow ideology.

    Or maybe your point is that no one got persecuted for holding an opinion contrary to the established consensus? Giggle. Tell that to the Russian scientists opposing Lysenko. And if you respond that that was in a bygone era and in a different country, it is simply not true, but either way, so was the burning of Giordano Bruno.

    So, do you actually have a cogent point?

  28. Ray, could you point to one case where macroevolution — the arrival through evolutionary processes of genuinely novel structures or functions — has occurred?

    Could you explain why HIV and malaria have not demonstrated any such evolution, in spite of enormous selective pressures on them, and prodigiously huge opportunities by way of large populations and fast reproduction?

    What about Lenski’s E. coli, that hasn’t evolved to anything but E. coli? (Citrate metabolism isn’t all that impressive in the end.) Or all the thousands of fruit flies that have been so mercilessly irradiated all these decades?

  29. And if you think scientists are gentle about handling heresy among themselves, I have a physicist friend you should talk with. It has nothing to do with origins, God, or ID; just with research that wasn’t popular among other physicists, even though in the end it has been shown to be correct.

    I’ve asked him to tell his story publicly, and so far he has demurred, understandably so: he’s incurred plenty of wrath as it is.

  30. Yup, and anomalies accumulated. The precession of Mercury, etc. My point is that has not happened with Relativity so far.

    It may. It may not. We can’t possibly know. What we do know is that paradigms or research programs (or whatever philosophers of science want to call them) do get overturned, and there seems little reason to think it won’t happen again. Our age is not special.

    I was contrasting how the various churches have handled ‘heresy’ against their religious doctrines versus how it’s generally handled in science regarding scientific ‘doctrines’.

    Oh yes, in science they call it “an appropriate degree of scientific skepticism” but only in hindsight, when the heretic has been shown to be correct. A good example is Marshall & Warren and the H. pylori bacterium that causes stomach ulcers.

  31. Great essay Holo. Seems more like something you might read in First Things. Given that Wieseltier is the literary editor there, I might be mistaken. Have they really come this far since Philip Glass or is this a one off?

  32. G. Rodrigues –

    The theological debates along the history of Christianity were very lively, *fierce* actually, rather than not existing.

    I used the specific word “heresy”, not “disputation”.

    [Re: Lysenkoism] And if you respond that that was in a bygone era and in a different country, it is simply not true

    Sure, it was two countries – Lysenkoism didn’t just contribute to the Holodomor, it helped cause the Three Lean Years in China.

    But if your claim is that it’s happening now – exactly who’s been executed or imprisoned in a gulag for scientific ‘heresy’ in the Americas or Europe, anyway? I’m not aware of any cases, not in the last fifty years or even before. The most ‘persecution’ I’ve heard of is ‘not getting tenure’. (Generally exaggerated stories, at that.)

    but either way, so was the burning of Giordano Bruno.

    Bigbird brought up the bygone era of Newtonian physics. Funny thing is, decades after Bruno’s execution, when Newtonian physics were being discovered and debated, executions for religious heresy were still going on. Not so much in scientific circles.

    So, do you actually have a cogent point?

    The one I made originally – “…in modern times people actually continue to test the predictions of Relativity. There’s a huge incentive to find exceptions or inconsistencies. And when possible inconsistencies are found with actual, y’know, data, they get a lot of work and attention, not excommunication.”

    Tom’s physicist friend may well have been subject to unwarranted disrepute – scientists are human. I know of no establishment where it’s policy to do that, though. Most churches have rites or procedures for excommunication and disfellowship, though. (And, historically, execution.)

  33. Tom Gilson –

    Ray, could you point to one case where macroevolution — the arrival through evolutionary processes of genuinely novel structures or functions — has occurred?

    Okay.

  34. bigbird –

    What we do know is that paradigms or research programs (or whatever philosophers of science want to call them) do get overturned, and there seems little reason to think it won’t happen again. Our age is not special.

    I think the link I gave in #31 covers the ground pretty well. “[W]hen people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was [perfectly] spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”

  35. if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.

    Asimov should have known better than to have used such a simplistic example.

    You are confusing predictive power with truth – a position associated with scientific realism. There are many examples from history that demonstrate an increase in predictive power is not necessarily associated with truth (as in correspondence to reality).

    Take phlogiston theory, which gave significant predictive improvements but was wrong. Or Fresnel’s theory of light, which relied on ether. When we are developing theories about unobservable entities it is by no means obvious that our theories are true.

    Finally, take string theory. Does its predictive power mean it is an accurate reflection of reality? Can we even know if it is an accurate reflection of reality?

  36. @Ray

    Okay.

    Bad example. I remember reading the original paper on these lizards years ago. There was no evidence of genetic change, and it is likely that the differences observed were due to phenotypic plasticity.

  37. and at the end of the day, they are still just lizards, not so different from the originals. Of course, it is probably unrealistic to expect a completely new body plan in such a short time.

    The real question, which the summary article didn’t address, is about those new valves that developed in the lizards’ stomachs: Did new genetic information arise to produce them, or was it a matter of a control gene set that got modified to turn on pre-existing genes for the valves?

    The article did say this
    Tail clips taken for DNA analysis confirmed that the Pod Mrcaru lizards were genetically identical to the source population on Pod Kopiste. , so what does that mean for my question?

    This could just as plausibly be an example of what Michael Behe described in The Edge of Evolution.

  38. Victoria –

    and at the end of the day, they are still just lizards

    I may have to start believing in psychic powers. It’s uncanny! 🙂

    Tail clips taken for DNA analysis confirmed that the Pod Mrcaru lizards were genetically identical

    That’s an overstatement in the popularization. The actual paper says that they compared two long sequences of mitochondrial DNA (page 3). That’s enough to prove descent, but doesn’t directly apply to gut morphology and development.

    Also from the paper (page 3): “Although the presence of cecal
    valves and large heads in hatchlings and juveniles suggests a
    genetic basis for these differences, further studies investigating
    the potential role of phenotypic plasticity and/or maternal effects
    in the divergence between populations are needed.”

    In other words, it’s not just the adults who show these changes, it’s hatchlings, too, even before they start eating a different diet. Not determinative but strongly suggestive. Now, if genetic changes are confirmed, would anyone here concede this as a case of ‘macroevolution’?

  39. @Ray
    I was being facetious with my opening remarks 🙂

    Thanks for the link, BTW. The news summary links are useful, but there is nothing like being able to read the original journal articles to get the whole story. The summaries just elide too much.

    I wasn’t implying that the valves were not due to a genetic change in the lizard’s genome (so a heritable characteristic) – I was asking what the actual genetic change could be.

    To be clear, Ray, I have no problem with the concept that living systems are based on codes, algorithms and programs that are adaptive and can change over time; The real issues are (a) how did such programs originate in the first place (the abiogenesis question)?, and (b) what are the limits of the adaptability of the programs (Behe’s question)?.

    Would this be an example of macro-evolution? It depends on where one wants to draw the line, I suppose 🙂 On what basis is the extrapolation of limited changes within a species to complex and large scale changes to produce completely different phyla, with diverse body plans and functions?

    The interesting thing about these papers is that evolution by natural processes is simply assumed – all data is interpreted in this framework. Fair enough, of course, but that can easily become a Procrustean Bed.

  40. Ray, the best example of “macro-evolution” that you have produced so far is doubtful to say the least. There is certainly no evidence that evolution has occurred.

    Any other examples?

  41. Why would anyone expect an example of “macroevolution” to be observed in our lifetime, if by “macroevolution” you mean something really dramatic, like the evolution of a new organ? That happens all the time in bad science fiction movies, but if it ever happened in real life it would most likely be a refutation of current evolutionary theory, not a confirmation of it. Any example of evolution we’re likely to see in a human lifetime is going to be along the lines of Ray’s lizard , or any of a host of examples you can find documented in the scientific journals.

    Incidentally, I also don’t expect to see the solar system complete one revolution around the center of the Milky Way–it takes about 200 million years. But most people accept that it happens–well, most of the people who actually care about such things. I also don’t expect to see a continent split in half, drift apart, and form a new ocean. I suppose plate tectonics is also just a materialist plot, foisted upon gullible folk who don’t realize that nobody has ever actually seen continents moving thousands of miles.

    I’m a Christian, btw. If you want to attack the modern materialist paradigm, try challenging them on the nature of consciousness–there at least there are some interesting issues at stake and no particular reason to accept the materialist viewpoint. The non-religious philosophers themselves are split, with at least some showing some interest in some form of dualism. If you insist on fighting them on the question of life’s origin and history, then stick to its origin, since abiogenesis is still a mystery. But this fight against evolution is just embarrassing.

  42. Thanks for the advice, Donald, our latest visitor by way of Nick Matzke’s gracious link to this site at Panda’s Thumb. Look around the blog while you’re here, if you don’t mind. Consciousness, rationality, free will, and the like are frequent topics of discussion here. The origin of life is, too.

    But before you go on being embarrassed, maybe you should look at this discussion in context. Read comments 14 and 27. Discover why the question came up about macroevolution being observed. (It’s not that hard on most devices to search a page and find out what’s actually going on before one pops in to tell people there that what’s going on is silly.)

    Speaking specifically to you as a believer (for if you’ll read my discussion policy, I have a definite and purposeful difference in standards for Christians): this is a blog for Christians who display thinking (or learning, or honest questioning), not for Christians who drive by and laugh. Thoughtlessness of that sort is embarrassing, too, you know. I mean that primarily in the sense of lacking in thoughtfulness, but you can take it in the other sense as well if you like.

    If you have a thoughtful observation to make in context of the ongoing discussion, you’re welcome to make it. I’d be glad to know what you have to say, in that case. I’m glad to have you here, provided you’ll actually enter into the discussion—which you did not do in your first comment.

  43. Why would anyone expect an example of “macroevolution” to be observed in our lifetime, if by “macroevolution” you mean something really dramatic, like the evolution of a new organ?

    Nobody has suggested that they expect this, so why ask the question?

    Any example of evolution we’re likely to see in a human lifetime is going to be along the lines of Ray’s lizard , or any of a host of examples you can find documented in the scientific journals.

    Well, we are still waiting for Ray to provide an example that actually is unambiguously evolution. The lizards certainly are not. It shouldn’t be hard if there is a host of documented examples in journals.

    Incidentally, I also don’t expect to see the solar system complete one revolution around the center of the Milky Way–it takes about 200 million years.

    We can estimate our solar system’s speed, and it is relatively simple to extrapolate to the estimated time for one revolution.

    We have no idea of the genetic changes required for any particular macro-evolutionary change. It is hard to see how we can confidently extrapolate from the genetic changes we *can* observe to a sequence of completely unknown genetic changes.

  44. Further on your question, Donald, I don’t see why opportunities for macroevolution must be a function of time, except indirectly. It seems to me they are a function of the number of generations a population produces, the forces upon that population supporting the arising of new variations, and the selection pressures that would steer those new variations toward the development of new structures and functions.

    So let’s think about that. Richard Lenski at Michigan State has been observing evolutionary change through nearly 60,000 generations of E. coli. What might one expect to see in 60,000 generations? What follows is for the purpose of providing perspective on that 60,000 number. Since that’s its only purpose, I’m admittedly making some simplifying assumptions.

    The last universal common ancestor of all placental mammals has been proposed to have lived about 66 million years ago, according to an article in Science, reported on here. Not everyone agrees in the details, but the 66mya period seems at least to be in the ballpark.

    There are something like 4,500 to 5,500 species of mammals (give or take), all but marsupials having descended from one LUCA that lived about 66mya. Now, let’s suppose that the average length of a mammalian generation is about one year, which is generous and yet not out of line with at least one published study. That implies (with our simplifying assumptions still in operation) that something of the magnitude of 66 million generations was sufficient to produce and/or differentiate mammals’ ability to live (mostly) underwater, to fly, to echolocate, to see colors, to walk and run on four legs, to walk and run on two legs, to pump blood up a tall (giraffe’s) neck and sustain pressure as the animal raises and lowers its neck, to live among the trees, to live basically underground, to make prickly defense systems and smelly defense systems (something that’s been plaguing us in our neighborhood this summer), not to mention camouflage (including season-specific coloration), speed, deception (opossums), strength and more as defense systems; to metabolize and live entirely off plants or animals or both, and finally to reason, communicate with language, produce art, and so on. I’m sure you’ll agree I left out a lot.

    Bear in mind that much of this differentiation took place among larger mammals with much longer generation spans: my 66 million generation estimate was quite generous in that light. But I’ll stick with 66 million for purposes of simplicity, especially since the natural history of larger mammals holds a disproportionate share of that 66 million years. The last universal felid — the “dawn cat” — may have lived about 30 million years ago, for example.

    All that took a long time. Why would we expect to see anything like that happening in the short 2,400 years or so since Aristotle, say, was performing his careful observations? We wouldn’t, at least not among slowly-reproducing mammals.

    Lenski’s experiments, by comparison, have been through about 1/1000 as many generations as mammals have. To me it does not seem unreasonable to ask — it’s only a question after all! — why we haven’t seen at least one clear and unambiguous instance of macroevolution in that population. (I have previously mentioned why I’m not impressed with some organisms’ metabolizing citrate.)

    So you see, Donald, what’s embarrassing to you may not be as cut-and-dried as you thought it was.

  45. Victoria –

    Would this be an example of macro-evolution? It depends on where one wants to draw the line, I suppose 🙂

    Or where you set the goalposts? 🙂

    bigbird –

    Ray, the best example of “macro-evolution” that you have produced so far is doubtful to say the least. There is certainly no evidence that evolution has occurred.

    I disagree. See the last two paragraphs of #44. I grant that some other possibilities haven’t been definitively ruled out yet, but that’s simply not the same thing as “no evidence”. Sequencing the entire genome of an animal is still a somewhat expensive proposition – another decade or two and we’ll be able to answer your objections more definitively.

    Why would we expect to see anything like that happening in the short 2,400 years or so since Aristotle, say, was performing his careful observations?

    Note, BTW, that we’ve only been looking for this sort of thing specifically for about the last 150 years, too. And consider the Pod Mrcaru lizards – only because we knew when the lizards were introduced to the island could we recognize that the changes had happened that fast. If it had happened by accident thirty years ago, unnoticed, and we came across that population today, it wouldn’t be particularly remarkable.

    But we’re sequencing more and more genomes as the tech becomes more accessible and affordable, and the technology for comparing them is proceeding apace. (E.g. last link in #24 above.) I rather suspect we’ll come across more surprises like this in the near future.

    Lenski’s experiments, by comparison, have been through about 1/1000 as many generations as mammals have.

    It appears that it took something like three billion years for single-celled organisms to make the jump to multicellularity. Multicellular animals have a whole area of ‘structural exploration’ available that single-celled creatures can’t take advantage of – cell differentiation. (For a striking example of the effect of even single regulatory genes on such processes, see here.)

    I rather think you’re comparing apples to Buicks in your calculations…

  46. There is certainly no evidence that evolution has occurred.

    I disagree. See the last two paragraphs of #44. I grant that some other possibilities haven’t been definitively ruled out yet, but that’s simply not the same thing as “no evidence”.

    Ray, Tom put out a challenge to produce just one case of macro-evolution. You give us the Croation lizards.

    Obviously, they are not a clear example of macro-evolution. Your own quote from the original paper concedes that phenotypic plasticity is a possibility that has to be investigated. And without a genetic comparison, no firm conclusion can be reached.

    In fact, given that only 30 generations have passed, it seems unlikely (to me) that the changes in the phenotype are due to genetic changes.

    More generally, it seems that many cases of so-called rapid contemporary evolution much trumpeted by people like Dawkins (who uses the Croatian lizards as an example) are likely to be plasticity, not genetic change.

    See Climate change and evolution: disentangling environmental and genetic responses, Gienapp et al, Molecular Ecology (2008) Blackwell Publishing Ltd 17 , 167-178:

    “The available evidence points to the overall conclusion that
    many responses perceived as adaptations to changing environmental conditions could be environmentally induced plastic responses rather than microevolutionary adaptations.”

    If the Croation lizards are the best example you’ve got, I don’t think you’ve met Tom’s challenge.

  47. @Ray #51:

    It appears that it took something like three billion years for single-celled organisms to make the jump to multicellularity.

    They don’t have to become multicellular in order to exhibit macroevolution. There’s more than one kind of single-celled organism, after all. Don’t you think it’s fair to say that, based on extensive observation over tens of thousands of generations, that E. coli do not exhibit any evidence of macroevolution?

    On the other hand, if your lizard example is an actual example of macroevolution in a multicellular organism, and it took a mere thirty generations or thereabouts, then why haven’t we seen any evidence of macroevolution in Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly)? It has been extensively studied for over a century, and has a generation time of about ten days, so we have more than a hundred times the number of generations than those hyper-evolutionary lizards.

    Is there some reason why we should expect fruit fly evolution to be unobservably slow, relative to the lizards? Or has there been loads of macroevolution observed in the flies, and I just haven’t read about it in any of the popular literature?

  48. I don’t intend to participate past this last post, and if you think I was laughing you have that wrong–it was more an expression of depression mixed with disgust. I see so many arrogant atheists, including at Panda’s Thumb when I visit, and it depresses me to see Christians give them ammunition by fighting unnecessary battles, where they just make Christianity look stupid.

    As for participating in a scientific debate here, no thanks. First, one doesn’t have scientific debates on technical subjects in any meaningful way unless both participants are extremely knowledgeable. I’ve read many thousands of pages on this subject, some of them technical, but I see people online and in books who do a far better job presenting the subject than I could, because it’s their subject and they know it well and for me it’s at best a hobby. You’re rather obviously no more of an expert than I am and unless you’ve tried to read the literature you’re even lower on the scale of expertise than I am. If you want to search online for evidence for macroevolution, there are places like Panda’s Thumb, the evolution faq or you could read Biologos, which is run by evangelical Christians, or actually start delving into the scientific literature in a serious way. You could read a pretty good semi-popular book by Simon Conway Morris, a leading expert on the Cambrian “explosion”, who is also a Christian.

    Second, I’ve done the debate thing in the past, many times, with friends in real life and with people online and the discussions go nowhere. The evolution skeptics mostly seem to read the literature with the hermeneutics of suspicion (a phrase I picked up somewhere), wondering just where those dastardly naturalists (or Christian evolutionists) are trying to trick them. The fact that many in modern science are in fact atheists and some of them quite arrogant about it just adds to their suspicion, but it’s no way to learn. You try to keep an open mind and understand the opposing point of view first and then criticize it, but most evolution skeptics don’t do that. This doesn’t mean the evolutionists must be right because they are the experts. It does mean that most people who criticize their field have no more business doing so than the average person in 1500 had to criticize, say, Ptolemaic astronomy. The ancient Greek astronomers were right about some things, and wrong about others, but only someone like Copernicus who knew the field inside out could overthrow the old paradigm.

    Finally, no, I wasn’t impressed by your argument regarding Lenski’s bacteria. Again, why would you expect to see something sufficiently dramatic to impress you as a “proof” of macroevolution? Bacteria have been around 3.5 billion years and dominate the biosphere. What did you expect to see in the space of a few years? This, btw, is a pretty good example of why these debates are worthless. I’ve read about Lenski in Nature, I think, and possibly in the second edition of Graham Bell’s “Selection” (I can’t remember) and I don’t think any mainstream evolutionist would have expected what you seem to expect should have happened if evolution were true. Maybe it’s because deep down they know their field is just a big fraud, or maybe it’s because there is no good reason to expect it.

    But don’t waste your time arguing with evolutionists in your comment thread. If a branch of science interests you, even in a negative way, arguing with people online is no way to learn. Your ego gets involved and you stake out positions and if you do read something on the subject it’s only to find some way to “show” that you were right. Of course that applies to me as well.

  49. bigbird –

    Obviously, they are not a clear example of macro-evolution.

    Well, I’ll grant that you’re not accepting them as one. 🙂

    Your own quote from the original paper concedes that phenotypic plasticity is a possibility that has to be investigated. And without a genetic comparison, no firm conclusion can be reached.

    Plasticity isn’t ruled out, yet, I grant – but that doesn’t mean it’s likely, for the reasons already mentioned. But here’s the thing – can we pin down the goalposts? I asked a question at the end of #44, and only Victoria has answered it yet. (And she answered with a rock-solid ‘maybe’. 🙂 )

    More detailed genomic analysis will be done. Developmental genes will be analyzed in detail. If it is shown that the population of lizards on Pod Mrcaru differ genetically from Pod Kopiste in ways that affect gut development, at that point will you agree that they are an example of macroevolution?

    If not, what would qualify, in your view? Can you give any kind of example?

  50. TFBW –

    They don’t have to become multicellular in order to exhibit macroevolution.

    What else would count? Hopping across species within the last century or so – with a massive boost in pathogenicity – doesn’t count for HIV, apparently.

    There’s more than one kind of single-celled organism, after all.

    But the boundaries between species at the single-celled level are fuzzy. Where are the goalposts on this one?

    then why haven’t we seen any evidence of macroevolution in Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly)? It has been extensively studied for over a century

    How many of those experiments were aimed at producing new structures, though? The vast majority were aimed at simply working out how genes functioned. A few have been aimed at producing speciation… and they’ve succeeded. (We don’t expect ‘hopeful monsters’ in evolution anyway – sudden appearances of massive structural changes – we expect populations to shift, a la ring species.)

  51. Well, I’ll grant that you’re not accepting them as one.

    You seem to be implying that I’m being unreasonable in not accepting your lizards as an example of macro-evolution.

    Surely the onus is on you to provide something better than a paper whose own authors speculate that the changes observed could be due to plasticity.

    In any case, a short search uncovered “Anatomical and physiological changes associated with a recent dietary shift in the lizard Podarcis sicula”, Vervust B, Pafilis P, Valakos ED, Van Damme R., Physiol Biochem Zool. 2010 Jul-Aug;83(4):632-42. doi: 10.1086/651704.

    “Many comparative studies have tacitly assumed that the distinctive features of plant-eating lizards (large body size, skull
    dimensions, special dentition, gut morphology) are a product
    of genetic adaptation to the special demands of a plant-based
    diet (e.g., Van Damme 1999; Cooper and Vitt 2002; Espinoza
    et al. 2004; Herrel et al. 2008). Our results suggest that in P.
    sicula, at least some of the changes associated with a dietary
    shift toward a higher proportion of plant material may be plastic.”

    If it is shown that the population of lizards on Pod Mrcaru differ genetically from Pod Kopiste in ways that affect gut development, at that point will you agree that they are an example of macroevolution?

    You’ll have to define what “differ genetically” means. If there is genetic change, it seems to me most likely that it is a simple regulatory change that switches an existing feature on. I wouldn’t regard that as an example of macro-evolution.

  52. What else would count?

    Any sort of change that made it recognisably not E. coli would be a good start. It would be more conclusive, however if something along the lines of what Behe calls an irreducibly complex mechanism was produced. Something genuinely novel, not seen in any known variant of the species before. I think that’s a pretty modest request.

    How many of those experiments were aimed at producing new structures, though?

    Why is that relevant? This is unguided evolution we are talking about here, not genetic engineering. The flies have been subject to lots of mutation and reproduced for many generations. What more do you need for evolution to occur? Teleological input?

  53. bigbird –

    at least some of the changes associated with a dietary shift toward a higher proportion of plant material may be plastic.”

    Interesting, but again not conclusive. They didn’t analyze hatchlings nor did they yet do the converse dietary experiment.

    If there is genetic change, it seems to me most likely that it is a simple regulatory change that switches an existing feature on.

    But… that’s what evolution would predict. Recall the ossicles stuff. Regulatory genes changing the development of jawbones, that over time and generations produced the auditory mechanism of mammals.

    This relates to what TFBW says:

    It would be more conclusive, however if something along the lines of what Behe calls an irreducibly complex mechanism was produced.

    The way evolution predicts ‘irreducibly complex’ mechanisms arise is by (a) redundancy and functional duplication, that then is (b) pared down. Again, the ossicles – a double jaw hinge where one set of bones gradually moved to helping conduct sound, too. And then specialized in that while the other hinge took over the whole job of moving the jaw.

    The early stages will look like an extra, redundant system. Say, a gene duplication or two that allows metabolizing citrate. Specialization of duplicated systems comes later, and paring away of duplicated function comes after that.

    To continue with TFBW –

    This is unguided evolution we are talking about here, not genetic engineering.

    Reproductive isolation comes first, though. A subset of the population in a particular environment that shifts the frequency of alleles to the point where they can’t breed with the parent population. And then… long-term separation, the population actually going on for a while. For lab experiments ‘over 600 generations’ is long-term.

    That’s about 16 years, btw – Drosophila melanogaster has a generation time of about 10 days. In terms of lab experiments, that really is long-term. It’s, um, about a hundred thousand times less than Tom’s shooting for. Even he grants that 2,400 generations or so is too small to make major changes probable.

    Producing new species, getting reproductive isolation, isn’t particularly hard, it turns out. Evolving new structures takes longer – and that’s not a cop-out, it’s exactly what the theory predicts.

  54. The way evolution predicts ‘irreducibly complex’…

    A few questions. Isn’t that a hypothesis in need of validation? In other words, isn’t this *not* actually part of scientific evolution. Isn’t this a theory that evolution cannot take credit for just yet?

  55. Producing new species, getting reproductive isolation, isn’t particularly hard, it turns out. Evolving new structures takes longer – and that’s not a cop-out, it’s exactly what the theory predicts.

    Same comment as above. From my vantage point you are assigning predictive qualities to evolution that haven’t been validated. If evolution explained how “producing new species isn’t particularly hard” then we wouldn’t be having these arguments over what evolution explains.

  56. Interesting, but again not conclusive.

    Ray, have you forgotten you are making the claim, not me? The evidence is not pointing your way – when do you intend to admit it?

    If there is genetic change, it seems to me most likely that it is a simple regulatory change that switches an existing feature on.

    But… that’s what evolution would predict.

    You asked what I’d accept as an example of macro-evolution. I was telling you that a mutation in a gene that switches on an existing mechanism or disables an existing mechanism is not what I’d accept as an example of macro-evolution. I’m not sure what evolution predicts has got to do with it.

    As an aside, by definition evolution predicts whatever we observe, or if it doesn’t, its definition evolves to do so.

  57. The early stages will look like an extra, redundant system. Say, a gene duplication or two that allows metabolizing citrate. Specialization of duplicated systems comes later, and paring away of duplicated function comes after that.

    That’s a nice theory. Let’s discuss it again some time after you have some experimental results to support it.

    Evolving new structures takes longer – and that’s not a cop-out, it’s exactly what the theory predicts.

    I have a theory that evolving novel structures is infeasible in the lifetime of the universe. Interestingly, my theory predicts exactly the same kind of lack of short-term results that yours predicts, and which the evidence supports.

  58. TFBW – “I have a theory that evolving novel structures is infeasible in the lifetime of the universe. Interestingly, my theory predicts exactly the same kind of lack of short-term results that yours predicts, and which the evidence supports.”

    Exactly. The lizard experiment could go either way based on continued research and Ray stated as much. It proves nothing. I didn’t even watch the video for this post before reading the comments (and still have not) but I am compelled to think, “Why are they still arguing about the lizards?”

    @Ray- Seeing as you cited the lizards, then argued as if the Christian ID crowd had actually used the citation in the first place, this seems to me to be obviously bad rhetoric. You begin with a “proof” then end up with, “Plasticity isn’t ruled out, yet, I grant – but that doesn’t mean it’s likely, for the reasons already mentioned. But here’s the thing – can we pin down the goalposts?”

    Instead of arguing about a biology experiment that has no conclusion, I want to know what Evolutionists (Atheist, Christian, or Otherwise) think of the mathematical argument against the chemical evolution of DNA as presented here -http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/molecular_biology_15.html#266

    Yes, the above listed article is an opinion piece (and I don’t know how to link :-P). However, I believe the argument and the cited quotations are pretty straight forward.
    1.) DNA chains have lots of nucleotides in a row.
    2.) The long chain of nucleotides are in a specific order.
    3.) Based on the number of available nucleotides and the length of the chain it is mathematically impossible to chemically produce DNA by chance.

    Darwin’s theory was based on the idea that cells were simple structures. Viruses are not even cellular organisms, and yet they contain DNA or RNA. Anyway, I think this “math” argument has been around for some time and I would like to know what argument is currently used to refute it.

    A related issue is the existence of enantiomers in biology (L-enantiomers and D-enantiomers of the same molecule). Most biologically active amino acids are L-amino acids and not racemic. The problem is well stated on Wikipedia – “Without a chiral influence (for example a chiral catalyst, solvent or starting material), a chemical reaction that makes a chiral product will always yield a racemate. That can make the synthesis of a racemate cheaper and easier than making the pure enantiomer, because it does not require special conditions. This fact also leads to the question of how biological homochirality evolved on what is presumed to be a racemic primordial earth.” If it is difficult for intelligent chemists to produce enantiomers, how did nature do it by chance? Again, I would like to know how this issue is being dealt with.

    As far as the goalpost thing – we are probably using two different definitions. Many scientists argue that microevolution is qualitatively the same as macroevolution. However, if I were to ask for the proof of “macroevolution” at this point I would be referring to a change from one Genus to another. Speciation is interesting, but I really don’t care if Canus lupus turns into a domestic dog.

    Have a great day and God bless. 🙂

  59. I’d like to add…

    Evolving new structures takes longer – and that’s not a cop-out, it’s exactly what the theory predicts.

    Lizards → fast evolution; fruit flies → no observable evolution — what does the theory predict, exactly? This looks more like post hoc rationalisation than prediction.

  60. Illness and projects and such – been busy for a while.

    bigbird –

    Ray, have you forgotten you are making the claim, not me? The evidence is not pointing your way – when do you intend to admit it?

    Some of the evidence isn’t pointing ‘my way’ – other evidence is (hatchlings again). “When do you intend to admit it?”

    You asked what I’d accept as an example of macro-evolution. I was telling you that a mutation in a gene that switches on an existing mechanism or disables an existing mechanism is not what I’d accept as an example of macro-evolution.

    Telling me what you wouldn’t accept is kind of a roundabout way of telling me what you would accept. Can you give me a positive hypothetical?

    TFBW –

    I have a theory that evolving novel structures is infeasible in the lifetime of the universe. Interestingly, my theory predicts exactly the same kind of lack of short-term results that yours predicts, and which the evidence supports.

    “The evidence” doesn’t support it, though. It’s argued against by fossil evidence (the ossicles) along with computer simulations like Tierra and Avida. Plus suggestive results like the lizards on Pod Mrcaru.

    Fox220 –

    You begin with a “proof”

    Hey, why are those double-quotes around that word? It’s not a word I’ve used in this thread, not even once. I have used the word “evidence”, though.

    If I get time, I’ll see if I can tackle your further questions. I don’t have time for a pair of lengthy essays right now.

    TFBW –

    Lizards → fast evolution; fruit flies → no observable evolution — what does the theory predict, exactly?

    “No observable evolution” is a massive misrepresentation. At most, you might be able to say, “no observable macroevolution”, but you haven’t clearly put forth your own definition of the term. (Nor, BTW, have you answered the question I posed way back in #30, but I admit I didn’t really expect any examples would be forthcoming.)

    Are you willing to admit that lots of short-term experiments are not the same thing as even one long-term experiment?

  61. Fox220- You say:

    Many scientists argue that microevolution is qualitatively the same as macroevolution. However, if I were to ask for the proof of “macroevolution” at this point I would be referring to a change from one Genus to another. Speciation is interesting, but I really don’t care if Canus lupus turns into a domestic dog.

    I would like to understand what you think would be proof of macroevolution.

    What is it that you would like to see change from one Genus to another?

    The mainstream understanding of evolution does not propose that an organism in one Genus ever gives birth to an organism that is in another Genus. If that were to happen it would be evidence against the mainstream understanding of evolution.

    And in the mainstream understanding of evolution, Genera (and other taxonomical divisions) are categories that humans have chosen to place populations of organisms into, not “real” things. So in that framework, we would not expect changes from one Genus to another (already existing) Genus. Again, if that were to happen it would be evidence against the mainstream understanding of evolution.

    The mainstream understanding proposes that as time passes, groups of descendants of a particular population of organisms may come to be so different from each other that they are called different species, and eventually may be thought of as being in different Genera.

    But you probably know all that. So I think you are referring to a change from a population whose members clearly look like members of one Genus, via descent, to a population whose members look very different (so different that if they existed at the same time, they would be placed in different Genera). The transition from land mammals to whales is one of the most discussed examples of that kind.

    If you have looked into that transition, (and setting aside for the moment the question of whether it happened because of unguided natural processes) would that transition be an example of what you mean by a change from one Genus to another? If not, why not?

    PS: Since I’ve interrupted the conversation to ask you questions, I at least should try to answer your open question for Evolutionists. 🙂 I haven’t read the link yet, but based on your summary, my first reaction is that (even though I don’t think it was intelligently designed and intelligently manifactured) I don’t think that DNA was produced by chance either, so the mathematical proof that it couldn’t have been produced that way is uninteresting.

  62. @Ray – Sorry about that, in post #14 you state that macroevolution has in fact be proven. In #27 Tom challenges the idea that macroevolution is an established fact. In #39 you post the link to the lizard article in response to Tom asking for a case where macroevolution has occurred (not has MAYBE occurred). In #52 bigbird challenges the idea that you provided clear evidence. In #55 you respond by implying that you have provided clear evidence. I apologize for using the word proof, it was meant to be a summation of – fact, case, and clear evidence. I will edit the post and change it to say clear evidence, the point is still the same.

    @Walter – yes, you understand correctly. I would consider land animals turning into whales to be macroevolution. I have not studied in depth on the subject. What I have seen of fossil evidence does not seem conclusive, however, if you could link to a good essay or article I will certainly entertain the idea.

    As fas as DNA goes – if not by chance or intelligent design, what is the third option?

    @Ray and Walter – I know I introduced a new idea to the thread, but is the homochirality of amino acids really something that evolutionists have no answer for?

    Edit – Sorry Ray, I can’t seem to edit old posts. I think the point still stands however.

  63. Fox220

    You asked if not intelligent design and not chance, what? That has helped me to clarify my thoughts.

    I think that every DNA molecule but the first one probably came into existence by the operation of natural laws. I do think it most likely that the first DNA molecule came into existence by chance, but I don’t think it was unlikely to happen, given the state of the universe at that time.

    (My uneducated guess about the state of the universe at that time is that in some place in the universe, there was at least one molecule (and there may have been billions of them) that was just like a DNA molecule, except that one atom (of say carbon) was missing. And then by chance a carbon atom bumped into the molecule in a particular orientation, with a particular force, and stuck. And there may have been billions of carbon atoms in the neighborhood).)

    You refer to a mathematical argument you summarize as follows:

    1.) DNA chains have lots of nucleotides in a row.
    2.) The long chain of nucleotides are in a specific order.
    3.) Based on the number of available nucleotides and the length of the chain it is mathematically impossible to chemically produce DNA by chance.

    The mathematical possibility of an event occurring depends on the prior situation. Given other probability arguments in this area that I’ve seen, and your summary, I expect that the argument does not rest on a clear and convincing analysis of what the situation might have been at the moment before the first DNA molecule came into existence. (After all nobody really knows what that moment was like.) It seems more likely that it will refer grandly to all the particles in the universe, arrayed at random, and all the smallest pieces of time.

    How does this argument describe the pre-existing situation? (Never mind, I should look it up myself).

  64. I think that every DNA molecule but the first one probably came into existence by the operation of natural laws.

    Of what use is a single DNA molecule? It isn’t going to produce any others without a lot of help.

  65. Dang me, I lost my first response to operator error. It was really convincing, but I’m too tired to recreate it in its entirety. 🙂

    Of what use is a single DNA molecule? It isn’t going to produce any others without a lot of help.

    Well, to expand the scenario I described above, it may have gotten help in producing others from bumping into other things besides that last carbon atom that made it officially DNA. There were probably other molecules in the neighborhood besides the two of them. (On another hand, it may have done something other than producing other DNA molecules)

    Perhaps the first DNA molecule arose in an evolutionary process. Those billions of other almost-DNA molecules were its cousins! And it could interact with them to produce other almost-DNA molecules. Just as whichever hominid we might (if we were omniscient) decide was the first human being apparently could interact productively with its non-human cousins.

  66. @Ray and Walter – I know I introduced a new idea to the thread, but is the homochirality of amino acids really something that evolutionists have no answer for?

    No. There doesn’t seem to be one agreed upon answer at the moment. Based on 30 seconds of research.

  67. Fox220- I finally took a look at the page with the mathematical argument you refer to above. The second sentence on the page is:

    An error in the sequence of the nucleotides making up a gene would render that gene completely useless.

    I may be missing something, but that sounds so odd to me that I would take everything else on the page with a grain of salt. What is an “error in the sequence”? Would that be any mutation? There are mutations in every new organisms conceived, as I understand it, and most of them have no noticeable effect on the organism. What would it even mean for a gene to be “useless”? Can anybody here put that into context so that it makes sense?

    Given that none of the references cited on the page are from after 1995-ish, the argument certainly does not come to grips with any current hypotheses or research. Frankly it’s run-of-the-mill creationism, argument by quotes snipped from context.

    At least the author has the integrity not to snip all the context. One of the quotes, from a famous scientist (Orgel, in a 1994 article) says: “And so, at first glance, one might have to conclude that life could never, in fact, have originated by chemical means.”

    But science is not done “at first glance.” I bet Orgel (or others) took a second glance. What do you suppose the next few paragraphs after that quote say? If they said something about how his second glance confirmed what he thought after his first glance, I think the website author would have mentioned that.

    As a matter of fact, I searched the internet and found what Orgel’s very next sentence, right after the “at first glance” bit, says (I’ve added some bolding for emphasis):

    In the late 1960sCarl R. Woese of the University of Illinois, Francis Crick, then at the Medical Research Council in England, and I (working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego) independently suggested a way out of this difficulty. We proposed that RNA might well have come first and established what is now called the RNA world – a world in which RNA catalyzed all the reactions necessary for a precursor of life’s last common ancestor to survive and replicate.”

    And Orgel continues to describe how he thinks it could have happened, even though at first glance he couldn’t imagine it.

    The RNA world hypothesis has not been confirmed, and it may be wrong, but it reflects poorly on the trustworthiness of the author of the page you referred to that he uses the quote without telling a little more of the story.

    It makes me think he is trying to win an argument, not share knowledge.

  68. Tom-
    No I have not studied the feasibility of the RNA world hypothesis. But don’t let yourself get distracted, Tom.

    Fox220’s question is: I want to know what Evolutionists (Atheist, Christian, or Otherwise) think of the mathematical argument against the chemical evolution of DNA as presented here -http://www.darwinismrefuted.com/molecular_biology_15.html#266

    The mathematical argument presented there is so vague, and fails so completely to reflect the actual mainstream understanding of how things happen, that it fails to even be an addressable argument. (As Fox clearly stated, the webpage is an opinion piece, not a rigorous scientific or mathematical paper).

    The fact that the webpage author (Harun Yahya) uses evidence so carelessly is another reason to be careful before accepting any of his arguments. Fox sets a much better example.

  69. @Walter – bravo, that is a lot of posting 🙂
    As far as the DNA and math argument, my point isn’t that the one article I looked up is definitive. My point is that the DNA molecule is like 1,000 bits of digital information, except DNA uses four variables instead of two. Computer programs don’t spontaneously come about from random number generators (though I actually think that would be a super cool experiment) and DNA is more complex due to the afore mentioned extra variables.

    The math takes into account a LONG period of time, as in – the age of the universe. So given hundreds of billions of years, AND given that particles could interact and adhere to each other, will the particles arrange themselves into the specific sequences that are needed for life? The answer mathematically is no. I believe the page I tried to link to stated the charitable estimate is the possibility of 1 in 10 to the 600th power. As in, 10 followed by 600 zeros.

    I am not saying that I believe in old Earth vs. new Earth. I am simply stating that the math takes into account the numbers given by evolutionary scientists.

    You will notice that the math takes into account your ideas about RNA and DNA like molecules. Similar molecules are accounted for as permutations #1-#999. Now, if you are arguing that after a certain point it is possible for natural selection to put positive pressure on the process that is a different thing. See the above comment about computer programing. An additional particle does not automatically do anything useful and therefore would not necessarily be selected for. The chance for selection is still there, but already accounted for in the mathematics of chance.

    As for the homochirality of amino acids, I believe the explanation I have seen from evolutionists is as follows. There may have been a special comet flying through the universe carrying amino acids. The comet was specifically heading towards Earth. On the way to Earth the special comet and it’s amino acids fly through circularly polarized radiation thereby destroying one “side” of the enantiomers. By the way, circularly polarized radiation accounts for about %17 of radiation in space.

    I think the ^above mentioned argument seems a little ridiculous. In this instance the mathematical argument would be something like – take the number of amino acids multiplied by the number of possible comets multiplied by the number of possible planets by the availability of circularly polarized radiation. I don’t know the numbers, but it seems to me the number would be more astronomical than 10 to the 600th power.

    Anyway, you are right to criticize the article I mentioned. It does seem to be more rhetoric than rigorous scholarly investigation. However, I think the argument still stands about the probabilities of DNA forming through random natural processes.

    Have a great day and God bless 🙂

  70. @Ray Ingles, #66:

    It’s argued against by fossil evidence (the ossicles) along with computer simulations like Tierra and Avida.

    The fossils argue against it if we assume that they are all related by common descent — which would be begging the question. As for your precious computer simulations, I’m happy to brush them aside with a wave of my hand and a “bah”. The onus is on you to prove that they bear any relevance to actual biology. Get back to me when you have empirical evidence, because I’m not persuaded by your arguments.

    At most, you might be able to say, “no observable macroevolution”, but you haven’t clearly put forth your own definition of the term.

    Actually, I’m pretty happy to go with “no observable evolution”. Cite observed examples of evolution if you wish to contradict me. We can argue definitions on a case by case basis, but clearly any “science” where the definitions are so vague is pretty immature.

    Nor, BTW, have you answered the question I posed way back in #30, but I admit I didn’t really expect any examples would be forthcoming.

    The one where you put the onus on me to go and research a bunch of textbooks that I don’t have access to in order to support a point I didn’t make? No, don’t expect any activity on that front.

    While we’re pointing out each other’s lack of response, however, I note that you didn’t answer my question, “what does the theory predict, exactly?” It seems you can retroactively say, “that’s exactly what evolution predicted!” without ever actually predicting anything.

    Are you willing to admit that lots of short-term experiments are not the same thing as even one long-term experiment?

    Yes. Are you willing to explain why we need one long-term experiment to observe fruit fly evolution?

  71. Fox220 –

    Sorry about that, in post #14 you state that macroevolution has in fact be proven.

    Pretty much – but not by a single “slam dunk” piece of evidence.

    is the homochirality of amino acids really something that evolutionists have no answer for?

    There’s no single accepted answer, just as there’s no accepted theory of abiogenesis. (That’s ‘theory’ in the scientific sense, of course.) There are several hypotheses about it – quite a few more than the one you mentioned – as the wikipedia page makes clear.

    In short, it’s not resolved, but it’s being actively investigated. That’s how it’s being “dealt with”. Google “origin of homochirality” if you are interested in more details.

    Follow-up question: if a natural, mechanistic account for the origin of homochirality were developed, would that make theism less likely in your view?

  72. Follow-up question: if a natural, mechanistic account for the origin of homochirality were developed, would that make theism less likely in your view?

    No, but it would make Theistic-evolution much more plausible.

  73. @Walter – I found a more rigorous article from 1997 that deals with what I suppose would now be called the “Information Argument.” Meaning, the article talks about the probability of DNA and amino acids. I’ll try to link below.

    http://www.discovery.org/a/1764

    Edit: I’m getting the hang of this HTML stuff 🙂

  74. There is also this article, with references
    http://www.darwinsmaths.com/

    If you google for ‘mathematical challenges to the neo-darwinian interpretation of evolution’ you will get a number of hits – one of which refers to a small symposium held back in the mid-1960’s on this question- it’s a bit dated now, but still worth a read if you can get hold of the published material.

    See here for a more hopeful resource.

  75. TFBW –

    The fossils argue against it if we assume that they are all related by common descent — which would be begging the question.

    Not at all. Many, many patterns – in fact, the overwhelming majority of imaginable patterns of fossil distribution – would be quite inconsistent with common descent. The fact that the distribution we see is so incredibly consistent with common descent is strong evidence indeed. When you add in the molecular evidence, it gets… well, as I said there, redonkulous.

    You can assert that that’s “theory-laden” but I’ve never seen you try to back that assertion up. Particularly with anything resembling math.

    Actually, I’m pretty happy to go with “no observable evolution”.

    Gotta admit, you surprised me there. Apparently we have very different definitions of the word ‘evolution’. Provide the definition of ‘evolution’ you’re using, and either (a) I’ll challenge that definition, or (b) I’m pretty sure I can come up with some examples.

    The one where you put the onus on me to go and research a bunch of textbooks that I don’t have access to in order to support a point I didn’t make?

    To quote TFBW: Natural theories hypotheses of abiogenesis are just one class of many such theories hypotheses which are vigorously discussed and analysed in such educational contexts.

    Here’s the breakdown:

    1. You claim that it’s “case closed” on abiogenesis.
    2. I point that’s not the case at all, that there’s no consensus among scientists about how life arose, just competing hypotheses.
    3. You say, more or less, “is so!”
    4. I point out as evidence that it’s not covered at any kind of introductory level – precisely because it’s not “case closed”.

    (Who’s the one who brought up the context of “undergraduate biology essay”, anyway?)

    I note that you didn’t answer my question, “what does the theory predict, exactly?”

    That it takes more than a few generations to produce a new genus?

    Let’s assume – again – that Tom’s right about generation times. He agrees that we’d not expect unequivocal ‘macroevolution’ in even 2,400 generations. The longest-term experiment with fruit-flies I found was “over 600 generations”. Where is Tom wrong?

    Are you willing to explain why we need one long-term experiment to observe fruit fly evolution?

    I said macroevolution, which is a term that’s been hard enough to pin down… but you don’t even agree on ‘evolution’, so we’ve got work to do before I can possibly even know what you’re asking.

  76. Fruit flies.

    Malaria.

    HIV.

    How many opportunities have they all had to evolve?

    What about Lenski’s E. coli?

    Note also: the fruit flies in question have been placed under enormous pressure for variation and selection. Have we seen any hint of a partial move toward a new structure or function (which is one useful way of defining macroevolution)?

    You see, new structures and/or functions cannot just pop into place all at once if Darwin’s “numerous slight successive modifications” view is correct. Besides just being there they need to be supplied metabolically, enervated, and supported with muscles and/or whatever else might be appropriate to whatever they may be. They have to have a way of being constructed during the embryonic or some later metamorphic/growth stage. Other organismic adjustments typically need to be made around them: brain receptors, for example, to correspond with new sensory capacities, and to process those new sensations adaptively. In some cases old functions need to be shed. The list could go on and on.

    That’s the kind of macroevolution I’m talking about. And just because we should only expect to see it in full-fledged form every 2400 generations or so, that does not mean we should see nothing positive appearing in between.

  77. Tom Gilson –

    Fruit flies. Malaria. HIV. How many opportunities have they all had to evolve?

    All of them have successful ecological niches that they can track. When have they needed to ‘evolve’? (Well, SIV becoming HIV apparently doesn’t count, rapidly developing the structures needed to preferentially attack humans rather than simians.) Note that malaria and HIV in particular don’t have reproductive isolation – they get mixed around by mobile humans so there’s no ‘smaller pools’ with no gene flow between them.

    Fruit flies have… in short experiments.

    What about Lenski’s E. coli? … Have we seen any hint of a partial move toward a new structure or function (which is one useful way of defining macroevolution)?

    Metabolizing citrate in the presence of oxygen doesn’t count, naturally.

    Note also: the fruit flies in question have been placed under enormous pressure for variation and selection.

    For fewer generations, and the populations are destroyed when the experiment’s over…

    You see, new structures and/or functions cannot just pop into place all at once if Darwin’s “numerous slight successive modifications” view is correct. Besides just being there they need to be supplied metabolically, enervated, and supported with muscles and/or whatever else might be appropriate to whatever they may be.

    Ossicles, baby!. (Unless, like bigbird, you’re going to (willfully?) misunderstand the fossil record…)

    And just because we should only expect to see it in full-fledged form every 2400 generations or so, that does not mean we should see nothing positive appearing in between.

    And what kind of example would you accept, though? As I said before, we’d be looking at redundancy, that then gets pared down. Metabolizing citrate despite oxygen is due to a gene duplication, right, and because of that it ‘doesn’t count’. Apparently we need to wait for the ‘paring down’ to happen, too

  78. Many, many patterns – in fact, the overwhelming majority of imaginable patterns of fossil distribution – would be quite inconsistent with common descent.

    Sure, what we see is consistent with Darwinian common descent — except when it isn’t. The expected outcome of Darwinian gradualism is a continuum of branching and meandering forms, not the pockets of stasis that we actually observe, or the Cambrian explosion, and so on. I’m not imagining this stuff: Gould and Eldredge parted ways with gradualism precisely because of the fossil evidence, and it’s not like they were creationists.

    You can assert that that’s “theory-laden” but I’ve never seen you try to back that assertion up.

    See above. See “stasis”. See “convergent evolution”. See “Lazarus taxon”. See any number of other ad hoc terms which have been coined to explain why the data is unlike what we would expect given Darwinian evolution. These are the epicycles of Darwinism. You probably aren’t persuaded by this, but that’s beside the point: you’ve now seen me try. Whether or not the attempt can actually break the spell is not my problem.

    I’m pretty sure I can come up with some examples.

    Feel free to define evolution yourself, then, and come up with as many examples of fruit fly “evolution” as you like. Knock yourself out. I can only hope that there is some kind of difference between “evolution” and “mutation”, though. Or let me put it this way: whatever you define “evolution” to be — you’d better be prepared to stick with that definition, because I’ll call you out the moment I see an equivocation shell game wasting my time.

    I point out as evidence that it’s not covered at any kind of introductory level – precisely because it’s not “case closed”.

    Okay, I’ll meet you half-way on this one. You find us a good representative example (or two) of an undergraduate textbook which covers evolution online, and I’ll search it for references to abiogenesis.

    That it takes more than a few generations to produce a new genus?

    And that’s what we’re seeing with the fruit flies? Well, booyah. My theory predicts that it will take longer than the heat death of the universe to randomly change a fruit fly into something that isn’t a fruit fly. Guess my theory is well supported by empirical evidence, then.

    But what about the lizards? It didn’t take more than a few generations of lizards for you to be flaunting them as examples of something that evolution predicted. What was it that evolution predicted regarding the lizards? And how come people always make evolutionary predictions retrospectively?

  79. @TFBW

    And how come people always make evolutionary predictions retrospectively?

    Because having decided that the interpretive paradigm is evolution, all observed data must be interpreted thusly 🙂

    Now, on one hand, that is generally how science works (so atomic and molecular physicists, for example, design experiments and interpret results or do theoretical or computational work, all within the interpretative framework of modern quantum theory), until it becomes clear that there are observations and data that cannot be made to fit into the framework (which is why Classical Physics had to give way to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics). It is also why physicists, at least, are always testing the framework itself.

    On the other hand, for biology that becomes a Procrustean bed, where those committed to the framework for metaphysical reasons will invariably make the data fit, or they simply assert without substantial proof that the observed data was produced by a natural evolutionary process.

  80. … on one hand, that is generally how science works …

    Well said, Victoria, but there’s more than one thing that gets called “science”, and those things are unlike in many ways, despite the shared name.

    Theories of physics earn their stripes by predicting the outcome of reproducible experiments to five sigma significance. Once that level of assurance is reached, there is good cause to employ those theories as explanations of past events.

    Theories of evolutionary ancestry, on the other hand, have no such opportunity to make precise predictions and prove their accuracy experimentally. The strong adjectives and loud voices of true believers assert the reliability of the science in lieu of experimental results, and we are expected to bow to their scientific authority.

  81. The expected outcome of Darwinian gradualism

    You mean the way Darwin originally conceived it 150 years ago? There’s been just a little work since, y’know. You even bring up a bit of it, and it doesn’t mean what you seem to think it means:

    Gould and Eldredge parted ways with gradualism precisely because of the fossil evidence, and it’s not like they were creationists.

    From your link: “Punctuated equilibrium is often portrayed to oppose the concept of gradualism, when it is actually a form of gradualism.” It’s really not clear to me you have any real handle on what you’re rejecting.

    You probably aren’t persuaded by this, but that’s beside the point: you’ve now seen me try.

    It sure is an attempt. You’ve got me there. But your expectations were fulfilled, yes.

    Feel free to define evolution yourself, then, and come up with as many examples of fruit fly “evolution” as you like… I’ll call you out the moment I see an equivocation shell game wasting my time.

    I might find time for that in a couple weeks. It’s clear that I’m going to have to cover a lot of ground with you, based on just this post of yours alone. (My own expectation is that you’ll call my point about ‘gradualism’ “an equivocation shell game”, even though I’m quoting your source.)

    Okay, I’ll meet you half-way on this one. You find us a good representative example (or two) of an undergraduate textbook which covers evolution online

    Here you go, from Prentice Hall. (I’ll save you some time, check 16.1 – remember, what we’re looking for is “taught as a theory rather than a hypothesis”.) Have fun.

    Got to go do real work, I’m afraid.

  82. You mean the way Darwin originally conceived it 150 years ago?

    No, I was referring to so-called “neo-Darwinism”, which has been the dominant theory for sixty or seventy years, and thus rarely attracts the prefix “neo” any more. Clearly, you are determined to interpret anything I say in the least charitable possible way, rather than have a candid discussion.

    It’s really not clear to me you have any real handle on what you’re rejecting.

    The point is that Gould and Eldredge looked at the fossil evidence and concluded that it did not mesh with the predictions of evolution as normally stated, and therefore advanced their own theory of development. Do you think that Gould and Eldredge are wrong, or are you not concerned about which particular variety of evolution the evidence supports, so long as it can be interpreted as support for some kind of evolution?

    It’s clear that I’m going to have to cover a lot of ground with you, based on just this post of yours alone.

    If you are just going to use it as an opportunity to be smug and patronising, then don’t bother.

    My own expectation is that you’ll call my point about ‘gradualism’ “an equivocation shell game”, even though I’m quoting your source.

    Given that the section from which you quoted bears the title, “multiple meanings of gradualism,” you could well be right. Does nothing in this field have an unequivocal meaning? It’s like the whole endeavour thrives on vagueness and ambiguity.

    Here you go, from Prentice Hall.

    That’s a high school text, not an undergraduate text. In fact, the link you’ve provided doesn’t even include the actual text of the book: it’s a CD-ROM multimedia companion to the text. To the extent that it contains anything relevant, it has an interactive diagram of Miller’s experiment — an experiment based on a model of the early atmosphere that is no longer generally accepted. Is this supposed to be sufficient evidence to make a point of some sort, or are you just throwing random quasi-related links at me?

  83. It’s like the whole endeavour thrives on vagueness and ambiguity.

    This is true, and it’s why these arguments persist. I blame the people who insist (because of their preconceptions) that the language of naturalistic evolution MUST explain all of biological history (after first life). It’s the biological equivalent of the “Theory of Everything”.

  84. TFBW –

    No, I was referring to so-called “neo-Darwinism”, which has been the dominant theory for sixty or seventy years, and thus rarely attracts the prefix “neo” any more.

    Actually, it’s not really even “Darwinism” anymore, except among its critics. It’s almost a litmus test. Nobody calls Relativity “Einsteinism”, ’cause there isn’t an organized movement opposing the ideas of Relativity.

    Clearly, you are determined to interpret anything I say in the least charitable possible way, rather than have a candid discussion.

    Funny, that’s how I feel I’m treated on this site.

    The point is that Gould and Eldredge looked at the fossil evidence and concluded that it did not mesh with the predictions of evolution as normally stated,

    …well, stated at the time. And only some of the evidence, at that. As they themselves made clear over and over to anyone who’d actually read their words.

    Do you think that Gould and Eldredge are wrong, or are you not concerned about which particular variety of evolution the evidence supports, so long as it can be interpreted as support for some kind of evolution?

    Dude, ‘punctuated equilibrium’ is a model of the pace and tempo of evolution, not a whole different form of evolution. I think Gould and Eldredge made a good case for their model applying in most cases, but they can be right and evolution – in particular, common descent and the pattern thereof being strong evidence for it – can be right too. Music is still music if it’s played allegro or adagio, and evolution’s still evolution even if the tempo differs, too.

    It’s not clear to me you’ve actually read that Wikipedia page you originally pointed out. It’s pretty straightforward about this.

    If you are just going to use it as an opportunity to be smug and patronising, then don’t bother.

    #12.

    Does nothing in this field have an unequivocal meaning? It’s like the whole endeavour thrives on vagueness and ambiguity.

    The meaning of ‘gradualism’ being used is made clear in the very section I pointed out. Every field has specialized meanings for otherwise common terms. Ask Victoria. If as a computer science type I discuss an “atomic bus operation”, the meaning is perfectly defined… but not what a non-computer science reader might picture.

    That’s a high school text, not an undergraduate text.

    Well, I did mention K-12 before, and it’s a good example of how abiogenesis is treated as a hypothesis at that level. But for college-level, full free textbooks are thin on the ground. How about MIT’s open courseware? Or Berkeleys?

    In fact, the link you’ve provided doesn’t even include the actual text of the book: it’s a CD-ROM multimedia companion to the text.

    But that’s pretty complete, and it shows exactly what I’m talking about. Go ahead, read.

    Is this supposed to be sufficient evidence to make a point of some sort

    That “abiogenesis is taught as a [hypothesis] rather than a [theory], particularly at the K-12 or undergraduate level”, yes.

  85. Actually, it’s not really even “Darwinism” anymore, except among its critics. It’s almost a litmus test. Nobody calls Relativity “Einsteinism”, ’cause there isn’t an organized movement opposing the ideas of Relativity.

    Fine, I’ll just call it Evolution if it’s less offensive to you. Trouble is that, unlike Relativity, Evolution lacks a clear and unequivocal meaning. Relativity has mathematical formulae. You’ve accused me of arguing without definitions, and then when I cite “Darwinism”, you suppose I’m talking about Darwin’s original formulation. The thing that you believe and defend is so ill-defined that it’s not possible to even identify it in order to criticise it. It’s the ultimate in unfalsifiability.

    … evolution’s still evolution even if the tempo differs, too.

    I’ll take that as, “not concerned about which particular variety of evolution the evidence supports, so long as it can be interpreted as support for some kind of evolution.” And that being so, you’re not defending a theory, you’re defending a worldview. In that latter case, there is no need for precision or clarity, so the lack of it is no surprise at all.

    Also, there’s little point in arguing science with you, because you’re just using it as a prop. Rest assured that there is enough supporting evidence out there to keep you smug and satisfied that you’re right, so long as you maintain best “confirmaiton bias” practices. Keep up the good work.

    The meaning of ‘gradualism’ being used is made clear in the very section I pointed out.

    The fact that even this term has more than one meaning is pointed out in the heading of the very section that you quoted.

    If as a computer science type I discuss an “atomic bus operation”, the meaning is perfectly defined… but not what a non-computer science reader might picture.

    Whereas “gradualism” is not precisely defined, even within the technical field, unless that heading in Wikipedia is very misleading — in which case you should make it clear that you disagree with the source rather than calling it “my” source and quoting it extremely selectively.

    That “abiogenesis is taught as a [hypothesis] rather than a [theory], particularly at the K-12 or undergraduate level”, yes.

    I see. The thing is, you said all that in response to these remarks from me:

    There is still a little leeway there to argue about which naturalistic mechanism produced LUCA. It’s “case closed” as regards the naturalistic part, of course, but the other details aren’t quite nailed down yet.

    To me, these remarks seem like a fair summary of the text, with the caveat that “naturalism” is implicit rather than explicit in the text. The section that you cite has the following conclusion, for example.

    Laboratory simulations cannot prove that the chemical evolution described above actually led to life on primitive Earth. They only show that such events could have taken place. Debate abounds about the nature of each step and about missing steps that have not yet been tested by experiments. But such debates represent what science is all about: seeking possible explanations, developing hypotheses, and testing those hypotheses through experiments.

    So while the text supports your assertion that the word “hypothesis” is used to describe models of abiogenesis, the text also supports exactly what I said. Evidently, your original response didn’t really contradict me, although it was presented as such.

    You said, at the time, “you’re just annoyed that some people are placing different bets than you,” but that’s not the case. I’m annoyed that an entire class of bets is categorically ruled out a priori, to the extent that texts avoid using language which might even acknowledge the possibility of such an alternative, even if that happens to be where the truth lies.

  86. TFBW –

    Trouble is that, unlike Relativity, Evolution lacks a clear and unequivocal meaning.

    I disagree. “Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations” seems pretty clear.

    Compare that to a definition of Relativity: “the dependence of various physical phenomena on relative motion of the observer and the observed objects, esp. regarding the nature and behavior of light, space, time, and gravity.”

    Neither definition gets deep into ramifications or the math – the precise nature of the relationships between ‘heritable changes’ or ‘physical phenomena’. But that doesn’t mean that either is meaningless. It just means you have to study a bit if you want to understand the subject.

    And that being so, you’re not defending a theory, you’re defending a worldview.

    Sorry, no. The definition above is not comprehensive enough to define a worldview. And speaking of ‘confirmation bias’, I think you need to do just a tiny bit more reading. Here are three links that came off the page you originally linked to:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gradualism#Geology_and_biology
    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_opus200.html (In particular, search for the phrase ‘this insight’ and read a few paragraphs.)
    And most particularly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyletic_gradualism

    The vagueness you complain of seems to be more a product of not studying the subject, than a problem with the subject itself. When you complain ‘“gradualism” is not precisely defined, even within the technical field, unless that heading in Wikipedia is very misleading’ – you have to actually read beyond the heading. The entire point of that section is clarifying what the meaning “within the technical field” is. It’s actually surprising to me that you’re not picking up on that.

    To me, these remarks seem like a fair summary of the text, with the caveat that “naturalism” is implicit rather than explicit in the text.

    You’re not picking up on the significant difference in tone between that section and the other sections. The development of life post-origin is where the theory comes in, and the text is very clear about what’s known there, not just hypothesized. The origin of life, on the other hand, is all hypothesis in that text, along with the other things I’ve pointed you to.

    I’m annoyed that an entire class of bets is categorically ruled out a priori, to the extent that texts avoid using language which might even acknowledge the possibility of such an alternative, even if that happens to be where the truth lies.

    Hang on, though – how exactly should supernatural hypotheses be treated in a science class? I’ve discussed alleged miraculous healings before – should those be covered in med school? If so, how?

    A ‘naturalistic’ bent in a science class seems perfectly sensible to me – so long as it’s very clear what’s a scientific theory, and what’s just a hypothesis.

    Other bets aren’t ruled out. But they are – as you will have to admit – not scientific hypotheses, and why then should they be brought up in science classes?

  87. Evolution lacks a clear and unequivocal meaning.

    The real issue with evolution as a theory is not that its meaning is unclear. The theory has substantial explanatory power, but has very little predictive power (as various posts have pointed out).

    As an aside, I came across this quote today, from Donn Rosen, a curator of ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History: “Darwin said that speciation occurred too slowly for us to see it. Gould and Eldredge said it occurred too quickly for us to see it. Either way we don’t see it.”

  88. “Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations” seems pretty clear.

    Then you have remarkably low standards of clarity. Neither of those “definitions” (Evolution or Relativity) are worthy of the term. At best, they are vague general descriptions — with the Evolution one being so vague that it could just as well be describing selective breeding. On the other hand, it’s so narrow that it makes no mention whatsoever of universal common ancestry, which seems a bit of a glaring omission.

    Relativity is defined by a set of mathematical equations. Evolution is different things to different people at different times, sometimes on a sentence by sentence basis.

    … you have to actually read beyond the heading.

    Not to make my point, I don’t. Either the heading is accurate, in which case “gradualism” has multiple meanings (which is my specific claim in this case), or the heading is not accurate. I’ve invited you to denounce the heading, and you’ve declined to do so, so I take it that you consider it fair. I don’t need to know the details of the multiple definitions in order to assert that there are multiple definitions. “Gradualism” is an ambiguous technical term because there is more than one kind of gradualism to which it may refer. I rest my case.

    Your earlier quip about an “atomic bus operation” is a model of clarity by comparison. I know immediately that you are talking about an operation which utilises a shared communications channel in a manner that can not be interrupted part-way. No further context is necessary.

    You’re not picking up on the significant difference in tone between that section and the other sections.

    It was never my intention to discuss the difference in tone between the sections. I don’t care about the difference in tone. I care about implicit naturalism.

    Hang on, though – how exactly should supernatural hypotheses be treated in a science class?

    Who said anything about a supernatural hypothesis? Intelligent Design is not inherently a supernatural hypothesis. I am surrounded by things which have been intelligently designed by ordinary human beings. We do not normally consider this to be supernatural agency, do we? On the other hand, we do distinguish man-made artefacts from natural formations. We distinguish a natural rock bridge, formed by erosion, from a stone viaduct. Products of human artifice are neither natural nor supernatural in origin: they are artificial. This is not about a contrast between natural and supernatural: it is a contrast between natural and artificial.

    Modern biology is entirely framed within the (usually implicit) assumption that life is a natural phenomenon, not an artificial one — a product of intelligent activity. Your example textbook is a textbook example. It readily acknowledges that “debate abounds” about how life arose, but the scope of that debate is one of which natural process was responsible, thus the emphasis on experiments like the Miller-Urey experiment. Miller-Urey may be outmoded from the perspective of current early-earth atmosphere models, but it is exactly the right kind of thing from an experimental perspective — an attempt to reproduce the components of life via plausibly natural processes.

    But they are – as you will have to admit – not scientific hypotheses …

    Why is “life is artificial” not a scientific hypothesis? Is this a methodological naturalism thing?

  89. TFBW:

    If you cannot check whether a hypothesis is true or untrue, then it is not a scientific hypothesis.

    Science works by coming with explanations for observed phenomena, then making predictions based on the explanation, then checking to see if the predictions come true. Every time something unexpected happens, the explanation gets refined or changed utterly.

    Evolution is a concept that made many predictions that came true (no modern species in fossil record, the older the fossil the simpler it’s organization, and many more predictions).

    God as a scientific hypothesis makes no predictions about what we should observe, and as a hypothesis only exists in competition with naturalistic explanations that explain the same phenomena yet also make further predictions to test. It is not scientific, and doesn’t help us to understand the nature of reality.

  90. If you cannot check whether a hypothesis is true or untrue, then it is not a scientific hypothesis. Science works by coming with explanations for observed phenomena, then making predictions based on the explanation, then checking to see if the predictions come true.

    It just isn’t that simple to define what is scientific or not. For example, many scientific claims can’t be falsified, so it is impossible to check if they are false.

    Checking whether a hypothesis is true is using induction, and Popper conceived of falsification because it promised to remove the reliance on induction.

    God as a scientific hypothesis makes no predictions about what we should observe, and as a hypothesis only exists in competition with naturalistic explanations that explain the same phenomena yet also make further predictions to test. It is not scientific, and doesn’t help us to understand the nature of reality.

    1) The Standard Model makes no predictions about what we should observe either. You can’t directly observe subatomic particles. Does that make the Standard Model unscientific?

    2) Are you equating scientific hypotheses as the only way to understand the nature of reality? That smacks of logical positivism, which has been long discredited.

  91. At best, they are vague general descriptions… Relativity is defined by a set of mathematical equations.

    Well, a bit more than that. A context for what they apply to, certainly. But then, evolution has things like population genetics – that’s one the key things that the modern synthesis brought to the table.

    Indeed, this lack of context is apparent here:

    “gradualism” has multiple meanings… “Gradualism” is an ambiguous technical term

    That’s the key problem. Gradualism has multiple meanings in different contexts. But how it’s used as a technical term is not ambiguous. Read below the heading and it explains specifically how the term is applied in a technical context. The confusion arises when people try to apply meanings from some other context (including completely non-technical ones). My use of ‘atomic’ means one thing in computer science, but means something rather different in nuclear physics, let alone chemistry.

    I don’t “denounce” the heading, because all you have to do is read the text that it heads up to make this clear.

    Who said anything about a supernatural hypothesis?

    Only everyone who talks about “intelligent design” when they aren’t making legally binding statements. (Well, okay, Crick used to actually think maybe it was aliens, but he changed his mind about intelligent design.)

    Why is “life is artificial” not a scientific hypothesis? Is this a methodological naturalism thing?

    To the extent that “life is artificial” is a scientific hypothesis, though, it’s a failed hypothesis. Every purported case of ‘irreducible complexity’ that’s been put forth – the vertebrate clotting cascade, the adaptive immune system, the bacterial flagellum, etc. – has not panned out. Let alone the hash that’s been made of information theory. If there’s ever any there there, we could revisit the status of ‘intelligent design’ as science.

  92. bigbird –

    For example, many scientific claims can’t be falsified, so it is impossible to check if they are false.

    Well, now, that just cries out for an example or two.

    The Standard Model makes no predictions about what we should observe either.

    On the contrary, it makes many predictions! You may recall a recent example. Oh, wait…

    You can’t directly observe subatomic particles.

    But we can observe the effects thereof. To many decimal places, in fact.

  93. bigbird –

    [Evolution] has substantial explanatory power, but has very little predictive power (as various posts have pointed out).

    False. I’ve gone over the twin nested hierarchies here before, as you might recall. Evolution positively requires that be the case. That’s just one example.

  94. For example, many scientific claims can’t be falsified, so it is impossible to check if they are false.

    Well, now, that just cries out for an example or two.

    Ok, here’s a few. Any existential statement can’t be falsified. Say your hypothesis postulates the existence of black holes. Failure to find what you hypothesize can never falsify your hypothesis.

    How about probabilistic theories – say the half life of an element? An experiment to measure half life can always result in an improbable outcome – it can’t falsify.

    Then there’s scientific principles that don’t actually apply to anything, such as Newton’s first law of motion. That can’t be falsified, because it is impossible to have an object that is not acted upon by an external force.

    You said:

    God as a scientific hypothesis makes no predictions about what we should observe

    and I said

    The Standard Model makes no predictions about what we should observe either.

    You said:

    On the contrary, it makes many predictions!

    The Standard Model makes predictions about unobservable entities. We can only observe them indirectly. We don’t even know if these entities exist.

    I can also make predictions about what I expect to see given the hypothesis of God existing.

    I’m not claiming espistemological equivalence here, but rather pointing out that many scientific theories are about unobservable, hypothetical entities whose existence is far from certain.

  95. But how it’s used as a technical term is not ambiguous.

    Okay, sick of banging my head against that wall now.

    Only everyone who talks about “intelligent design” when they aren’t making legally binding statements.

    Innuendo. Slur. Boring.

    To the extent that “life is artificial” is a scientific hypothesis, though, it’s a failed hypothesis.

    Ominous. Which judge made this final decision, and when? I figured that scientific hypotheses were “failed” when nobody was willing to defend them any more. That’s not the case here, unless you take the Dawkins route of saying that No True Scientist doubts evolution because anyone who doubts evolution is Not a True Scientist. Familiar territory.

  96. TFBW –

    Okay, sick of banging my head against that wall now.

    You can open up the door and let yourself out any time you like. All you have to do is read the link you yourself provided.

    Innuendo. Slur. Boring.

    Seems a pretty apt description of your #12, actually.

    Which judge made this final decision, and when?

    Considering that I explicitly left open the possibility of ID actually coming up with some evidence, someday, it’s odd that you characterize the ‘decision’ as ‘final’. But I was also pretty explicit about the reasons for the current evaluation of ID – it predicts things like “irreducible complexity”, but hasn’t actually found an example yet.

  97. bigbird –

    Any existential statement can’t be falsified. Say your hypothesis postulates the existence of black holes. Failure to find what you hypothesize can never falsify your hypothesis.

    Problem is, scientific hypotheses don’t just make single existence claims. They make a bunch of connected claims, and they all have to hang together. You don’t just predict black holes, you predict the conditions under which they form and figure out what effects they would have and the probability of spotting them. If the odds say you should see X over Y time, and at the end of Y time you don’t see them, that’s strong evidence that something’s wrong. C.f. magnetic monopoles.

    How about probabilistic theories – say the half life of an element? An experiment to measure half life can always result in an improbable outcome – it can’t falsify.

    But the amount of improbability itself can be precisely quantified! Eventually the improbability would become large enough to make the hypothesis a very bad bet. Plus, there’s the whole interconnected set of claims – the half-life of an element depends on quite few other QM properties that can be directly measured. And, of course, the fact that half-life has proven so reliable so far cannot be discounted as evidence.

    Then there’s scientific principles that don’t actually apply to anything, such as Newton’s first law of motion. That can’t be falsified, because it is impossible to have an object that is not acted upon by an external force.

    Ah, but you can approach the limit, and see how far the predictions hold. C.f. the first link above.

    The Standard Model makes predictions about unobservable entities. We can only observe them indirectly.

    But, because of the interconnectedness of the model, it makes a huge range of ‘indirect’ predictions. The computer you’re reading this on is just one. C.f. Relativity (you depend on it every time you use your GPS) and evolution (predictions about the fossil record, homology, molecular biology, geographical biodiversity, etc. etc.)

    Any one observation can be fuzzy. But add in a few millions…

  98. Seems a pretty apt description of your #12, actually.

    If you insist. Welcome down to my level.

    Considering that I explicitly left open the possibility of ID actually coming up with some evidence, someday, it’s odd that you characterize the ‘decision’ as ‘final’.

    And who gets to decide if the evidence that ID theorists present qualifies as evidence or not, hmm? Full marks if you answered, “the ideologically entrenched incumbent authorities.” Let us know when the evidence meets your standards, masters.

    And on that note, I’ve had enough. Adios. Feel free to have the last word.

  99. Ray, falsification means you make an observation that is not possible if your hypothesis is correct. The classic example is “all swans are white”.

    Your statements including “strong evidence that something’s wrong”, “make the hypothesis a very bad bet” and “approach the limit, and see how far the predictions hold” don’t address falsification at all. You seem to be talking about confirmation, or lack thereof.

    Any one observation can be fuzzy. But add in a few millions…

    It makes not the slightest bit of difference. We aren’t observing these entities – they are theoretical. They may actually exist of course, but we don’t really know. Accurate predictions from a mathematical model doesn’t necessarily entail that the entities postulated by that model actually exist.

  100. TFBW –

    If you insist. Welcome down to my level.

    Obviously, I disagree about the validity of your statement vs. mine. But even if you were correct, it’s odd that you would object to behavior that you initiated. Seems like an ‘own goal’ to me, but oh well.

    And who gets to decide if the evidence that ID theorists present qualifies as evidence or not, hmm?

    Other scientists, sure. Of course, no one can claim that scientists haven’t been very clear about why they don’t consider anything the ID types have yet put forth to qualify yet. I linked to a bunch last time. I haven’t seen a lot of grappling with those arguments, just a lot of nattering about putative ill motives. C.S. Lewis knew better than that.

  101. bigbird –

    Your statements including “strong evidence that something’s wrong”, “make the hypothesis a very bad bet” and “approach the limit, and see how far the predictions hold” don’t address falsification at all. You seem to be talking about confirmation, or lack thereof.

    Well, of course! Humans don’t get to have logical certainty about the real world. Even if you see a black swan, can you be certain it hasn’t been painted black? As Gould put it, “In science, fact can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.”

    There aren’t degrees of falsification, but there are degrees of confirmation, or lack thereof. As I already pointed out, scientific claims aren’t just “black holes exist”. They are along the lines of “if black holes exist, they will have such-and-such properties. In that case, we would see behavior so-and-so.” Then the question becomes, do we actually see that data? Do we see orbits that match those predicted? Do we see emissions and accretion disks that match the predictions?

    If we don’t find that kind of data, it’s a strong sign that the proposed entity doesn’t exist. Not absolute falsification – we hardly ever get that in the real world. (I mean, I can prove there isn’t a full-grown African elephant on my keyboard, but most things in the world are less certain.) That’s why I pointed to magnetic monopoles – there are some theoretical reasons to think they might exist, but no observations have been made of their predicted properties, despite people looking for them. Doesn’t “prove” they don’t exist, but puts an upper limit on the probability of their existing.

    Accurate predictions from a mathematical model doesn’t necessarily entail that the entities postulated by that model actually exist.

    Of course, we could also be brains in vats, too. The degree of confirmation can become so high that you either need to (a) resort to special pleading for an abnormally high threshold of acceptance, or else (b) retreat to solipsism.

    I can’t claim that, say, electrons exist with probability “1”. On the other hand, I’d say it’s “0.999…” and an absurd number of nines after that. My degree is in electrical engineering, so I can list – ahem – a lot of reasons why.

    Where would you put the probability of electrons existing – and more importantly, why?

  102. bigbird

    There can never be an absolute certainty that our ideas about reality correspond 100% with external reality. But the fact that we as a species survive after quite a lot of time on this planet proves that the correspondence is good enough to survive. It is the fact that scientific theory and the technology it produces works that shows that it has a degree of corespondence to reality. Falsifiability is just a philosophical notion. How do we get to that theory? Through logic, facts and the scientific method. All other systems of arriving at knowledge have proven to be way behind these. As it happens to be the best and most justified knowledge we have, the scientific, is quite in contradiction with anything supernatural. So it’s not a question of falsification, but of justification, and the scientific naturalistic worldview is strongly justified, while the naturalistic is very weakly justified. The rational choice is easy.

  103. Well, of course! Humans don’t get to have logical certainty about the real world. Even if you see a black swan, can you be certain it hasn’t been painted black? As Gould put it, “In science, fact can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.”

    I’m not disputing Gould’s view, and I’m not talking about “logical certainty”. I was talking about falsification, not confirmation. They are two different concepts. I was simply pointing out that there are some theories or principles in science that can’t be falsified.

    As I already pointed out, scientific claims aren’t just “black holes exist”. They are along the lines of “if black holes exist, they will have such-and-such properties. In that case, we would see behavior so-and-so.” Then the question becomes, do we actually see that data? Do we see orbits that match those predicted? Do we see emissions and accretion disks that match the predictions?

    If we don’t find that kind of data, it’s a strong sign that the proposed entity doesn’t exist. Not absolute falsification – we hardly ever get that in the real world.

    Again, you are now talking about confirmation, not falsification. NOT finding expected data is NOT falsification. It’s lack of confirmation. Not the same thing.

    I agree that not finding the expected data may well mean that your theory is wrong (I make no claim to be a disciple of Popper). But it still isn’t what is known as falsification.

    Of course, we could also be brains in vats, too. The degree of confirmation can become so high that you either need to (a) resort to special pleading for an abnormally high threshold of acceptance, or else (b) retreat to solipsism.

    It’s not that simple. Confirmation is about showing that theories produce the expected results.

    You are confusing confirmation of the accuracy of a theory with confirmation of the unobservable entities postulated by that theory. It’s NOT the same thing.

    Many, many times in the past science has postulated the existence of unobservable entities because they were required to make theories produce the expected results. In many of those cases, we don’t believe those entities exist any more.

    In many other cases, the entities we once postulated are understood in a completely different way today – in fact only the label is the same.

    I can’t claim that, say, electrons exist with probability “1″. On the other hand, I’d say it’s “0.999…” and an absurd number of nines after that. My degree is in electrical engineering, so I can list – ahem – a lot of reasons why.

    One of my degrees is in mathematics and physics, so I’m well aware of the indirect evidence that exists for electrons.

    But again, don’t confuse the degree of confirmation of a theory with the degree of confirmation about the existence of the unobservable entities postulated by that theory.

    Rather than spend much more time on this, here’s a good article on the arguments for and against scientific realism. You may find it is not as clear cut as you imagine.

  104. It is the fact that scientific theory and the technology it produces works that shows that it has a degree of corespondence to reality.

    Well no-one disputes that, do they? After all, scientific theories are specifically designed to have a degree of correspondence to reality!

    The salient point in my discussion with Ray was scientific realism – whether the entities in our theories that we can’t observe actually exist or not. That is a completely different question to whether the theories actually work.

  105. bigbird

    If the elements in a theory exist, then there will be a greater chance that the theory will work, compared to a theory which contains non existent entities, and therefore is based on false premisses. So there is a connection between the ‘working’ of a theory and it’s possible correspondence with reality and thus with the possible existence of it’s entities.
    It’s the scientific method, which a.o. consists in replacing theories with more justified theories, which has as a consequence that it’s entities are more likely real and also that it’s theories are superior than theories based on intuition, sacred books, authority figures, …

  106. If the elements in a theory exist, then there will be a greater chance that the theory will work, compared to a theory which contains non existent entities, and therefore is based on false premisses.

    I take it that this is a scientific statement that you have demonstrated via the scientific method?

    If so, please cite a reference.

    If not, then it falls into the category of non-scientific knowledge that you seem to scorn.

  107. The scientific method consists of logic (rational reasoning), facts and testing. Not all three have to be present to justify an argument. So, for instance, the argument from evil is a killer argument against a certain definition of God. It’s based on logic not testing. And it’s rational reasoning which brought me to the statement above. If you base your theory on elements that don’t exist, and so also on their properties that don’t exist, then it seems very likely that your statements based on those false properties will be faulty as well. You could be lucky and get a few things right by accident of course. The opposite for elements and properties that exist. One doesns’t always need a scientific reference or a test to justify one’s argument. A philosopher who argues along the same lines defending scientific realism is Richard Boyd. An example could be; someone who explains human behavior by referring to the nonexistent influence of the stars, compared with an explanation of certain behavior based on the influence of a chemical substance.

  108. The scientific method consists of logic (rational reasoning), facts and testing. Not all three have to be present to justify an argument. So, for instance, the argument from evil is a killer argument against a certain definition of God. It’s based on logic not testing. And it’s rational reasoning which brought me to the statement above.

    It looks to me like you just blew away your own argument for the uniqueness of scientific knowledge.

    Now you are conceding that logic and rational reasoning are valid ways of obtaining knowledge, and that you think philosophical arguments are of value in determining whether or not God exists.

    Try reading some of Plantinga’s philosophy – you might find yourself convinced!

  109. bigbird –

    I was talking about falsification, not confirmation. They are two different concepts.

    I’m not sure anything would count as ‘falsification’ as you seem to be using it. You say that the Standard Model makes no falsifiable predictions, but many people said that if the Large Hadron Collider didn’t find the Higgs Boson within a particular energy range, that would be a major blow against it.

    You are confusing confirmation of the accuracy of a theory with confirmation of the unobservable entities postulated by that theory. It’s NOT the same thing.

    But, again, there comes a point where the withholding of provisional assent becomes perverse. I’m sorry, but Occam’s Razor is necessary. It’s true that there are an infinite number of possible explanations for any finite data set… but we’re finite humans we don’t have time for infinite explanations, and we often have to pick one. So why not the simplest?

    Even after looking over your link, I’d still like to know what you think the odds are for electrons existing…

  110. bigbird

    I just summed up some elements that are parts of the scientific method. This in no way ‘blows away’ my argument, unless you thought hat logic was not a part of the scientific method. But that’s not so.
    The argument from evil is a counterargument, not to all definitions of God, but certainly to the general Christian definition of God as being all powerfull, all loving, …
    I read Plantinga, and his ideas are no answer to the argument from evil.

  111. I’m not sure anything would count as ‘falsification’ as you seem to be using it.

    I’m using falsification as defined by Popper. Essentially, falsifying a theory is when the theory predicts something should not happen, and it does happen. More here.

    Popper was unimpressed with confirmation, because he thought it was too easy to get when we look for it.

    My point in this thread was to point out that there are hypotheses that most people would classify as scientific that are not possible to falsify. Existential theories fall into this category – the failure to find something doesn’t falsify. Here’s another example – how would you falsify Newton’s theory of gravity? Or the second law of thermodynamics?

    You say that the Standard Model makes no falsifiable predictions, but many people said that if the Large Hadron Collider didn’t find the Higgs Boson within a particular energy range, that would be a major blow against it.

    Where did I say that the Standard Model makes no falsifiable predictions?

    But, again, there comes a point where the withholding of provisional assent becomes perverse. I’m sorry, but Occam’s Razor is necessary. It’s true that there are an infinite number of possible explanations for any finite data set… but we’re finite humans we don’t have time for infinite explanations, and we often have to pick one. So why not the simplest?

    We pick the simplest, best, whatever, theory all the time. No disputing it. But realism isn’t about the accuracy of the theory. It’s about whether we accept the unobservable entities postulated by the theory as really existing or not. We can use the theory equally well whether we believe this or not, so we don’t have to decide.

    What we do know though is that in the past, there are theoretical entities that our theories proposed that we don’t accept exist now (e.g. the ether and the caloric). That should give us pause to think that perhaps the entities we think are real now may not prove to be 100 years from now.

    I’m neither a realist or an anti-realist at this point – I just find it interesting to realise that in science, the entities that I was taught in university physics were real entities aren’t necessarily real – the case for this isn’t as solid as I once thought.

  112. I just summed up some elements that are parts of the scientific method. This in no way ‘blows away’ my argument, unless you thought hat logic was not a part of the scientific method.

    You conceded that logic and rational reasoning are valid ways of obtaining knowledge.

    Therefore we can use logic and rational reasoning to argue that God exists.

    It doesn’t matter that you don’t accept particular arguments or not. The point is, the scientific method is not the only way to obtain knowledge.

  113. bigbird

    There is no ‘conceding’ here. I am very happy that logic and rational reasoning are valid ways of obtaining knowledge. Wouldn’t have it otherwise. I just see them as forming part of the scientific method, that’s all. Maybe we have a bit of a misunderstanding here.

    But now we got this far, I am quite interested to see how you argue on a logical basis that God exists.

  114. bigbird –

    how would you falsify Newton’s theory of gravity? Or the second law of thermodynamics?

    As to the former… the precession of Mercury was already a problem. Observing gravity waves would be a killer, too.

    As to the latter… all you need is one perpetual motion machine.

    Where did I say that the Standard Model makes no falsifiable predictions?

    When you said “The Standard Model makes no predictions about what we should observe either.” If it makes no predictions, how could it make falsifiable ones? You see my confusion, I trust…

    We can use the theory equally well whether we believe this or not, so we don’t have to decide.

    Ah, so all you’re talking about is a matter of taste! It has no practical bearing whatsoever. Fine, have at it, with my blessings. You might also reflect on the possibility that our entire universe is just an atom in the toenail of a being in a much larger universe, if you enjoy speculations completely without practical bearing. 🙂