Is Evolution just a Theory?

GravityMy son has a skilled science teacher who just finished teaching him an accurate, detailed overview of genetics. Today they began studying Evolution. My son related these three claims that the teacher made today:

  • “Evolution is JUST a theory”
  • “Evolution is FULL of holes”
  • “Evolution can not be proven”

This teacher’s statements are generic ID, anti-evolution propaganda and shows either the ignorance of the teacher or her significant religious blindness or both. A friend and I are going to try and address this at the school.

Question to readers: How would you approach this issue?


Filed under Evolution, Science

143 responses to “Is Evolution just a Theory?

  1. Evolution is an evolving theory. Like a puzzle, many holes have been filled with pieces which match just right…
    It seems like the underlying lessons are how to evaluate theories to see which has the best and most evidence backing it. Also, how to identify biases that others present. It’s not optimal that these are prerequisites to studying evolution, but since it is *still* a raging debate for many people, it comes with the territory. Do you need a “God Delusion for Kids”?

  2. You could go online for your state department of education. Your state will have standards that should be taught for all subjects; find the science standards for his grade level and the section regarding the diversity of life/evolution, it could fall under various names. See if she has taught those standards.

    Other questions would be:

    How she related evolution to the scientific method.
    What she teaches about the age of the age of the earth.
    What she teaches about the formation of the solar system.
    Did she offer alternatives to evolution?
    It is her job to teach the state standards on these topics, so, compare what she has taught to those standards.
    The crux here would be teaching the scientific method in relation to all topics. That will lead to affirming evolution as the best theory.

  3. I would give her this to read:

    But you may be fighting an uphill battle. It’s unfortunate, but a number of teachers have a poor grasp of basic science themselves. You can blame your state’s teacher certification board for not requiring more rigorous standards for teaching science (and math and history and literature, while we’re at it). Also, teaching, at least at the elementary and middle school levels, does not pay enough to attract the best graduates from scientific disciplines. If you were a young chemist or biologist who has to pay back thousands of dollars in student loans, which would you choose: a teaching job at a middle school that pays under $30,000 in the first year, or a research job at a large pharmaceutical corporation that pays a starting salary of $50,000?

    Anyway, good luck to you. I met with my son’s science teacher in middle school regarding what I thought were her slapdash methods of teaching basic science, and realized the poor woman was hopelessly mediocre. There was no arguing with her because her knowledge of science hadn’t evolved since the 1960s. She kept telling my son that Pluto was a planet and took points off when he didn’t include it in the list of planets in our solar system. When he brought her a New York Times article showing that Pluto had been dropped from the list, she told him he was “out of line.” I then approached the principal, but nothing was done. We just had to wait until my son went on to the next grade and a better teacher.

  4. The teacher reveals a serious ignorance of what “theory” means in science.

  5. Brandon

    Best advice I can give you: reference the Dover School District trial from about 10 years ago. Great outcome for evolution; it has a wealth of examples of what happens with ideologues try to get involved with the teaching of science, and it directly deals with the exact issue you seem to be dealing with.

    There is an excellent PBS documentary on line –

    You might invite concerned parties to watch it.


    But this is the real answer. It might not be the best one for your presentation, but it is the right one. : )

    (1) Of all the old anti-evolution chestnuts, the “just a theory” one is my favorite, because it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of basic scientific method. No responsible teacher of science would ever use the words “just” and “theory” in the same sentence: ALL scientific claims are theories.
    -Gravity is a theory.
    -Evolution is a theory.
    -Thermodynamics is a theory.
    -The next-Thursday-Brandon’s-toenail-will-turn-blue-at-3-pm is a scientific theory (that will no doubt be falsified).

    Some theories are much much stronger than others, but no theories are “just” theories as long as they are testable, verifiable and falsifiable (etc). Suggesting that handicaps students to the power of science, in even the most trivial matters.

    (2) Following from this, no theory is ever “proven” – they just become stronger as additional evidence is gathered in the context of “testing” (i.e. dropping a pencil for gravity; fossils in different geological strata examined/carbon dating, etc. for evolution). Nobody question the fundamental theories of gravitational attraction that makes objects fall. Similarly, nobody (seriously) questions the basic tenets of biological evolution.

    What constitutes a theory to be “strong” or “weak” can be a legitimate bone of contention, and can be hotly debated from within professional scientific disciplines, but it is deeply disingenuous to suggest the nuanced questions that specialists debate in technical disciplines have much bearing on most of the aspects of evolution as it is taught to students on the high school level, especially the aspects that the general public finds most “questionable”.

    People sometimes question the overwhelming consensus of scientists, but often with an ideological ax to grind. This is the antithesis of everything science is about, and should be fought by anyone professing to take science seriously. You might want to (gently) bring up young earth creationism to demonstrate just how much violence can be done to science in the name of ideology. What it would mean to “teach the controversy” of a 6,000 year old universe; what that would do to our basic understanding of astronomy, geology, physics, biology, etc.

    Not sure how much you want to geek out on philosophy of science 101 with these folks, but that’s the heart of it to me. Don’t you miss my novel-length answers? haha.

  6. Boz

    This is a very common occurance – this road has been walked many times.

    The solution to your situation could be solved with a quick word to the teacher, or the next Dover court case, or anything inbetween.

    Friendly Atheist (Hemant Mehta) can point you towards the experiences and learnings of several others who walked the same road.

  7. Strictly speaking the teacher is right evolution is a theory, there are holes in it and it cannot be absolutely proven as the only answer. But I don’t know how US schools work. If you are unhappy with the way your child is being taught then perhaps a change of school is in order. Talking to the teacher is unlikely to achieve much but talking to the principal might if their policy is in fact more inclusive. Otherwise all you can do is discuss with your son your views in regard to it and let him make up his mind.
    My experience of kids is that they will in time make up their own mind, absorbing views from parents, peers and teachers so all is not lost.

  8. Marfin

    Notice how all the reply`s say the teacher is wrong but not one presented any evidence to show how evolution is not a theory but a fact,or law, you all need to be more sceptical of the consensus view.

  9. The absolute best explanation is here in this video by some Berkley Paleontologists. Sorry no link (maybe later today) but Google this phrase:

    Listen to the Scientists is evolution just a theory

    It’s an educational series put out by these professors. Dr. Kevin Padian was the man who convinced a Supreme Court judge (a Republican!) that the Louisiana school should not teach Creationism.

  10. Ps it sounds like you have a Creationist teaching your kids. I hope they are fired. Seriously.

  11. (Sorry meant to put this in one comment box)

    Rossross, can you tell us what holes are in evolutionary theory?

  12. @ Skeptnik :
    I live in Pennsylvania — I couldn’t find the Biology standards on the State Education web site. But that is a good idea.

    @ Kevin :
    The Theory of evolution has been tested and not found to have holes. Instead, HOW evolution works is continually improved.

    @ Hangaku :
    Good link. I haven’t figured out my approach yet — it depends a lot on my son. But I doubt I will be able to change the teacher’s mind. Instead, I want to address how she is trying to undermine the science my kids are suppose to be learning using her religious ideas — albeit subtly.

    My suspicion is that this teacher knows her stuff and is just heavily religiously biased. But I will ask her. My son says he suspects (by her language) that she is highly religious — which is fine, as long as she keeps it out of her classes.

    @ Neil Rickert :
    Yes, I agree. OR, she knows and debates the evidence — which would be even more flabbergasting!

    @ Brandon :
    Yes, I am very aware of the Dover case — Thanx for the link, and the thoughts it may be helpful.

    @ Boz :
    Yes, it is a common occurrence. I wrote a couple organization here is the USA (I think you are in Australia, right?). I just dropped a note to Hemant too — good idea, thanx.

    @ Marfin :
    Yes, most readers on this site will agree that the teacher is wrong. None “presented any evidence to show how evolution is not a theory…” because the evidence is abundant and well published in many locations. I don’t intend to have the “Is Evolution True?” debate on this thread, but was instead asking for thoughts from folks who realize it is and how to fight teachers who try to sneak their religious thinking into public classrooms.

    It seems you disagree with consensus on this, which is fine. Your are welcome to give us a link to your site or your favorite site refuting the Theory of Evolution and perhaps a reader or two will click on it.

    @ Amelie :
    Yeah, I am waiting for her to tell my son that macro-evolution does not occur. Also, my son turned in homework last night where one of his answers says: “Evolution is a proven theory that explains how species change over time due to natural selection.” I’ll be curious if “proven” gets challenged. I am looking forward to the links you promised — you are such a tease! (smile)

  13. Scroll down far enough there is a section on evolution.

  14. Fantastic! Thank you Skeptnik !!

  15. @amelie,

    The holes are more obvious when one seeks to make evolution the only theory and the answer for everything.
    There are gaps in fossil records and a lack of solid transitional evidence in many cases but there are also new holes emerging as scientific understanding develops. If evolutionism had not been turned by some into a ‘theological’ dogma then no doubt the ‘altering views’ would not appear as large ‘holes’ but rather as examples of increasing knowledge.

    For example, the candour expressed here is actually just honesty in light of increasing knowledge:
    A rather basic question fundamental to any evolutionary account of life’s development — how “genotypes generate phenotypes,” in other words how genes build an individual creature — remains totally obscure to science.

  16. @amelie,

    And don’t get me wrong, I think evolution is definitely a part of the answer – it just is not THE answer nor all of the answer. That is not to say I subscribe to religiously defined creationism either, because I don’t but then I believe most religious writings are meant to be interpreted metaphorically and not literally and I fully expect that developments in both biology and quantum physics will lead to understandings which allow appreciation of the fact that neither of those occupying extreme ends of the spectrum were completely right – or for that matter, completely wrong.

  17. MARFIN

    I don`t need to direct anyone to a website or blog to show how evolution is wrong and creation is right I have put the study in myself and can understand the subject for myself .How many who have posted here can honestly say they understand how evolution is supposed to work and then present the evidence to back their claim . honesty is the best policy.

  18. Sabio, I thought you’d be able to copy and paste the phrase and Google (or just select if you have the right software) and find the direct link but if you can’t here’s the link, since I’m on the regular computer. 🙂

  19. @Rossross, just be careful if you don’t want people to think you’re a creationist. The link you provided is from the Discovery Institute, the biggest promoters of creationism probably anywhere. And they’re always wrong.

    I think there’s a bit of confusion about what evolution is. I don’t know where you got the idea that it’s supposed to answer “everything”. The only thing evolution answers is “What is the origin of new species”. There’s nothing extreme about it. And don’t confuse that for the origin of life, which is a different theory. As far as evolution being the “only” answer, well there is no other way for a new species to arise. Since Darwin no other ideas have even been proposed.

    You seem to imagine fossils as having some sort of continuity, like reading a book. This is not how science works. Fossils are more like pieces of a puzzle but with ever changing rules. Most of the puzzle works but will morph once in a while. It’s not a mystery at all how genes “build” a creature. Genes are just proteins that combine in various ways (with a given set of codes) to determine traits (eye color, body form etc). RNA are proteins that carry out the code. This is what proteins do; they build body forms. This is what proteins do.

    So if evolution is not the theory for origin of species, what do you think is? (by the way I think you misunderstood the word theory as well; see the video).

  20. @Sabio I think your son will be teaching the teacher pretty soon! Have him show the video; that way he can drop the word “proven” and show the science department what theory means (wow, it’s awful that I have to say that).

  21. associatedluke

    I would call the teacher and have this conversation. Did the teacher hedge their bet against students that are ID/creationists or are they themselves among the ranks? Not enough data to judge one way or another. I would call them up and explore the definition of a theory and why they felt the need to emphasize the points they did. Looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

  22. CRL

    Well, you could always send him to Catholic school to make sure evolution is taught as a fact!😀 Of course, there may be some unfortunate side effects, such as tuition, conservative social agendas, and religious services.

    In all seriousness, though, I second the opinions of other posters who suggest talking to the teacher before going to the district.

  23. @amelie,

    I am not really fussed what people think I am or am not.

    One of the problems with the internet as a source of information is that it provides information from extremists in abundance and little of the middle ground. In other words, you get to read extreme creationists and extreme evolutionists in the main and you just have to pick and choose what is worthwhile. Both do have things of value and I am happy to cherrypick, but both lack balance I find.

    I think there is a ‘case’ that the extreme evolutionists push their position as the only answer at this point in time – just as the extreme creationists push theirs. The theory of evolution is just a theory and it works really well in some respects and not at all in others. It is places where it does not work, the ‘holes,’ that light shines through to indicate that the theory has flaws – perhaps substantial flaws. One of the odd things is that evolution only moves in one direction – simpler to more complex. If mutations are random you would expect to see examples in both directions. And given our capacity to observe in this day and age, why are we constantly being told that species are dying out and yet not being told of mutations which indicate possible futures?

    I don’t see fossils in terms of reading a book except from the perspective that it has to make sense. I don’t subscribe to the religious creationist view but I do feel that there is a great deal of evidence in this world of ‘intelligent design.’ How that comes about I could theorise but I doubt it would interest anyone here. I see evolution as a part of intelligent design and on that count, valuable in terms of some understanding. But not enough understanding to dispense with the anomalies.

    The theory and the topic has suffered from being taken up by fundamentalist Christians and a literal and limited view of life and how it might evolve which in turn triggered a response from fundamental evolutionists countering with another literal and limited view of life and how it might evolve.

    And yes, science can explain some of the What of genes and proteins and numerous other processes at work in this world but not the Why or often, even the How.

    As to misunderstanding the word theory, it’s a pretty simple word and i don’t believe I have. Creationism and evolutionism are both suppositions or systems of ideas intended to explain something and therefore, they fit the definition of a theory.

    In truth, if either theory were absolutely right then we would have seen in the past few thousand years, surely, some new mutation or creature – created either by creationism or evolution.

  24. Ian

    “how genes build an individual creature — remains totally obscure to science.”

    What a joke. Genes don’t ‘build an individual creature’, and we know how genes control and influence the processes that do. Or perhaps I just imagined the four years I spent doing my PhD on this stuff, or the thousands of papers I read on the details.

    There are books, you know. Actual science books. With diagrams. There’s no excuse for spreading misinformation under the conceit of balance.

    Its horrible you even have to worry about this stuff, Sabio. I can’t really suggest anything, because I don’t know the system. But my best wishes for a reasonable outcome!

  25. @ amelie :
    Yeah, I tried to look, but gave up — I was lazy, sorry. Thank you for the link. I will show the video to my son. He is enjoying this issue — fun to explore the issues. Fun for him to learn the technical use of the word “Theory” and the importance of the distinction. Great points, amelie!

    @ Marfin :
    OK, I think we get where you are coming from.

    @ Luke :
    Yes, we intend to talk to the teacher first and have already considered what you mention. Good points. She is a fantastic teacher and my kids really respect her. She demands a lot from our kids — which we admire. Meanwhile our kids keep listening carefully in class. So this experience helps train them to watch out for bullshit.

    @ CRL :
    Yeah, I remember about 10 years ago when the Catholic Church finally officially stated that they agreed with Evolution. I forgot when they agreed that the Sun does not rotate around the Earth and that limbo was a mistake. It is obvious that the Vatican’s scientists are hard at work.🙂

    @ Ian :
    As always, great, succinct points.
    Thanx for best wishes — I am pretty sure it will go well. My friend is far more level-headed and rational than I am (he is sort of like you, I’d imagine).

  26. marfin

    Thanks , the point I am making is to find the answer for yourself, look at all the evidence all sides of the argument and draw your own conclusions. Scientist`s are human ,evolutionary science like most religions is an industry with vested interest`s and lot`s of money involved.I don`t believe in a conspiracy but humans being humans we are not always `s as honest as we should be, Lance Armstrong being a case in point.So as the bible says, you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Be sceptical even of the skeptics .

  27. @marfin,
    I could not agree more. Find the answers for yourself, keep an open mind and be sceptical even of the sceptics, perhaps even more so.

  28. Ian

    The problem is you’re not going to look for the answers yourself, are you? You’re not going to run a single PCR, or assemble a single geological column? When are you planning to do a phenotypic diversity survey, or reconstruct a phylogenetic tree? Never, of course.

    “Look for the answers yourself” is simply a way of saying “you don’t need to actually find out the details, you can put a little effort into reading a few websites and make meaningful conclusions on the whole thing.”

    It is the triumph of dump-assery. When people tell you to do your research on this, perhaps you should actually do some research. Certainly before blanket dismissing all those who do get off their ass and do the legwork.

  29. Ian


  30. Ian

    @sabio – I definitely don’t have a level-head on this. I’ve been accused of forging my results, of being satanic, of lying about science, and many other things by creationists. Who, by and large, hate to be told anything by anyone who’s studied this for real. I’ve had my professional and personal integrity impugned enough times to have lost hope of level-headedness.

  31. marfin

    Not sure what you are saying Ian ,is it that if someone does some research or experimental work then publish`s that work , no one is allowed question or have view on their results or do we just accept what they say.Or maybe every scientist should be an expert in every field

  32. Rossross, I’m disappointed that you did not watch the video. The word theory in science means “explanation”. Since Darwin died there has been 150 years of genetic and fossil evidence that proves it is correct. That’s what makes it a theory.

    Even if you found a million holes in evolutionary theory, that does not make creationism right. You have not given us any evidence in the form of scientific studies for creationism. I’m happy to provide links to evolution papers, but only if you promise to read and comment on them.

    You don’t quite understand the word random and you don’t understand mutations. Evolution does not in fact not always go from “simple” to “complex”. The hammerhead shark’s head is a result of a freak mutation that served it well. The species is not more complex nor more simple than its ancestor, just different.

    If fossils don’t make sense to you, it’s because you haven’t studied them. So many creationists seem to base their beliefs on the fact that they don’t understand science, so it must be wrong. Please, watch the video!

  33. Marfin, I have a Master’s degree in environmental studies (concentration area was conservation biology). If you’d like studies to educate yourself, I have some wonderful reading. But as I said to Rossross, please read and comment on them (I’ll provide my email address) if I go through the time to do so.

  34. @Marfin, there is a lengthy process in science called peer review. It is purely about criticism and examining methods in a study. Same series – watch the video!

  35. Ian

    @marfin – “no one is allowed question or have view on their results” – not at all, just that you should expect to know some stuff in order to have an opinion that isn’t just laughably naive.

    Do you have an opinion on whether brain-surgeons are correct in the way they approach brain-stem tumours in the presence of pre-existing peripheral disabilities? How about whether it is really neccessary to cool the liquid hydrogen inlet valve in the second stage of the J-2X rocket engine prior to launch?

    Your allowed an opinion on either, but it wouldn’t be worth anything unless you actually learned some stuff first. And coming out with “well, these brain surgeons don’t know everything – personally I feel that it is the stomach not the brain that is the seat of knolwedge” would be, obviously a joke, right?

    But you get to have an opinion on whether the hominid fossil line is credible though, right? So what makes you think evolutionary biology is simpler than those fields, requires less knowledge or specific technical competency?

    So feel free to have an opinion, but we get to laugh at your hubris until you can actually show you understand what you’re opining about. And that is going to take some actual work. Reading a few websites on ‘the controversy’ is not the same thing as being informed.

    That does not mean there is some minimal qualification before you’re allowed to have an opinion. It does mean that until you realise that you don’t know enough to know when your opinion is credible, then you don’t know enough, period.

  36. We had something similar happen with my older daugther when she was in high school. The class was asked to provide an essay on how the universe, the earth and us came about. My daughter gave the scientific answer. However the teacher was not happy with it and pressed her to put down what she really believed and said, basically, that the scientific answer was nonsense. Not quite as extreme as yours but still very disturbing in a science class and totally inappropriate for a science class.

    My wife and I went to the principle and talked to him about this. We were prepared and with information about church/state separation and how that applies to a science classroom. This included court cases and such.

    However we reallhy didn’t have to bring up most of this. The prinicple heard our complaint and agreed that it was wrong. He had a discussion with the teacher about this (not sure if a disciplinary action was done). For the reast of the year our daughter said all was good. She also kept an ear open for the next two years on this teacher and did not hear of any other inappropriate acts on his part.

    And this was in the great conservativive state of Texas.

    If you are attending public school the law is on your side. I would suggest starting with the principle and if that doesn’t work go on up the chain – school board, etc.

    If that doesn’t work then I would suggetst getting in touch with such organizations as the National Center for Science Education, ACLU, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and if you are in Texas the Texas Freedom Network. All of these groups have dealt with such issues before and if they cannot work it out with the school officials then a lawsuit may be in order. If so, they can help with that too.

    Not sure of your religious affiliation but just FYI, none of the above groups is an atheist organization. In fact that Texas Freedom Network is composed largely of clergy and religious leaders and the Americans United is headed by an ordained minister – Church of Christ if I remember correctly. Tne National Center for Science Education is a science group focusing on eduation about evolution. And most people know who the ACLU are, and no they are not composed of all atheists. Lots of liberals but not all atheists. 🙂

    Anway, if this occured in a public school then the teacher was way out of line. . I should have aksed at the beginning, but was this a public school? If not then you can talk with the school principle and such but there is no legal action you can take since they are private instead of public.

    Hope this helps.

  37. CRL

    Oh, but I think you have your dates wrong😛

    The heliocentric theory of cosmology was formally accepted in 1992, as I recall. My mother (born in 1951) was taught evolution at Catholic schools. The Church formally stated that there was not a conflict between religion and evolution, provided that the addition of the human soul was seen as seperate from biological evolution, in 1950, and did not make any official pronouncements regarding evolution before then.

  38. marfin

    Ian according to your reasoning the brain surgeon you speak of could never become a brain surgeon in the first place because he would have to have a degree before he could understand the subject he was studying to get the degree in. Why on earth would you bother to teach evolution in high school as the pupil`s cannot according to your logic understand the subject they are being taught unless they are already experts in the field.The legal system would need to change tomorrow as only experts in criminology would be allowed be juror`s.The fact is ,its levels of understanding, how much do I need to know before I can understand, believe me I know enough.By the way Dawkins , Coyne et al would not be happy with you as you will destroy their fame and fortune by telling the general public that they are wasting their time buying their books as they cannot understand them.If you want to discuss the fossil record by all means lets do so you will find I know enough to make my own mind up.

  39. Brandon


    I’m not an auto-mechanic. I know nothing about carburetors, for example. If my mechanic says I need a new carburetor, and I’m really bummed out by the money I need to spend, I might be skeptical of his expert opinion before shelling out the cash, and I wouldn’t be at fault. I might defer the opinion to another professional mechanic, and if I get a similar answer, I might decide to roll up my sleeves and learn something about automotive mechanics and see for myself.

    What I won’t do is, after hearing a dozen professionally trained full-time mechanics tell me what’s what about the state of my carburetor, turn around and say that my perspective deserves to be heard on equal ground because I feel passionately about the issue of carburetors.

    On issues concerning carburetors, I am fully within my right to question the findings of individual mechanics, and fully within my right to investigate these issues myself, but when it comes down to it, professionally trained mechanics’ opinions count more than mine. That is called having a healthy humility in the face of a complex discipline. It is what separates a professional from an amateur.

    Follow me so far?

    Okay, what many in the evolution “skeptics” community do, analogously speaking, is not only suggest that 4,000 mechanics’ identical opinions about a carburetor needing replaced is incorrect, but then in addition say “carburetors don’t exist”.

    Marfin, with all due respect to your declared understanding of the fossil record and what that might imply about the incorrectness of some aspects of the theory of evolution, doesn’t it mean something to you that virtually the entire field of practicing professional biologists are virtually unanimous in terms its most elementary and basic ideas (i.e. non-controversial within the field); the sorts of ideas that would be taught in a high-school class room? Remember: high school students learn about the basics of scientific disciplines.

    Healthy skepticism is always a good thing. My desire to get a second (or third or fourth!) opinion about my car is healthy and a great way to investigate. But the anti-evolution crowds have time and again played that skepticism card in ways that are deeply disingenuous and outright incorrect, and time and again have been shown to be empty, both in numerous court cases and in terms of how evolution as a theory has become much stronger since Darwin. I’d highly recommend looking into the Dover School District case from 10 years ago to understand the lengths these “skeptics” will go to attempt to inject a false controversy into a subject that popular opinion might not like for reasons other than scientific. I’m not saying your questions about evolution aren’t legitimate, and that you don’t have every right to explore and argue these issues as a free individual, but what I am saying is that this alleged “controversy” about evolution is demonstrably and verifiably a product of political and cultural back-lash against evolution; NOT scientific back-lash. That is what I find deeply disingenuous about this “teach the controversy” movement. It is controversial in circles outside of the discipline as it is practiced as a scientist. Circles Ian has personally been involved in, it sounds like, and you haven’t.

    Perhaps it might make you skeptical of this so-called skepticism toward evolution.


  40. @ CRL,
    Ah, thanx for the dates!

    @ befuddled1:
    Yes, it was a public school.
    Thanx for sharing your story with a great ending in a tough state. I will put up another post to share more unfolding. Thanx for the ideas too!

    @ amelie,
    It is difficult to have these conversations if your debate opponent won’t carefully examine critical points and narrow down the disagreement. The issue of “Theory” in this debate is critical.

    @ Marfin ,
    I don’t want to make any assumptions. The other folks are doing a good job of addressing methodology, but I thought, instead of assuming, I’d ask:

    If not the Theory of Evolution, what do you think accounts for the diversity of life on this planet?

  41. marfin

    Personally I believe God did it , now before you all put me in a nice little ” religious fanatic box” , just hear me out. We have a universe , a solar system and a huge array of complex life forms to explain, so what’s the best explanation. Well to my mind there are only two possible explanations either natural or supernatural ,so either God did it or nature did it.Now if I take the natural approach big bang, hydrogen gas, gravity, stars,solar system,earth
    non life, life,more and more complex life, Humans, all by some non directed chance happenings or through so call laws of nature without a law giver this I cannot believe as the evidence for this is completely lacking.. So although God may seem unbelievable to most people, it is the more believable of the two scenarios.This is a very simplistic explanation of what I believe if you want more specifics please let me know.
    But don`t be fooled both sides of the argument are faith positions its just who has the stronger faith.
    By the way all discussion up to this point has been mostly philosophical not scientific if anyone want to present their strongest evidence for evolution I would be happy to read it , if no evidence is forthcoming well what does that tell us.

  42. marfin

    Just a point on laws of thermodynamics , if you look at research open or closed systems are not the issue , earth is an open system but if I leave a pile of bricks or a pile of scrap metal lying around and come back 10 years later you will not get a house or a car, please tell me why , its an open system ,lots of energy from the sun and lightning strike`s why no house and no car ,please explain.I know why let see if anyone else wants to explain why.

  43. Wow: bricks to house. No desire to respond to that. This post is not meant to discuss the issue with ID folks. But if others have more time or patience than i do, pls jump in. My suspicion: no opinions will change in the least, so instead, i am sharing my real-life story with those who understand.

  44. @Amelie,

    I live in Africa. If I get videos to work, and it is rare, they take forever because it keeps dropping in and out. Give me the gist of what it said – that should be easy enough.

    Since Darwin died there has been 150 years of genetic and fossil evidence which proves some aspects correct but does not provide all answers. And yes, that makes it a theory.

    I am not arguing for Creationism – certainly not the religious version of it. I merely make the point that evolution provides a partial answer and is no doubt a part of the complete answer and if ‘creationism’ is seen not in a religious light, but as the ‘involvement’ by something which is capable of intelligent design – and it doesn’t have to be God – then that could, would, might, bring a better answer.

    I don’t have a problem with Evolution. If Evolution did fit perfectly and provide a complete answer I should be perfectly happy to go with it. But it doesn’t and because of that I remain curious as to what the complete answer is.

    As to my understanding of the word random or mutation that is a subjective assumption on part and one I doubt anyone could or should make with such minimal discussion.

    Fossils make perfect sense to me but the theory of fossils as a part of evolutionary theory is not watertight. That is all.
    I am neither a creationist as you continue to assume, nor a scientist by profession but I have a capable understanding of science and evolution and am probably better read than the average. I have read by the way far more on evolution and science than on religious creationism. I don’t actually have much time for religious creationism because it is literal and I believe the Bible is meant to be read as metaphor and symbol.

  45. @marfin,

    You make some good points and never more so than when you say:
    But don`t be fooled both sides of the argument are faith positions its just who has the stronger faith.

    However, the battle between creationism and evolution is more an American thing given the power and prevalence of fundamentalist Christianity in the US. Because of that power there is more fear and a greater backlash, on both sides and it tends to breed extremism and intolerance. Each wants to be right when both are sides of the same coin – and are likely to be partly right in the end.

    Most other countries don’t have this divide and most schools and universities would teach evolution, with no doubt some energetic discussions about where evolution fails and what other explanations there might be. This may happen less in the US because more people are likely to have a fixed position and a deep need to be absolutely right.

  46. And radical as it may seem, why not teach both and let students make up their own minds? After all, in many countries now where religion is taught it is done so on the basis that instruction is given about all religions and many spiritual practices, including Wicca, shamanism, the ancient Goddess religion etc. In this way we are bringing up young people who are as well informed as they can be and who are trusted to make up their own minds.
    At this point in history, evolutionism, like many scientific theories, or religious theories for that matter, cannot absolutely prove its position, so open-mindedness and a broad approach to information would seem sensible.

  47. Ian

    @marfin – What a bizarre response. Are you deliberately trying to be dense about this?

    If someone wants to become a brain surgeon, they go and study it. Why would they need to be an expert before starting to learn? But they shouldn’t claim they know the field well enough to tell the experts they’re wrong, before they’ve even started to learn, we are justified in telling them they’re an idiot.

    And, crucial to this point, if they go around telling everyone the experts are wrong, on the basis of reading a few websites, we should laugh at their naivity, and insist they don’t teach our kid’s science lessons.

    The term for this is the Dunning-Kruger effect. Where people with no knowledge, no clue about their lack of knowledge, think they know plenty enough. For example, ross’s comment after not even understanding what scientists mean by the word theory: “I have a capable understanding of science and evolution and am probably better read than the average”! Or your own “earth is an open system but if I leave a pile of bricks or a pile of scrap metal lying around and come back 10 years later you will not get a house or a car, please tell me why , its an open system … I know why let see if anyone else wants to explain why.”

    You couldn’t make this kind of stupidity up. It is so painful that this is where we are.

  48. Ian

    “if no evidence is forthcoming well what does that tell us.” – it tells us nobody is under the slightest illusion that you are asking in good faith. If you really wanted to find out, there’s plenty of books in the library. And the reason those books are long is because you can’t sum them up in a 500 word blog comment.

    If you don’t understand something you read, there are plenty of places you can get help.

    That you remain so clueless as to be spouting the kind of pile of bricks nonsense, means you have made no honest effort to actually educate yourself.

  49. marfin

    Sabio please don’t take this the wrong way as I mean no offence but for any system to make something complex it needs more than just energy alone hence energy acting on a pile of bricks does not make a house and energy alone acting on any inanimate object does not make it more complex. You need energy intake systems ,energy conversion systems ,so the point is valid where and how did these energy systems come about , if you are honest you must admit science has no answer to this.Its not a matter of ID or evolution its a matter of facing the facts and not letting our philosophy colour our judgement so once again I will ask for anyone`s best evidence for evolution , if evolution is this all encompassing fact which has created all life and every creature we see and know ,surely the positive evidence must be overwhelming but as yet all I am getting is silence. I don`t live in the USA so the whole ID v Evolution is a non issue, people here don`t care if you are atheist or christian or devil worshipper, but in a discussion today with a work colleague he accepted he believed in evolution and then had to accept that he knew absolutely nothing about it he was mildly brainwashed so to speak by TV and the general culture over here who all believe in evolution but no one can explain or give any evidence to support their position. So all I am saying is don`t be so accepting and dont believe without the evidence

  50. Ian

    “if evolution is this all encompassing fact which has created all life” – You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

  51. Ian

    Perhaps a condition of having these kinds of discussions ought to be:

    Before we discuss your opinion on evolution, can you please say what you understand the theory of evolution to be.

  52. Marfin, you said you’d be willing to read studies. I have dozens I can show you (I’ll start with a few and make sure they are free). If I do so, are you willing to read the studies and comment on them so I haven’t wasted my time?

  53. Rossross, you are confusing science and faith. You say we should let children decide for themselves. It should be illegal (and is borderline in many states in fact). You don’t seem to understand what science is. Science is defined within a certain set of rules. One of the most important is it has to be testable. You have to be able to show your work.

    You might be interested to know that the countries that teach intelligent design to schoolchildren include America and Turkey. Yep, we’re the laughing stock of the world. Some states excel in the world but most high school students when tested among their international peers are among the most poorly educated in science.

    In the second best testing countries, Finland, all high school teachers are required to have Master’s degrees. They don’t just hire some extremist shmuck who barely passed their GED.

    And you want “proof” of evolution? Here it is: there is no graduate school in the States, in fact none in the world where you can get a Ph.D. in intelligent design. Evolutionary biology? Sure. There are dozens including Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, Berkeley…..are there any that teach ID? No.

    Let me ask you a question: if a child thought the tooth fairy would clean their teeth so that they never had to go to the dentist again, would you let them choose? Why or why not?

  54. Ian

    @amelie – yeah!

    “there is no graduate school in the States” – Not disagreeing, but I know of someone who’s currently doing their PhD in ID in the UK…. in a theology department😉

  55. Great replies amelie & Ian. Thank you.

  56. Earnest

    Chill out, Sabio. She is pandering to conservatives to keep her job. Recall that the chorus concert at this school included a rousing rendition of the finale of Handel’s Messiah. Once she goes on record as someone who tries to be even-handed, the religious factions of the class will not cry foul to the principal. It’s simply a hopeless, futile attempt to avoid hate mail from parents.

  57. CRL


    I’d like to clear up a few things about thermodynamics, as relates to evolution. All information is from the chemistry textbook I used last year (Zumdahl&Zumdahl, 7th edition) which happens to still be sitting around my computer in PDF form and is a popular introductory college textbook, not some sort of evolutionist atheist satanist propaganda.

    First, a few definitions:

    A process is said to be spontaneous if it occurs without outside intervention. Spontaneous processes may be fast or slow.

    While the universe always proceeds towards greater entropy, this is not true of any specific system within the universe.

    The spontaneity of a reaction can be calculated with the free energy function, ∆G=∆H-T∆S, where∆ G is change in free energy, ∆H is change in enthalpy (depends on energy, but relates to pressure and volume as well. I’ll only deal with constant pressures and volumes here, so you can think of it just as change in energy, but this law still works when those are changing.), T is temperature (Kelvin), and ∆S is change in entropy.

    When ∆G is negative, a process is spontaneous. This is because the magnitude of the change in the entropy of the surroundings depends on temperature. (Why? I don’t really know. I’ll get back to you a few classes later, I guess. ) So if ∆H<T∆S, a process will be spontaneous, even if it decreases the entropy of a system.

    This doesn’t mean that a pile of bricks will turn into a house, of course. But it does mean that things which decrease the entropy of a system can spontaneously happen if the conditions are right. For instance water can become ice, which is more ordered, if T<0°C/32°F/273 K.

    So while I will not go into a full debate on evolution, please note that decreasing entropy within an open system is not incompatible with evolution.

  58. @marfin,

    I do think those who are not American and who are not caught up in the effects of the fundamentalist Christians, the happy clappers as we call them, or the God-botherers, have a less fixed view on this issue and a greater open-mindedness to possible answers.

    Good advice:

    So all I am saying is don`t be so accepting and dont believe without the evidence.

  59. @ Amelie,

    I do not see how it confuses science with faith to suggest that students can be taught evolution and a theory of intelligent design. I did not mean intelligent design in the fundamentalist Christian sense but it is perfectly possible to teach a theory where some sort of intelligence is at work just as it is to teach both open and closed systems and what they bring about and then ultimately, let them make up their own minds which makes most sense – if either, or perhaps it leads them on to new theories.

    And yes, I know it is harder for the US because the fundamentalist Christians have so much power but you are also saying the US teaches intelligent design. Great. I think you will find quite a few countries are as well and not just Turkey. And yes, the US education system is one of the poorest in general in the developed world – perhaps the poorest but that can change. Most developed nations require high educational standards and university degrees for teachers – I did not realise this was not the case in the US. It would account for the high levels of semi-literacy in your country – to some degree, no doubt there are other factors.

    You say science is testable but that does not apply to all areas of science – many things are potential or possibility and I would have thought the more questions the better. I mean has ‘string theory’ been thoroughly tested and proven? My understanding is that it remains a theory along with many others so why should not students be taught theories both of evolution, which has not been thoroughly proven and of some sort of intelligent design, which has also not been thoroughly proven.

    Evolution is not proven because of the lack of an alternative theory. That doesn’t make sense. And given the rigid nature of academia and the scientific system and the paranoia about the concept of intelligent design, the lack of a Ph.D in that subject probably has more to do with prejudice than a lack of a coherent argument for it.

    The ‘tooth fairy’ analogy hardly works so is best ignored. Going to the dentist does not by the way ensure excellent teeth and neither does the application of fluoride, in fact often quite the opposite, but that is another debate.

  60. marfin

    Ian you believe I don`t understand what evolution is , simply put evolution is change over time that`s it , now biological evolution as it relates to living creatures is best described as descent with modification. Now because I mention, things out side biological evolution you think I don`t understand it but really the whole universe is a product of evolution if you describe evolution as change over time ,which is evolution in its most basic form.
    Now if you want me to explain the mechanisms ,such as chemical evolution, Darwinian, neo Darwinian , punctuated equilibria , I would be happy to do so as that is where the problem lies the failure of these mechanisms to produce what evolutions say they produce.
    Amelie, send me some studies , or direct me to a specific web site and I will read and study whatever they say and as long as we can discuss what they say later I would be happy to do so.

  61. @marfin,

    It’s easy for any of us to resort to the extremely convenient response of: ‘you don’t understand’ or ‘you are just not informed enough,’ but it is best avoided. On this topic, whether evolutionist or creationist, and the extremes use this ‘defence’ most often, I would venture to suggest that there are many evolutionists who do not completely understand the varieties and vagaries of their theoretical position, and ditto for creationists.

  62. @amelie,

    I am also happy to continue reading and I am presuming this is a two-way street and that you are also happy to read alternative viewpoints.

  63. On the basis that the internet tends to provide extremist positions on any issue because ‘those who care the most post the most sites to defend their position’ and perspective can be hard to find and never more so than with this issue, it is important to find information which comes from neither extreme. In addition, because the evolutionist/creationist ‘battle’ is greater and more hysterical in the US, for all sorts of reasons, most information comes from that quarter and is influenced by the ‘desperate’ nature of the ‘war’ between the two sides.

    I for one am interested in any sites which can discuss ‘intelligence’ at work in this world without any sort of religious agenda. I am more than happy to take a position that says science can and should play an important part in this.

    Every position will have its prejudices and subjectivity and the site I am going to link admits this, but we have to start somewhere and this is from something called IDEA, which is also US based, but hopefully provides some information not tainted by religious dogma.

    They say of themselves: Intelligent design is a scientific theory which has its roots in information theory and observations about intelligent action. Intelligent design theory makes inferences based upon observations about the types of complexity that can be produced by the action of intelligent agents vs. the types of information that can be produced through purely natural processes to infer that life was designed by an intelligence or multiple intelligences. It makes no statements about the identity of the intelligent designer(s), but merely says that intelligent action was involved at some points with the origins of various aspects of biological life.’

  64. @ RosRoss:
    You desperately need your own “my view” blog.

  65. @Sabio,

    Why? You have in bold type Please share your opinions and yet seem to be suggesting you prefer limits on opinion sharing.
    The advantage one gains from not spending time running one’s own discussion blog is that there is time to access numerous others and therefore to experience a diversity of opinion and information.
    My experience is that ‘like often attracts like’ and often blogs end up a case of ‘preaching to the converted,’ although I will say you manage to attract a more diverse bunch, when what interests me is a variety of opinions on a variety of subjects across a broad spectrum.

  66. @Sabio,

    And for what it is worth, if you take a look, you will see that in the main, I am replying to posters who have addressed questions or made points to me. Which was the point of such blogs I thought. It’s a two-way street and your view could, would, should apply to others and not just to me. Perhaps you intend saying the same thing to others.

  67. p.s. and I am also doing you a favour. The more clicks you get and the more posts you get the more the internet ‘spiders’ are likely to find you and the more readers you will get. All good I would have thought.🙂

  68. Rosross,

    The fact that I just got three new e-mail notifications in a row re. your rather lengthy comments in response to one thing Sabio mentioned in a brief statement in one connent sort of vindicates his point.

    When such an asymmetry of conversation exists, especially as a guest on another’s turf, it’s prudent to maybe switch the passion to one’s own forum.

    Don’t take personally. As Sabio can attest, I am guilty of the same verbosity on occasion.😉


  69. marfin

    Seeing no one is forthcoming with any hard evidence I will cut to the chase the Theory of evolution as understood by most scientist is still a theory , now within the theory are, theories, facts, postulates,idea`s,and a myriad of other things that goes to make up any theory.But when we get down to the meat of the matter which is the mechanism for this evolutionary change to take place the current dogma teaches neo Darwinian evolution which is random mutation and natural selection.Now natural selection is like a person in quality control on an assembly line , now this person does not produce anything his job is only to weed out the bad and keep the good so the good thrive and the bad (weak) die or get rejected. Now the production in evolution take place via random mutation, if you read WEIT by Jerry Coyne he plainly state`s that the raw materials for evolutionary change all come from these random mutation`s. Now if you ask any medical doctor ,even a devoted evolution when their children were about to be born do they want their children to have any genetic mutations what do you think the answer will be.You see all creatures try to make perfect genetic copies of themselves and their spouse its only when something goes wrong do you get these mostly neutral, lots of times harmful, any never proven beneficial mutations.And never ever ,ever, has it been show that any new information has been added to the genetic code, which is what you would need to get from the scaly leg of a reptile to the feathered wing of a bird .This mechanism was put to the test (ah real science) in the fruit fly experiments
    so what did these experiments find well they found you can get fruit flies of different shape, wing quantity, leg quantity, size but still fruit flies no new genetic information , so real science shows this mechanism does not work, why has it not been rejected.

  70. @Maybe,

    I can take your point but then it raises the issue of why, if a question or comment is directed to someone, on anyone’s blog, it should not be answered. I guess I feel it is courteous to do so unless it is clear, from the comment, that no response is required.
    As I said to Sabio, if you have a look at the posts they are in the main, replies. I am not quite sure how to get around that. And yes, I find my inbox fills up with posts from others however I see that as the point of this sort of exchange.

  71. Ian

    @marfin –

    “do you get these mostly neutral, lots of times harmful, any never proven beneficial mutation” – a simple google search with help you with the latter. That harmful mutations are *much* more common is very clear, and provides adaptive pressure to correct against them. Why you think this is somehow against what evolution would predict, I’ve no idea. You’d get exactly this from the very simplest undergraduate mathematical models of evolution.

    “And never ever ,ever, has it been show that any new information has been added to the genetic code” – define information. Because information theory has been applied to genetics, extensively. And for the definition of information used by information theorists, information is trivially created.

    Even (the ID proponent) Spetner’s enzyme specificity (addressing) metric of information has this property: a random mutation is likely to create new information. He is also hopelessly naive when it comes to the biochemistry, but since we’re talking information theory only I’m happy to step through his ligand argument with examples. Dembski’s “Complex Specific Information” cannot be calculated (at least nobody has ever done so), because it is only defined by a series of narrative explanations. Dembski seems to only use -log p (i.e. just Shannon information), and then the above criticism applies: Shannon information is trivially created by random processes. So while Dembski certainly claims that CSI has never been shown to be created, since he can’t actually calculate it for a given system, this is rather a transparent claim.

    So how are you defining information, precisely, to reach this conclusion? Because if you have some amazing new way of calculating information, why not share it with the world? Information theory is of crucial importance economically too – a breakthrough could make you very rich.

    “but still fruit flies” – What on earth would you have expected? Because, if they hadn’t been fruit flies, that would be pretty damning evidence against evolution.

  72. @ Ian – too funny! I’ll have to look that up. Do they have their own journal?

  73. marfin

    Why o why does every evolutionist instead of presenting any positive evidence for their position they just always say google this or that.
    If you know evolution is a fact put you money where you mouth is and present the evidence, start with a credible mechanism for evolution , so put up or shut up so to speak.And if you don’t put up ,it will be apparent the like most atheist you believe evolution by faith just like every other religion.

  74. Ian

    “they just always say google this or that” – because if you insist that something doesn’t exist, but google gives you pages of results, then it is clear you are arguing in bad faith or seriously deluded, and me posting a page of articles is not going to change that. Its pretty simple.

    Its the same reason why you’ve consistently chosen to make broad statements in this thread, but not reply to specific answers. Its the classic creationist MO – throw as much shit around as possible and hope some sticks.

  75. Marfin, as I said I am happy to post links to evolution studies if you promise to read and comment on them. Yes or no? The ball’s in your court.

  76. Earnest

    @ Marfin: I inserted genetic code into plasmids then infected bacteria with the phage that carried the plasmid and the bacteria changed their ability to digest chemicals. Genetic code is a remarkably volatile thing.

  77. marfin

    Amelie , please post away , as long as when I have read and am ready to discuss any difficulties you don`t send me off to another study but defend
    the information yourself.

  78. marfin

    Still no evidence forthcoming , so I will explain why I believe what I believe . When you throw a stone in the air if falls back to earth , never ,ever not even once has a stone hovered in mid air or floated away, you see gravity is a law a regularity of nature there are no known exceptions thats why engineering works so well they know this to be the case.If you know of any exception to the law of gravity please post the details. Now there are more laws of nature , Biogenesis life only comes from life no know exceptions in nature or the lab. Life always brings forth life after its own kind ,so canine
    after canine , feline after feline, man after mankind once again no known exceptions in nature or the lab. So please present your exceptions.I have the science on my side as science prove`s both in nature and the lab what I have said please present the science behind your exceptions.

  79. Wow, Marfin. You must not have a job like the rest of us, where we aren’t online 24 hours a day browsing comments. You’re lucky I’m on a codpffee break. I’m on the iPad so I have to post one link at a time.

    Remember you promised to read and comment on each study.

  80. associatedluke

    @Marfin: Why o why does every evolutionist instead of presenting any positive evidence for their position they just always say google this or that.

    Okay, challenge accepted!

    As an evolutionary pastor, here’s somethings to think about. Do you get a flu shot each year?

    If not, I would recommend it. It’s not so you don’t get the flu, it’s so you don’t die. If so, keep up the good work! Anywho the point of this is that each year I get a flu shot, and it’s not the same flu shot as the past year. The scientists are trying to figure out how the virus mutated from one year to the next. The virus is always adapting, always changing to become more and more potent and easily reproduced.

    Another example: Dogs.
    We can select for traits we want and thus breed beagles, golden doodles, snoodles, whatever.

    Both of these examples assume and are examples of the theory of evolution. As does every scientists when they step into the biological game. The theory is assumed in every biological school of science, on every experiment in any lab across the land.

  81. MARFIN

    Amelie no I just live in a different time zone you see you need the facts before you jump to conclusions. I will read the posts and get back to you.
    Associatedluke, do yo know the difference between Darwinian evolution and Neo Darwinian evolution , Darwinian evolution was variation in nature just like all the different finch`s on the Galapagos and because of all this variation, natural selection selected the best and hey presto evolution .But wait why Neo Darwinian well science discovered these variations were limited , yes limited and could never go beyond the traits and features which were already in existence, this is scientific proven fact, so your dog analogy is void. Neo Darwinian evolution was brought in because evolutionist needed a new mechanism to produce all the new features in so called evolved creatures , so how do you get from the leg of a reptile to the wing of a bird we variation among all the reptiles won`t do it so ah ha mutations , mutation will do it. So what evolution are proposing is that copying mistakes at a genetic level produces hearts, lungs, eyes and brains,and they do this fully knowing that it has never been seen in nature or shown to work in a lab so real science is against it.Once again I say ask any doctor would they like their children to have any mutation when they are born the answer will always come back no, ask yourself why.The virus in the case of the flu jab is still a virus and gains resistance through loosing information not gaining information, the flu jab is designed to kill the virus by attacking a certain trait of the virus , the virus loose`s that trait so cannot be killed in that way, but its still a virus.I hope now you are honest enough to look for yourself at the evidence and see evolution is just not true. I have no problem with anyone who chooses not to believe in God , some good friends of mine have no belief in God but are wise enough to admit that evolution is just an excuse not to believe and is just not true.

  82. Marvin, you promised you’d read the studies but clearly you can barely speak proper English so I’m not surprised you couldn’t understand the content of the studies. I don’t “need to get the facts”. I have a Master’s degree in science so I have plenty of scienntific knowledge. Do you have any degree at all that you’re spouting these things with such confidence?

  83. marfin

    Amelie , please be patient I said I would read the studies, and I will ,and that you did not know the facts about my time zone not science. You spelled my name wrong ,you don`t know if English is my first language, you have never heard me speak English so you should have typed that I can barely type proper English, the comments on science we addressed to associatedluke not to you,so after all that tóg go bog é. By the way if everyone with a master`s degree is automatically correct by virtue of the fact that they have a master`s degree there would be no conflict or disagreement in science.and science would stop.
    So if we stick to the science ie the evidence we may just get to the truth.

  84. Mother of god, Sabio. Every morning I’m reminded once again why I usually opt out of checking that notify by email of new comments box. ; )

  85. marfin

    Associatedluke , please respond if you would to my comments on Neo Darwinian versus Darwinian as it relates to breeding of animals such as dogs etc, and if you are interested you can look up a century old work by Gregor Mendel which explains how variation is limited, hence the need for random mutations to be introduced to the theory.

  86. associatedluke

    marfin: “to my comments on Neo Darwinian versus Darwinian”
    -Tomato, ToMAto, same thing. Both assume evolution. Don’t see how these false distinctions really serve to show how evolution as a whole isn’t true, in fact it proves the opposite.

  87. Marfin, yeah I’m going to blame that one on autocorrect. In fact just now it changed it to Marvin again. Anyway, my mom was a language teacher and I’m quite good at telling when someone is a non-English speaker. You are fine at using irregular forms so I’m pretty sure it’s your native language.

    Please do remember you promised to read and comment on the studies.

  88. marfin

    Associatedluke if you think neo Darwinian and Darwinian are the same then you don`t understand the science behind them, and don`t really understand what science teach`s about evolution.

  89. Both assume evolution and have different methods on how it exactly plays out. Not sure how either approach dismisses how evolution holds true and is .. you know… a theory.

  90. Earnest

    @ Maybe: consider your sentiments echoed!

  91. marfin

    Associatedluke , they changed to Neo Darwinian because Darwinian did not work , they realised change cause by variation as seen amongst the finches in the Galapagos is limited and does not and cannot break free from these limitations. So science has shown it does not work but you still think it does.If you disagree please show me how Darwinian evolution can change a reptile into a bird, I await your response or anyone`s response on how this mechanism can do this . If no response is forthcoming I will assume the matter settled Darwinian evolution is limited.

  92. @ marfin
    Your statement of:

    “If no response is forthcoming I will assume the matter settled …”

    is so illogical and juvenile that it reveals the circuitry you use to reason and give us clear signs that dialogue with you will be unproductive.

    I continue to ignore you.

  93. marfin

    Sabio , the point I am trying to get to is that these discussion go on ad infinitum, because no one is willing to call them.Now associatedluke maybe the greatest guy in the world and I meant him no disrespect, but when he make`s a claim for an evolutionary mechanism that has been proved to be limited in its evolutionary abilities, I have to call him on it and ask for the evidence.If you are saying I should not ask for evidence ,and you are happy to believe evolution by faith , thats ok you have every right to do so.But don`t then claim what I believe is faith and what you believe is fact, without evidence you cannot make that claim. So am I justified in asking for evidence or not you tell me.
    Because If science is on your side please produce the scientific evidence, and I will consider myself chastised.

  94. Earnest

    Marfin this is getting boring because it is getting circular. You say, show me evidence. The reply is, look at the fossil record. OK, that’s good enough to put evolution on at least the same theoretical legs as Intelligent Design.

    If you are suggesting that Intelligent Design is a more valid concept than evolution, you are wasting everyone’s time.

    If you are asking us to consider that Intelligent Design cannot be completely disproven, no matter how profoundly unlikely it may be, than that is an entirely different matter. But in the latter case the onus is on you to provide YOUR evidence that ID cannot be completely discarded. Which in my opinion you have not yet done.

  95. Earnest

    @ Marfin: I entered college as a Intelligent Design devotee. My eyes were opened when I read a paper called The Spandrels of San Marco, not very long and may be life-changing for you to read. I could no longer return logically to Intelligent Design after I read that paper.

  96. Wait, the theory is entirely bunk because new evidence came along and bolstered the theory and filled in gaps in our knowledge? Sorry dude, not playing.

    Now is it true that we haven’t observed the emergence of a new species? No, it’s not. A new species of mosquito, isolated in London’s Underground, has speciated from Culex pipiens (Byrne and Nichols 1999; Nuttall 1998). Several new species of plants have arisen via polyploidy (when the chromosome count multiplies by two or more). One example is Primula kewensis (Newton and Pellew 1929). Let alone the various ring species that are genetic deadends, but did produce new species like salamander Ensatina (Brown n.d.; Wake 1997), American bee Hoplitis, and my favorite, the subterranean mole rat, Spalax ehrenbergi. You’ll note the studies that produced this and the year, some 20 years ago and one from 1929. I would ask you to get updated on the subject at least to the Great Depression, then we can talk.

  97. @ Marfin :
    Your reply to me is an immature way to “get a discussion going”. I’ve already told you, this post is not meant to debate evolution. Lots do it. Even in this next comment to me you show that you don’t get my point. Your dialogue methods are immature.
    You can consider yourself chastised again, as I continue to ignore you.

  98. Marfin, how can you sit there and ask for evidence when you already broke your promise to read the studies I posted? They’re right there in front of you. They’re the cornerstone of evolutionary theory. Either read them or be outed as someone who makes empty claims with zero ability to understand established science.

  99. marfin

    Associatedluke , thank you for proving my point as all the new species you mention are just like the finches Darwins saw ,still finches, mosquito still mosquito, and mole rats still mole rats, sure their was variety but they were still the same basic creature.They may have extra chromosomes but the extra chromosomes are the same as the existing one`s they already have, hence how do you get from a reptile to a bird by just increasing the same genetic material over and over again, you cant.Read WEIT by Jerry Coyne he states that all the raw material for change comes about by mutation, ALL,so maybe your argument should by with him or maybe as most others
    post here may think he like me is not educated enough to carry on such a discussion.

  100. marfin

    Amelie I have briefly read the reports and will reply when I have read them in more detail sorry just been a bit busy.

  101. Ian

    Associatedluke , they changed to Neo Darwinian because Darwinian did not work

    Just for Luke’s info and anyone else reading the thread.

    Neo-Darwinian is short for the “Neo-Darwinian Synthesis” i.e. a synthesis of evolution by natural selection and genetic hereditary. It was a development of the start of the C20. Mendel, by providing a mechanism for inheritance, allowed evolution to become mathematized. Neo-Darwinianism is characterised by biometric approaches (i.e. math), and in particular nowadays by bioinformatics approaches (i.e. big math with computers). Although Mendel was a contemporary of Darwin (and in fact it is said that Darwin had an unopened paper of Mendel’s in his library when he died), It took fifty years or so before the two sets of results were brought together.

    Darwin and Galton both posited models of mutation, and realised mutation was necessary. It is simply not true that they thought variation to be the whole story. But they were wrong in their models, because they assumed inheritance was a continuous process (a natural assumption given a large amount of phenotypic variation is continuous – though as has often been pointed out, perhaps the most obvious phenotypic variation, sex, is not).

    The idea that Neo-Darwinism was invented because Darwinism didn’t work is ahistorical as well as unscientific.

  102. @ Ian
    Great debunking of the Neo-Darwinism correction false argument.
    I corrected your comment for you, but could you actually elaborate on that sentence:

    “But they were wrong in their models, because they assumed inheritance was a continuous process (a natural assumption given a large amount of phenotypic variation is continuous – though as has often been pointed out, perhaps the most obvious phenotypic variation, sex, is not).”

  103. Ian

    Thanks for the correction!

    Yes, Darwin described inheritance in the prevalent model of his day: as a blending of parental features. If your mother is tall and your father is short, you’re likely to be in the middle somewhere (though in rarer cases you may be taller or shorter – hence mutation). But you could be anywhere in the middle. Phenotypic variation in height is continuous, so the inheritance underlying it must be.

    Darwin didn’t invent this idea, it was the generally accepted science of his day.

    What Mendel showed was that the genetic process underneath is not continuous. You can’t inherit an arbitrary blend of your parents’ information, it comes in discrete units: genes.

    He did this by observing features that were controlled by one gene (not quite true strictly, but near enough that the inaccuracy didn’t break his results). And noted you either get your mother’s form of the trait or your father’s, but not a mixture. By breeding children with their parents (backcrossing), he was able to reliably drive certain variations out of the population in a couple of generations. This would not be possible in a mixing model.

    But then what of height? Given that at least some traits don’t mix, how do we explain traits that clearly do (like most of the things we could actually measure about a person)? The brilliant leap was to propose that such traits are made up of very many genes, so it appears that there is mixing.

    You don’t need many such genes to make it appear like mixing. Ten genes influencing a trait, say, each in just two forms, would give 1024 different combinations. With a bit of environmental effect (height, for example depends on nutrition and other factors) you couldn’t hope to tell them apart from the phenotype. And ten is a very low estimate on the number of genes involved.

    So it has often been remarked that it is no wonder that people missed the idea of atomic genes, because just about everything measurable seems continuous. But the counter-point is also well made. That sex is the ultimate non-mixing trait. You either get it from your father or your mother, but not both. I’m ignoring intersex issues aside for now, as they can be caused by lots of things, not just inheritance of the sex chromosomes.

    For wikipedia / googling: The interaction of genes is called “epistasis”, which causes “polygenetic” effects. “Mendelian inheritance” is the study of “monogenetic” traits. Traits like height are “quantitative traits”, many of which are caused by both polygenetic effects and non-genetic effects, and are known as “mutifactorial” traits.

  104. Ahhh… yeah, I didn’t get what he was talking about. Now I see the false division he was trying to create. Thanks Ian!

  105. marfin

    So Ian , a simple question can the change brought about by the Darwinian
    mechanism of blending of parental genes as you call it coupled with natural selection , account for new creatures or even new body parts eg a reptile leg becoming an avian wing , or is it limited.

  106. marfin

    Sorry in case I was not clear I meant the reptile leg changing over a long period to evolve into an avian wing.

  107. Marfin – First if all I hope Ian doesn’t mind (and hopefully he corrects any errors in my answer) I will chime in on your question, also I sure hope you’re going to fulfill your promise on this post to read and comment on the studies I took the trouble to find and post for you.

    The parental gene inheritance Ian was talking about *is* natural selection. In other words, if the male and female are fit to thrive and reproduce, the offspring will inherit (several) useful traits from both “parents”. The benefitted offspring will then go on to pass their adaptive genes to its offspring.

    Dinosaur ancestors of birds (technically they’re not really reptiles but I’ll skip over that part) did not “grow” wings. Scientists believe the nearest bird ancestor was, like other dinosaurs, feathered. Among other traits, being able to eventually take off into the air was obviously an advantageous trait.

    The feathers and wing muscles to assist flight would have come about gradually, and keep in mind among many species of feathered dinosaurs, it appeared in only one species. The advantage to other feathered dinos may have been feather’s ability to keep them dry and act to regulate heat.

    In fact I believe one of the articles I gave you was about how arboreal species evolved longer lives, as being high in trees kept them safe from predators.

    Please get back to me soon on those articles.

  108. EDIT: I should add this caveat! Yes, natural selection is being reexamined. No, not in favor of Creationism. Lynn Margulis thinks the idea that natural selection is a one-way process does not make sense. The biosphere is a layer of Earth that interacts with everything around it. So living creatures, far from being held hostage by their environment, can change the Earth as they evolve. So the layer evolves with them. So see? Science is dynamic and is questioned all along the way.

    Not in any manner though, that would lend any credence to Creationism.

  109. Marfin’s brief pause in replying is surely because he is trying to finish those articles that amelie supplied on Jan 30th (11 days ago).

  110. marfin.

    Thats the point Amelie where did the feathers come from , if a creature like a reptile reproduces offspring and neither of the parents have feathers or have nothing in their genes that makes feathers so to speak, how do any of their offspring ever end up with feathers.what is the mechanism that gives a creature feathers from parents that don`t have feathers, no matter what amount of time pass`s.We know for a fact creatures reproduce offspring like themselves , what break`s that cycle.
    I will read the articles just busy honestly.

  111. @ marfin: If you have enough time to scan your RSS reader and come back and make these sort of questions, you have time to read the articles. Yawn.

  112. Marfin – Feathers are modified hairs. The “mechanism” that changes the structure of body forms is called mutation. Mutation does not mean illness or something bad. Mutation simply means a change has taken place. Genes build proteins. It’s not like building a toaster. These are biological materials that change every time they’re produced.

    Think about this. If animals inherited genes exactly from their parents then everyone in a family would look nearly identical with no variation.

    Keratin is the protein that makes not only hair but other skin cells like reptile scales and feathers. When that protein is produced, it’s changed just a bit each time. Eventually the skin cells on dinosaurs (probably from their scales) eventually changed to produce a hollow shaft and the texture of a feather.

  113. Marfin here is some evidence for what I’m saying. That’s what it’s called, evidence. I certainly wouldn’t want to post something and arrogantly assume readers would just take my word for it. I will be happy to read any studies you post as evidence for your points. So far you’ve failed to do so or to even demonstrate that you know how to read a study.

  114. marfin, sounds like your mind is made up and screw anything that says otherwise. Read and respond dude, not that hard. Pretty straight forward articles.

  115. Ian

    “We know for a fact creatures reproduce offspring like themselves , what break`s that cycle.”

    Nothing breaks that cycle.

    It is a misleading temptation to fixate on large scale morphology.

    In terms of biochemical changes required to make hairs or feathers from ancestral keratin tubules, there isn’t that much. As for arms into wings, even less: that’s a process that has happened several times independently in vertebrates (and, as I’ll go on to say, we’d expect the ‘solutions’ for how ancestral skeletons map to wings would be distinctively different in each case: which is in fact what we see comparing the skeletons of birds and bats and pterosaurs).

    So, as Amelie says, one of the testable predictions of Evolution is that, if birds did evolve from reptiles, we’d expect to find that feathers are direct analogs of some feature of ancestral reptiles, and other descendants of those same reptiles should have either those same features, or other features also biochemically related.

    These things may not be functional analogs because function is much more plastic than the underlying biology. But they should be obviously related biochemically.

    As, in fact they are, not just biochemically, but developmentally too. To reptiles we can connect feather follices with keratin producing sebaceous pores which are very similar biochemically in embryos, but then specialize. And the same structures are in other descendants of reptiles: the same biochemistry at work in the production of keratin strands by skin follicles in mammals (which we call ‘hair’ on a mammal), for example.

    Depending on how fast this process occurred, one might see intermediate forms in fossil evidence. And feather formation and a gradual increase in the geometric complexity of feathers is preserved nicely in a range of mesozoic maniraptorans.

    We’d also expect similar function in a relatively unconnected species would be biochemically implemented in a very different way.

    So the ‘hairs’ of an insect, for example, may be visually and functionally similar to the hairs of a mammal, but are very different biochemically than either feathers or hair (e.g. annelid setae are made of chitin – a sugar, rather than keratin – a protein), and both are much further from the hairs of pubescent plants (cellulose).

    If birds and mammals are both modified ancestral reptiles, we’d expect the biology of mammal hair to be much more similar to the biology of bird feathers than the biology of insect hair. Same with any other feature.

    Something appearing de novo is a falsification criteria for evolution. Evolution says it should not happen.

    A bird is not a new thing compared to a reptile. It is an ancestral reptile with minor modifications. It is more distinct from a modern reptile only because the sets of minor modifications in each group is different from the other. Even if the ancestral species had more functionally in common with one of its descendent species (as a result of it occupying a similar ecological niche), we’d expect biochemically it to be a common denominator.

    As we’ve seen with fruit fly experiments, large scale morphology is often quite plastic, so can lead you astray when trying to reason about how closely related things are.

    I’ve still no confidence that marfin is discussing in good faith, but hopefully the explanation might be interesting for other watchers.

    [sorry for another epic post, Sabio]

  116. @ Ian,
    No need for apology. I love long, coherent insightful comments. I am going to read your comment 2 times to learn better. Like Luke, I suspect you are right about marfin. Thanx for the education.

  117. marfin

    Amelie you are absolutely right the proposed mechanism for change is mutation, as I said before Jerry Coyne in his book WEIT stated that ALL the raw material for change comes from mutation,now Ian disagrees with this.So Ian, experiment`s have show time and time and time again through reproduction studies that animals reproduce after their kind and their coded genes tell each and every cell what to become so it tells eye cells to become eye cells, ear cells to become ear cells and so on but what you are saying Ian is that coded somewhere in the dna of every single creature is the potential for its offspring to become another totally different creature without a change in its genes.You need to call nature,scientific american, and most if not all the colleges in the U.S because what they teach is at odds with what you are teaching. The accepted evolutionary mechanism is random mutation acted upon by natural selection being the cause for evolutionary change.If you disagree you will now need to argue with Me Amelie, Jerry Coyne ,Richard Dawkins et al.

  118. Marfin, you are one of the most confused people I have ever spoken to. If there’s only one thing you do in this life, please, make it this: do not say that you and I agree. I agree with absolutely nothing you are saying. Ian has more knowledge about science than any of us here, by a long shot.

    You clearly understood nothing Ian was saying, what’s more you misrepresented his statement. You comments clearly hinge on lies, distortions, and a flat out refusal to prove what you’re saying.

  119. Ian

    “but what you are saying Ian is that coded somewhere in the dna of every single creature is the potential for its offspring to become another totally different creature without a change in its genes.”

    No, that’s absolutely what I’m not saying. And in fact it is absurd, and nothing that anyone with even high-school level biology would ever claim.

    I’m sorry you can’t get past your self-righteousness on this to actually learn some basic biology. But, as I’ve said, this information isn’t difficult to find. So the fact that you’ve obviously spent so much time absorbing creationist propaganda, but not actually bothered to learn any biology is a great testimony to how sincere you are in this discussion.

  120. marfin

    So Ian just read your post again and nowhere do you mention the word mutation not even once , now Amelie says and correctly so that the mechanism that changes structures in body form is mutation.
    So my simple question is this are mutations required to change a creature from one basic type to another or not.
    And with regard to self righteousness its worth noting the comment by an eminent Chinese palaeontologist Jun-Yuan Chen who said in an interview for the wall st journal.
    In China you can criticise Darwin but not the government but in America you can criticise the government but not Darwin, end quote
    Everything should be open to discussion, and criticism even precious theories of evolution.

  121. Ian

    Who is criticising Darwin? You certainly aren’t. You haven’t posted a single criticism that even describes evolution properly yet. Being ignorant of basic biology is not the same as ‘criticism’. If you want to post some criticism, then do it, great, let’s go for it. So far you’ve just put forward inane misunderstandings and run away from any discussion that got specific. Where is your claim about no new information now? Did you not want to define information so we can talk about that? Where is your comment about the evolution of the wing now? Do you not want to talk about those mechanisms?

    Look, you seem to be so focussed on making your point that you can’t engage with anything that is said. You are consistently showing that you don’t even know what scientists claim about evolution. Taking my detailed post to task for not mentioning the word mutation, for example.

    So you’re jumping to all these wild conclusions and continually in this post people are telling you that you are fundamentally misrepresenting evolution. So perhaps it might be better to spend some time actually figuring out what your enemy believes, rather than just regurgitating unrecognizable rubbish. It might feel like we’re making stuff up on the spot, but we’re not. You can find this stuff in any textbook on evolution.

    At least then we might be able to have a sane discussion about some topic. Rather than playing rhetorical whack-a-mole.

  122. marfin

    So once again Ian mutations or not, or will you play politics by answering the question with a comment about another issue.

  123. marfin

    Evolution 101 by evolution@Berkeley university. Please note Mutation is
    a change in a DNA sequence, usually occurring because of errors in replication or repair.Mutation is the* ultimate* source of genetic variation.
    So once again Ian , in your post you made no mention of Mutations The educators at Berkelely seem to say its the ultimate source of genetic variation, so who is right I wonder.

  124. Marfin, wow. It’s bad enough you are ignorant but now you are clearly a liar.

    1. I read the Berkeley site (what, you thought not having a link means you could hide it?) it does not say mutation is the only mechanism. They say there are 3 mechanisms. Gene flow, mutation and sex.

    2. You lied about what I said, and you lied when you promised to read those studies and comment here.

    How do you expect anyone to take you seriously now?

  125. Ian

    I’m not sure how you could have read my post as denying mutations. But, if you want to play kindergarten games, then yes, mutation.

    But as long as you’re playing these silly games, you’re not actually listening to what is being said to you. The fact that you think I am disagreeing with Berkeley’s course, Jerry Coyne or anyone else is the whole point of your cluelessness about what evolution actually is.

    But okay, let’s play your game for a while, for the entertainment value, and since you have no interest in actually finding out about anything.

    Mutations are *ultimately* the source of all genetic variation (rather a tautology, since that is how they are defined, but still). What amazing conclusion are you going to leap to from there?

  126. @Ian I was curious myself so I looked it up, the idea is that biological mutations are inherently haphazard and a harmful, but beneficial mutations are goal-oriented therefore must come from God.

    Or something like that. Maybe the in-house Creationist can explain it better.

  127. Ian

    @Amelie – thanks. I was hoping for a variation of Haldane’s dilemma.

  128. marfin

    Amelie I never said mutation was the only cause of change , but what I and Jerry Coyne and Berkeley 101 are saying is that it is the ultimate source of genetic change. Variation in a species will allow for change to be brought about by the mixing of parental gene`s but this variation is always limited.
    Now that is where this started as I was explaining to associated luke that breeding experiment in dogs although they produce huge variation it is always limited variation, and cannot be used as evidence for what’s call macro evolution ie large scale change.So random mutation and natural selection is the agreed upon mechanism and driving force for the change that most people understand as evolution.Now that we possibly agree that mere mixing of parental gene`s coupled with natural selection is an insufficient mechanism for macro evolution we can now deal with what the
    most widely believed mechanism is random mutation and natural selection.
    If anyone does not agree just please cite the evidence that mutations are not required.

  129. Marfin, you have it backwards. Mutation cannot be counted on for species survival, whereas gene flow and sex with fit individuals can. Unless you have a bottleneck you’re going to have a certain amount of hybridization in nature which keeps the wild stock healthy and as Margulis said the ecosystem will evolve with them.

    Your copy and paste information is 100 years old and very outdated.

    I DID post evidence, you refused to read it.

  130. Ian

    “we can now deal with what the most widely believed mechanism is random mutation and natural selection”

    I’m still waiting for you to do your big reveal.

    What, actually, is your point here? You’re tantalizing us with a spattering of creationist buzz-words (“macro-evolution”, “random mutation”) that can lead to any number of canards, but I’m eager to see which one you think is so wonderfully compelling.

  131. Ian

    I don’t want to encourage further wandering, but while we’ve turned to probing your strange beliefs, can you say more about

    “breeding experiment in dogs although they produce huge variation it is always limited variation”

    Is it your opinion that the variation among modern dog breeds is purely made up of the variation that was in ancestral dogs? So if you go through the DNA of every dog breed, every bit of every gene is traceable back to the DNA of the ancestral population. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    Just so I’m clear.

  132. marfin

    Ian Yes its my opinion that the variation in the dogs we see today is made up through variation which was in ancestral dogs.
    The reason this whole debate is taking so long is agreeing on a definition of evolution as it applies to taking creatures from single celled organisms to the multiplicity of creatures we see today. I am stating the the current accepted evolutionary model is random mutation and natural selection, all the rest ,gene flow ,population genetic`s just accounts for variation within a given type but not from one type to another. So if we are in agreement with random mutation and natural selection being the mechanism then we can discuss does it work. If you disagree and think another mechanism is responsible we can discuss that mechanism.
    Reading WEIT again the weekend Coyne clearly states all major genetic change comes about via mutation and after that all the other processes `s
    can do their work but until the mutation happens change will always be limited
    By the way Ian we don`t need to have a falling out over this we can disagree.

  133. Earnest

    @ Marfin: I recall telling Rosross to read about the Founder Effect, which can cause abrupt jumps in the appearance and genetic spectrum of a population, and create a FALSE impression of de novo “created” populations. Rosross has been, apparently, in silent contemplation since then, a behavior I encourage you to do as well. Please give us all your opinion of the Founder Effect. For it was this, plus the Spandrels of San Marco article on meaningless variations, which forced me to set aside my Creationism and replace it with humble self-doubt in the pursuit of valid scientific inquiry.

    One of the attitudes I find in my mentors in science is an urge to do thought experiments with the question “how would this system work if I am truly wrong in my suppositions, and the opposite of what I think is true?”

    I think of the Founder Effect as fake Creationism. If I see the Founder Effect’s results without drilling down into what events led to the result, I can easily delude myself into thinking that the result was created de novo. The leap you must make, if you wish to be seen as a scientist instead of a zealot, is to embrace hard-earned wisdom instead of unquestioned assumptions.

  134. Ian

    @Marfin, I wouldn’t be so quick to assume we’re in agreement. You’re using terms in rather strange and vague ways, and seem to be fixating on things that I’m not sure you understand.

    For example, from your need to have me use the word “mutation” rather than actually discuss the evolution of features, I infer that you have some idea of what mutation is that is independent of actual biological change. But then, you also seem to have abandoned your desire to talk about mutation from the perspective of information theory, so I infer from that that you’re not actually interested in mutation in terms of its information theoretic role, either.

    So I can’t say I agree with you, because you seem to want to use mutation (something we can measure, directly, and model mathematically) in some blunt way to say “mutations are bad”, without actually being interested in how they actually work. And without reading the ample and easily to find literature on observed, useful, de novo mutations (preferring to play some silly game of insisting that I have no evidence if I don’t do your googling for you).

    So I want you to lay out what you are actually claiming. Then I’ll have a better idea whether we agree on what words mean.

    “evolution as it applies to taking creatures from single celled organisms to the multiplicity of creatures we see today”

    The problem is this is totally the wrong level of abstraction to think about the mechanisms of evolution. You can easily appeal to incredulity when you look at huge spans of time. How can you get from bacteria to people? Its amazing!

    Yes, it is. I find it utterly incomprehensible.

    The point is that evolution doesn’t take you right from molecules to man. There are tens of millions of steps in the intermediate chain. Evolution is simply the idea that all steps in that chain can be adequately described in terms of the kinds of genetic change we can observe in any such step. So to disprove that, we need to show that there is some specific link that could not.

    You identified one change that you didn’t think could be explained in terms of these links: the evolution of feathers, a change that appears miraculous, but which I then described, and is not biochemically very dramatic at all. Further, the explanation I gave, I showed was not arbitrary: it has consequences (as all explanations do), and so we can check if this particular chain is the right one, by looking at whether its implications are true.

    But I get the sense that you’re not interested, actually, in how feathers came to be. You were only using that as an example of something you found incredible. If that didn’t persuade, you want to return to the large scale incredulity. If feathers aren’t it, then something else might be (you’re now talking about “single cell creatures to the multiplicity of creatures we see today”).

    So please lay out your thesis on why mutations make it impossible for evolution to have happened in terms of some specific change they could not account for. Chances are we’ll have to break down your huge change into bits and account for each step (remember evolution says this is a chain). But in doing so, any answer a biologist gives will have checkable consequences.

    If you insist on never getting down to specifics, then you’re never actually engaging with evolutionary arguments you’re just throwing mud at evolution and hoping some of it will stick.

    “By the way Ian we don`t need to have a falling out over this we can disagree.”

    We clearly do disagree, which is fine. But I will resist any attempt to push your opinion directly into my kid’s science classroom, without going through scholarly acceptance first.

  135. Thanks @Earnest for making that point; genetic drift is interesting and there’s a great book called Song of the Dodo by Quammen that talks about island biogeography and Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) theory. Isolation of a population can cause inbreeding but in the case of islands there can be genetic diversity PLUS evolution in absence of mutations as the main driver.

    It’s vital to point out that new species are a tricky thing. A few years ago BBC Science and other news blogs were announcing “new species of lemur found”! every five minutes. A geneticist wrote a grumpy article saying that really, genetic changes are relative, subject to scale and we don’t need to announce a new species every time one set of lemurs is genetically different from another.

    This brings up another vital point which is if you take one species and isolate some geographically it’s inevitable that you’ll get genetic changes. Whether this is “good” or “bad”, “adaptive” or “directional” is beside the point. Niches drive natural selection; and species drive biosphere changes. That’s important.

  136. Hiya! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa?
    My blog addresses a lot of the same subjects as yours and
    I feel we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to send
    me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Awesome blog by the way!

  137. Positive suggestions are the same as positive thoughts, so by saying positive affirmations over and over, you are setting yourself up to achieve huge levels of success in whatever you do.
    People will hold these thoughts for hours, days or weeks.
    The technology we have today is very powerful; therefore it’s important that we learn to use it wisely.

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