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Monday, February 16, 2009

Misconceptions of Evolution

This is a great little video that is a basic introduction to the theory of evolution, and addresses many of the misconceptions that we continually hear time and time again.


53 comments:

  1. Very interesting, though it still does not answer my original question to Alan, not the points that I made in the discussion under the post "Happy Darwin Day". What it did do though, was provide a clear example of the dilemma I have with Evolution. It used the example of changing a couple of words in subtle ways until you had a whole lot of words that never existed. My question is, where did the new letters come from to make the new words? Natural selection DOES NOT account for this.

    Evidence suggests that mutations result in making an animal LESS likely to survive in the long run, not better (yes, happy to give specific examples).

    The video also gave the example of moths where certain offspring with colouring that caused them to be better concealed from predators would become more common. This is not even a mutation! It is simply certain genes becoming more dominant through selection.

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  2. Dave, are you really that ignorant or is it just that your comprehension of the evolutionary facts confuse you?

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  3. Hi mags! In answer to your question, although I do not claim to be highly informed, I do not think I am entirely ignorant. At the same time I do not think I have been confused by evolutionary facts, as I have failed to find any, even though I have looked.

    What I would love is for someone to show me evidence of a genetic mutation or new genetic material in an animal/insect that demonstrates an improvement in that animal/insects ability to survive/function.

    The moth example does not do this - (that is a fact!).

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  4. I'll just leave this here

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13673-evolution-myths-mutations-can-only-destroy-information.html

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  5. Thanks for that Rach! Now I confess it is tempting to just go hahahahahahahahaha! Nice pro-evolution link Rach! But I won’t. Instead I have read it and weighed the evidence that it brings to the table. The answer is, no new information! Let me explain why.

    How is changing from the ability to digest milk up until the age of 12, to being able to digest milk as an adult evidence of new genetic information? It is the result of the loss of information, because the gene that switches off the ability to digest milk has gone/mutated. The article claims this is beneficial. This is very debatable! True benefit would mean something like a child’s ability to be self sufficient earlier, not a child’s ability to be breast fed beyond the age of 12! Men still breast feeding at the age of 21 do not have a higher survival rate (I would imagine they would be picked on more!).

    As for the sea squirt changing from a one chambered heart to a two chambered heart. This is the duplication of existing information. Yes, it is only two more duplications away from having a four chambered hear like you and I, but to what purpose? This is not new genetic info. If I ask my photocopier to print one copy and it malfunctions and prints two, this is not new information. I note the article tells us of no benefit that the 2 chambered heart offers for the sea squirt.

    With regards to the monkeys it states very clearly that this is through combining existing information, not new information, and later talks about duplicating info.

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  6. Dave, lets face it you're never going to accept that evolution is a FACT. So I'll just leave this here and we can all get on with our lives. Enjoy!!
    http://unreasonablefaith.com/2009/01/03/ray-comfort-asks-why-interbreeding-doesnt-work/

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  7. So, mags, on this critical thinking blog you want me to accept fact that you cannot prove? I have been very reasonable with the proof I have asked for. If evolution is real, then surely there are examples of forward progression (not backwards or sideways)in genetic information.

    I read you link. Not sure what it proved. It seemed quite disconnected from the discussion. And the most recent post by Rach suggests that science does not require faith. Not half!

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  8. Dave, as was discussed in the Scientific American link, and the video included in this post, new genetic material occurs as the result of mutations. These can include insertions, deletions, duplications, inversions and translocations. There are complex processes involved in these which I suggest you research if you would like to know more about them.

    The idea that such mutations can lead to new genetic material is an important concept in the understanding of the processes of evolution and is covered in graduate level genetics courses (I've studied this myself). We are taught this because it is the scientific consensus and has been shown time and time again to be the best way to account for what we are currently able to observe. If there were other acceptable theories (all it would require is some sound evidence) we would be taught about them, but so far there have not been any that stand up against the rigorous investigations science requires. Sorry, but science trumps theology.

    It is not as simple as "here's the evidence, I win", but there are numerous examples of the kind of information you are asking for available on a simple google search http://tinyurl.com/cfrvk3

    It is not up to us to educate you in topics that we are not expert in. Please have a look around, seek out peer reviewed research and come to your own conclusions. If you come up with any decent insights that are contrary to those we are putting forward, I'd be really interested in hearing them, but make sure you check your facts thoroughly, or you're likely to be given more research to do.

    I would like to know the reason that you are so adamantly defending your opposition to evolution, your proposed alternative and your evidence to back it up. For a hypothesis to be considered, it must also show falsifiability (what would be needed to disprove it), so I would also like to know what evidence you would require to disprove your proposition. On a similar note, it would be interesting to know what evidence could convince you to accept evolution. Your request for beneficial adaptations, then rejection of the provided examples suggests that you actually require much more evidence than you are asking for and might just be a red herring.

    Your labeling of the Scientific American article as 'pro evolution' really shows your bias. It is 'pro evolution' because science is pro evolution. The dismissive tone of that response suggests that you are very unlikely to be convinced to change your mind. Also, from your adamant defending of your predesignated position, it appears that you have a lot riding on this issue. Are you a preacher? If so, you should have a look at the way that numerous other vocationally religious people have reconciled their faith with evolution. A good starting point is Ken Miller.

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  9. Great reply Alan.

    And further on the point that Dave made about the "pro evolution link", you say this as though science is pro evolution because of some bias. Science is pro evolution because it has arrived at the conclusion that this is the best theory to explain the diversity of life. It's not like scientists only publish research that supports their pre conceived bias to try to support the theory. This is NOT how science works. Creationist literature is anti evolution (and laughable) because it threatens their position, so they actively try (and fail) to dismiss it.

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  10. Thanks for your comment Alan. As Rach said, great reply! If I could perhaps respond to some of the things you have said.

    – I do not have a lot riding on this. As the video in the post says this is not a religious argument.

    – I once was a Christian who believed in evolution, so I think I have already looked into this, but thanks for the suggestion.

    – Once again (and I have said this more than once on this blog), it is not about “here’s the evidence – I win”. I do not care for a win, I care for the truth. Why do you guys always think it is about winning? Why do you always mention this, but not the truth?

    – I am not asking you to educate me on anything (I have studied biology, chemistry and engineering at Uni, and taught Science in High School...I am educated thanks). This blog has made a claim. I have asked you to back it up. You can’t. You claim to be critical thinkers, and yet you seem to have a lot riding on this issue because you insist on believing something you cannot prove to me.

    – Sorry, but since when do I need to give you an alternative to something that you cannot prove? Why not just say, “We cannot prove it but we believe in it because we choose to (that’s faith by the way!)? You and I both know you will not accept my alternative, but you could always admit that you do not know with certainty how life came to be as it is.

    – Yeah, my labelling of the Scientific American article as pro evolution shows my bias! I was simply responding to the bias exhibited by Rach in her comment about my links under the “Happy Darwin Day” post. Some of those links questioned evolution, not because they were creationist (though some were...by creationist scientists!!!), but because they were secular but doubt evolution. Rach was the first to show bias!

    - Please, share with me how “insertions, deletions, duplications, inversions and translocations” introduce new genetic material. I am not asking you to educate me, just back up your claim. You claim my bias means I will not accept your link. I gave you reasons why your link did not produce evidence for new genetic material. Did I say something wrong? Can you correct me? Was I false in what I said the link did say? C’mon, don’t just dismiss me. You claim to be critical thinkers seeking the truth but you are making no effort to engage with critical thinking. This is what you constantly claim us Christians do!!

    - All I am saying is that evolution does not explain where the material comes from. The best thing about the video in this post is that it says evolution does not explain how life started. If it were honest it would also say that it does not account for the extra genetic material needed for life to evolve in a progressive manner.

    – Finally, I checked the link you gave me (as I always check the links I am given), and it does not go anywhere. Google told me to check the words. If you want to give it to me again that would be great.

    - Please, send me off to do more research, but be aware that if it does not deliver the info you claim it will deliver, I will be back!

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  11. Dave, you seem to be under the false impression that there is some kind of debate over whether evolution is true or not. There is no debate. It is true. If you don't accept the theory, then you are ignorant, which is exactly how you are arguing - "I can't understand how it works, therefor it must not be true". Myself and Alan are not evolutionary biologists. Just because we are unable to answer your specific question about the finer details of evolution, doesn't mean the theory is invalid. It would be like you asking me details of the theory of gravity, or germ theory, and if I didn't know the answer, then the theory would be invalid. It just doesn't work like that! If you are genuinely interested in the answer to your questions, why don't you email someone who is an expert in the area such as PZ Myers? He is very approachable (we have met him; he is lovely!).

    Saying that, you said:
    "What I would love is for someone to show me evidence of a genetic mutation or new genetic material in an animal/insect that demonstrates an improvement in that animal/insects ability to survive/function".

    The moth in the video did exactly that. There was a genetic mutation that caused the moth to be more like it's environment, making it camouflaged, hence improving it's survival ability.

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  12. Rach (and Alan). I thank you for your patience. I have been blunt with you and you have not (really) told me where to get off. I appreciate this! I hope we can put this conversation to rest soon.

    Rach, the moth thing does not demonstrate new genetic material. For starters, it was an animated cartoon in the video with no references to any real life moths!!! Rach, cartoons are not real!! Seriously though, even if they were real life moths, it has described natural selection, not evolution. This is what is happening with the moths.

    If I could use the barbaric illustration of a plague of aliens that decided to invade earth and eat the humans, but they decided they did not like the taste of red heads (or perhaps they could not see redheads because of their inferior vision). Everyone who was not a redhead was eaten. Every child born not a redhead was eaten. As a result only redheaded humans were left to ‘breed’. MOST of the children they would give birth to would be (more and more over time) redheads! Why? Because nature has progressively eliminated the genes that cause blonds and brunettes. Has there been any change in who we are as humans? Any new genetic info? No. Nature has simply caused the number of redheads to increase because of their natural ability to survive. This is what happens with the moths, and this involves no new genetic material, nor even a genetic mutation of any description!

    To give you another example that does involve a genetic mutation. There was a German toddler who at the age of four had twice the muscle mass and half the body fat of other 4 year olds. He was incredibly strong for a 4yo. Evolution? No. The boy had a pair of mutated genes that meant his body could not switch off muscle development (i.e. a loss of info). Now evolutionists would say this is great, this is proof of an ‘improvement’ through genetic mutation. More muscles, more chance to survive. Interestingly there is a breed of cattle (Belgian Blues) that often have this genetic mutation and are breed for their massive muscular frame. The problem is that the cattle have decreased fertility (not really going to help with natural selection) and even when they do conceive they usually cannot deliver the muscle bound calves (once again, not good for natural selection). I can give you links for this example if you actually want to follow it up.

    What I am trying to illustrate is that there is still a big thing missing in proving evolution. There is no evidence of natural selection bringing about new genetic information that results in an advancement/improvement. Now you guys have suggested everything from evolution being a fact through to a theory through to ” this is the best theory to explain the diversity of life.” You have also shifted from being experts in the field (having studied genetics at a graduate level), through to ” Myself and Alan are not evolutionary biologists”. You have consistently called me ignorant! How about you be truthful about what you guys know and reflect this in the content that you put on this blog?

    Rach, you said, ”If you don't accept the theory, then you are ignorant, which is exactly how you are arguing - "I can't understand how it works, therefor it must not be true".” This is not how I have been arguing at all. I have simply asked you to back up what you have claimed to know. I have understood everything you have said, and I understand what you have failed to understand (as demonstrated by your return to the moths in the video in your last comment).

    Finally, you have suggested that I have some vested interest in this. As I said, the video says this is not a religious issue. Why is it then that I am yet to find a strong Athiest who is not adamant that Evolution is a fact? What are you guys fighting for with this issue?

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  13. Hey, Dave (and everyone else). ;p

    I was directed here to help clear up this situation by Dave the Happy Singer, a contributor to the Critical Mass podcast. I hope I will be able to resolve any questions you have about evolution.

    For information about me, visit my website, http://naontiotami.com. It contains a lot of information about evolution and creationism that you may find interesting, if you don't dismiss it immediately as another "anti-creationism" website. If you are truly open-minded, I hope you will at least have a glance at what I have to say on my website, as well as here in this comment thread.

    Okay, enough self-plugging, onto the topic at hand.

    You've brought up a truly classic creationist argument, that evolution cannot produce new genetic information. You seemed to have based this opinion on a couple of examples of natural selection acting on the variation within a gene pool and eliminating all other variants except one: you claim that this means that natural selection cannot produce information that is unique and was never in the gene pool previously.

    This is technically correct, but no evolutionary biologist would claim that natural selection ever does such a thing! Genetic mutations are the things that produce new genetic information, not the selective process of natural selection.

    I can hear you now: "But mutations only change what is already there, such as making a gene functionless or tweaked in some way. Information has been lost as well as gained, so no progress can be made."

    While mutations can, of course, alter existing genes to have different functions, they can also produce NEW genes with completely different functions. This is possible through a process called gene duplication. I won't go into how the genes are duplicated at this moment, so just trust me that the process does happen. However, if you're feeling a bit doubtful, just ask me and I will explain it for you.

    Gene duplication produces an exact copy of a gene that already exists in the genome of an organism. While at first this may not seem like anything special, note that you can add the process of "tweaking mutations" to the extra gene and produce new information in the genome.

    I'll outline this process in a little more detail, and with an example, so you'll be able to understand easier.

    Let's say that there's a particular gene in an organism that codes for an enzyme that can breakdown Chemical A. A gene duplication comes along and suddenly, in the next generation, there are two copies of this gene, Gene 1 and Gene 2. Both still code for the enzyme, as they are identical, but what would happen, if, over time, Gene 2 is mutated slowly into something else, while Gene 1 remains the same? Let's say Gene 2 eventually changes so much it produces an enzyme that can break down a different chemical, Chemical B. What has happened?

    Well, you still have Gene 1, that makes the Chemical A enzyme, but now you have Gene 2 as well, that makes the Chemical B enzyme! A new gene has been formed, and a new function, breaking down Chemical B, can evolved.

    This is just one example, but many others exist. I hope you now understand how new information can arise in the genome.

    Cheers,
    Jack

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  14. > Why is it then that I am yet to find a strong Athiest who is not adamant that Evolution is a fact?

    Because evolution is a fact and atheists don't have a religious reason to subvert what you correctly identify as a scientific issue.

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  15. Thanks, Naon. You have put it quite succinctly.

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  16. The moth example is used, as it is a well known case example and is an easy way to explain the function of evolution to a lay audience. The original research was carried out by Kettiwell. (see the references below)

    You can read Majerus' explanation of how this case is a good proof of evolution here: http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/Research/Majerus/Swedentalk220807.pdf (64kb pdf file) and you can also follow along with the powerpoint slides provided here: http://www.gen.cam.ac.uk/Research/Majerus/SwedenPepperedmoth2007.ppt (64mb ppt file. It's a big one)

    References:
    Kettlewell, HBD. (1955) Selection experiments on industrial melanism in Lepidoptera. Heredity, 9: 323-342.

    Kettlewell, HBD. (1956) Further experiments on industrial melanism in Lepidoptera. Heredity, 10: 287-301.

    Kettlewell, HBD. (1958) The importance of the micro-environment to evolutionary trends in the Lepidoptera. Entomologist, 91: 214-224.

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  17. Alan, what you're saying and presenting is completely correct, but what Dave wants is not modification of existing features, but new features. I think continuing with the moth example is just going to allow him to attack that as a representative of the evolutionary process as a whole, something that it most definitely is not.

    Sorry, but I just KNOW that creationists think that way, they always attack what they see is the weakest argument. Sorry. :p

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  18. Yeah, I know. I was just trying to deal with the 'it's just a cartoon, cartoons aren't real' comment by giving some points of reference.

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  19. Alan, the cartoon moth reference was a joke, but defend it if you feel you must!

    Jack, I went to your website, and I am pleased that the expert who has been flown in to set me right is a 16yo high school student. I assume it means you will use words I can understand. I must confess you have explained things in a much better way than those before you, and I am thankful for that! But! Everyone else has patted you on the back enough, so I will instead raise some issues with what you have said, because essentially nothing has changed!

    You said, ” I think continuing with the moth example is just going to allow him to attack that as a representative of the evolutionary process as a whole, something that it most definitely is not.
    Sorry, but I just KNOW that creationists think that way, they always attack what they see is the weakest argument.”


    Obviously you do not know what I am thinking at all. I have been the one saying the moth example IS NOT representative of the evolutionary process. I therefore have not claimed it is, nor do I intend to. It has been Alan and Rach who have. I have been asking for an example that DOES demonstrate evolution.

    You have introduced the great idea of gene duplication before mutation. This, however gets us no where. You give a great example. You said...

    ”Let's say that there's a particular gene in an organism that codes for an enzyme that can breakdown Chemical A. A gene duplication comes along and suddenly, in the next generation, there are two copies of this gene, Gene 1 and Gene 2. Both still code for the enzyme, as they are identical, but what would happen, if, over time, Gene 2 is mutated slowly into something else, while Gene 1 remains the same? Let's say Gene 2 eventually changes so much it produces an enzyme that can break down a different chemical, Chemical B. What has happened?
    Well, you still have Gene 1, that makes the Chemical A enzyme, but now you have Gene 2 as well, that makes the Chemical B enzyme! A new gene has been formed, and a new function, breaking down Chemical B, can evolved.”


    Well done Jack, you have introduced a hypothetical situation. Does this provide proof or reason to accept as fact? Yes! Why? Because apparently, ” This is just one example, but many others exist.” That’s right, because there are many other hypothetical examples you have crushed me with sheer weight of hypothetical argument!!! Now I have been very patient (as I accept have many of you), but all I have asked for is an example, a real life observed documented example of this. Apparently Jack thinks I am attacking evolution. Is it too much to ask evolution to defend itself? I thought perhaps you might have a real life example of evolution on your website (I did not want to waste every ones precious time), but there all you have is a hypothetical example. Is this science?

    Thanks for your input Jack!

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  20. I should have thanked you Jack. You very nicely summed up my whole argument when you said...

    ”You've brought up a truly classic creationist argument, that evolution cannot produce new genetic information. You seemed to have based this opinion on a couple of examples of natural selection acting on the variation within a gene pool and eliminating all other variants except one: you claim that this means that natural selection cannot produce information that is unique and was never in the gene pool previously.

    This is technically correct, but no evolutionary biologist would claim that natural selection ever does such a thing!”


    This must be why Rach and Alan are not evolutionary biologists! Seriously though, isn't it great that we are all learning stuff?

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  21. Okay. Now we get to the meat of the issue.

    Firstly, me being a 16 (nearly 17) year-old high school student should not be used to judge my arguments. I am well-versed in biology and evolutionary theory, and have learnt biology up to a first-year university level (formally), and probably slightly higher informally (through the Internet). I also deal with creationists all the time. Your arguments are not unique, Dave, and I've dealt with them before, many a time.

    Of course, you're still going to see me as a young person who doesn't know anything about anything, so this is useless. Don't say I didn't try.

    Secondly, the moth example IS evolution, but it's just not the type of evolution that you want to be proven to you. I agree, if all changes were exactly like the moth example, life could not be as diverse as it is today. But you don't know about other mechanisms that also occur in evolutionary change, such as, the topic of current discussion, gene duplication.

    Thirdly, do you understand the theory behind the act of gene duplication? Do you accept that genes do duplicate, and that mutations do happen? If so, there is no need for me to necessarily provide examples, although I assure you I will in a moment. If the theory is sound, surely examples should be given only to further cement the concept.

    So, what is so wrong with the gene duplication mechanism for informational increase? You failed to bring up any points against it: instead you attacked the fact that I did not give any examples. Theory before prac, Dave, theory before prac.

    I will give you some examples of real gene duplications producing new information once you agree that the theory is sound. If it is not, I want to know why you think so, then I can set you straight (hopefully).

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  22. Firstly Jack, your age is not an issue, once again I was only joking. Every one is so serious around here. Like I said, you explained it better than everyone else.

    Second, if you say the moth example IS evolution...I guess I do not agree with you!

    Thirdly, sorry for getting ahead of the prac! I do accept that genes can duplicate, and I accept that they can mutate. No examples required (unless we need to clarify what we are talking about later, but I think I am with you so far).

    So, hit me!! Set me straight!

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  23. The first example I will give you is this one:

    A species of bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa evolved the ability to digest nylon through the evolution of two new enzymes, 6-aminohexanoate cyclic dimer hydrolase and 6-aminohexanoate dimer hydrolase.

    The paper is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7646041?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&log$=freepmc

    Tell me what you think. If you need more examples, I can give more, but I want to hear your thoughts on this one.

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  24. @Dave. You are taking the typical evolution denier tactic of finding one “gap” in a specific detail and using that to attempt to cast doubt on evolution. This tactic is called Exaggerated Conflict and is deliberately exhausting for us skeptics to deal with, as is all Simple Minded Certitude.

    Nonetheless, I will avoid doing household chores for a moment...

    Even if the evidence you say you require was not yet available, the lack of it does not mean evolution is not the "truth". Any gap in knowledge simply means we're still working on it. With any luck this will always be the case, so we have something meaningful to investigate.

    However, evolution is a fact in the common sense use of the word “fact”. The fact of evolution is well established through a preponderance of mutually supporting, multiple lines of independent evidence. I have neither the time nor inclination to go into any detail, except to say off the top of my head: comparative anatomy, genetics, fossils, geology, plate tectonics and historical movement of continents, the nuclear physics of stars, the age of the universe, the contemporary and historical distribution of flora and fauna. (No doubt I'm missing a bunch of other evidence.) All of the evidence from these independent fields (that use varied and mutually exclusive techniques) is consistent with evolution.

    Here’s just one example of an independent line of corroborating evidence. All the other examples I cited work in exactly the same way. Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) provided pretty powerful evidence against evolution when he first calculated the age of the Sun and Earth to be about 100 million years. If this was the case, evolution certainly could not have had the time to produce the variety of life we see today. Something that caused Darwin angst. He needn't have worried. He didn’t know about nuclear physics. Now we do, and we know the Sun and Earth have been around for about 4.5 billion years – completely independent from evidence in any other field, any other technique, yet completely consistent with evolution.

    There is ongoing research within evolutionary biology regarding the specifics of evolution, including the importance of various mechanisms and even the importance of the various levels of selection. But there is no doubt about the fact of evolution. To overthrow this would require a new theory that explained all the evidence more parsimoniously or made more precise predictions that were then verified. Somehow I can’t see Behe being to Darwin as Einstein was to Newton....

    Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. @ Dave said: There is no evidence of natural selection bringing about new genetic information that results in an advancement/improvement.

    I assume you meant a random mutation occurring that was then selected for and led to an improvement. Well, quad erat demonstrandum.

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  25. Just thought of an analogy, not offered as "proof" but as a way of visualising the exaggerated conflict of Dave. The fact of evolution is like a spider web – made up of individual strands that interlink to create an overall framework. You have to do more that tug away one of the strands (though, you didn’t even do that) to pull down the entire web... This individual strands are interesting in their own right, but to get a clear picture you have to change your perspective and look at all the evidence and decide what explains it the best.

    Unless you want to invoke supernatural explanations, such as “God did it but is testing our faith by making it look like he doesn’t exist, or if he does exist he doesn’t interfere”, then evolution is the only explanation that works. But that kind of supernatural explanation is twisted (in the first case) and unfulfilling and intellectually weak (in the second).

    Sure, in science (well, in epistemology), technically, we can’t rule out supernatural causes a priori, but to date we have had no need to invoke them, and if we eventually did – that wouldn’t really be called science, it’d be called “giving up”.

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  26. In response to the example Jack gave me I give you this.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v17/i3/bacteria.asp

    By all means (Rach and Co), you can dismiss it as “Creationist” and not “Scientific”, but perhaps it is better to see things as “Creationist” and “Evolutionist”, because there are “Scientists” on both side of the debate. I also checked out the example that Theo gave me. Although these examples are certainly a LOT closer to what I am looking for (thank you both Jack and Theo) both these examples do have question marks over them. Firstly there is the question of the artificial environment in which it happened (including in one example very selective manipulation), the actual benefit in the ‘real world’ that would result in the mutation/change continuing, and also the evidence that this is actually genetic mutation is debatable. Jack, not sure how you feel about this, not sure if you want to move to other examples, but please understand, I am not saying this is a win for me, but simply that there remains a ? over your example.

    Theo you raise some great points, though you should be aware if you have read the discussion so far, that I am not trying to get a “win” here for creationists or Christians. You can paint me as the aggressor, but I am yet to label anyone as ignorant, though others have called me this.
    I am not under the delusion that on this one point I can bring the theory of evolution crashing down. I am aware that there are other areas we could debate, though I am also aware that they have the same problem as this part of evolutionary theory we are debating. There are gaps. Under the “Happy Darwin Day” post I raised another issue, the dating of rocks by fossils and fossil by rocks (circular reasoning).
    Now you seem to want things both ways. You want to admit that evolution is the best answer to the evidence, AND you want it to be labelled a fact. Please explain how evolution is a fact in the common use of the word? It is not! The common use of the word fact would be that it is truth. You have claimed that evolution is the truth and a fact. If evolution provides the best answer to the evidence, but is yet to be proven, then it is a theory. If it has been proven and is a fact, such as gravity, then it is a law. Evolution is a theory, though many would debate this.

    You said ” To overthrow this would require a new theory that explained all the evidence more parsimoniously or made more precise predictions that were then verified.”

    This does not sound fair! Evolution gets to be a “fact” and the “truth” because it is the best answer to the evidence, but DOES NOT have to be verified. But you want me to overthrow it by giving you something that gives a better explanation of the evidence AND IS verified!

    As I mentioned earlier, I do have another explanation of the evidence, but I assume you do not want to hear it (you seem to see it as "giving up", which does raise questions over the bias you bring to your "facts"). So I will be happy if this blog could simply more accurately reflect what is and what is not fact!

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  27. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-fact.html

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  28. So now evolution is fact AND theory? Not sure if you read your own link Rach, but it certainly does not change anything I have said or impact this discussion in any way. It still claims evolution is a fact (simply because it appears to be the best answer to the evidence - for some), even though it now admits that the mechanism by which it happens is theory (this actually backs upp what I am saying...thanks Rach!).

    Your link claims that Evolution is THE fact. Wrong!! The fact is THE EVIDENCE. That is the fact. The link admits that it cannot prove the mechanisms of evolution (the proposed explanation of the evidence). The link gives the example of the change in acceptance of the law of gravity. As it notes, this has NOT changed the fact the apples still fall from trees. Why? Because THE EVIDENCE has not changed. I have not debated the evidence, but the interpretation of the evidence!

    In this very discussion it has been said by numerous people (including yourself Rach) that evolution is "the best theory to explain the diversity of life." You Rach, have also referred to Evolution as a THEORY, what now you want to change YOUR definition?

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  29. Dave,

    your denial of reality and your constant squirming from talking point to talking point makes me nauseous.

    OK, Creationist Bullshit #101:

    "The word Theory, when used in a scientific context, will always be conflated with the word hypothesis for dramatic effect"

    Well done Dave, you're going by the playbook.

    Stop being a cock.

    Evolution is a fact. Life evolves. PERIOD. We've seen it. We have the data. THis is the fact you seem to be referring to above.

    The Theory of Evolution is the framework of facts, predictions and interpretations which best explains the FACT of evolution. This is one of the most successful and well tested theories we have in science, and it's is so close to being a fact that it's better to just throw down and call it such.

    Stop trying to play linguistic tricks and front up. What do you have, other than a stunning disrespect for reality, that can counter the immense amount of data we have in support of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection? You have little strands you can pick at, and talking points from massive fucktards like Ray Comfort and Dr Dino, but what you really have overall is a massive denial of reality.

    Get help before you start claiming to be napoleon.

    btw, Rach, I told you he'd come back with bullshit. Can I haz $10 now?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Jason (thanks again for not calling me an idiot). There have been some assumptions about me that various people have made. One is that I am going by some script, that I am using some tactic. To be honest, I have never debated this topic with Athiests before (though I have with Christians). I am not going by any formula, and I might add, Jason, that I have not been changing my argument. I have stuck to one very simple thing, and YOU GUYS have squirmed ALL OVER THE PLACE!!!

    To illustrate, in your very last comment Jason you said, ” Evolution is a fact. Life evolves. PERIOD. We've seen it. We have the data.” When did you see it? I’d like to see it too. Oh, but the only thing you could see WOULD BE THE MECHANISM which you have said, ” is SO CLOSE to being a fact that it's better to just throw down and call it such.”
    You, Jason, are using linguistic tricks, not me! Just be honest about it!

    My last comment gave evidence of where Rach has changed her definitions. Please show me where I have used linguistic tricks!

    Now what is the point of all this stuffing around anyway? You guys put up a post that said, ” This is a great little video that is a basic introduction to the theory of evolution, and addresses many of the misconceptions that we continually hear time and time again.” I think this conversation shows that it does not address one simple ‘misconception’ at all. Jack and Theo have finally started to address it, but the video did not.

    Cheers
    Napolean

    ReplyDelete
  31. @ Dave. Gravity is an observable fact. Gravity also has a theory that explains it (general relativity). Same thing applies to evolution. Such a distinction should be evident to even the meanest of intellects.

    You have continued to display simple minded certitude, you ignore the specific point raised that gives you the evidence that you originally required (the link I supplied - quad erat demonstrandum), you move the goalposts and now make patently absurd claims about dating of fossils and rocks.

    If you are in fact interested in looking into evolution, you would not frequent a blog about atheism, you would read books and journal articles by evolutionary biologists. It is evident that you are interested in the "Truth", so long as it leads to the "Answer". The "Answer" being jebus, as your blogger profile reveals.

    Given you question dating methods, given you think we should not go with the best explanation for our observations (or rather, presumably you think the magic hand of god is the best and is science), at this stage I now realise you are a WTF?er and I will back away slowly. Please note I invoke this "get out of an inane conversation" clause sparingly - so in a way, I have perverse admiration for you.

    ReplyDelete
  32. @Dave the happy singer – I have not lied. Why do you guys assume so much?
    @Theo
    ” Gravity is an observable fact. Gravity also has a theory that explains it (general relativity). Same thing applies to evolution. Such a distinction should be evident to even the meanest of intellects.”

    No, different things. The scientific community has concluded that gravity is a law. They have not with evolution.

    ” You have continued to display simple minded certitude, you ignore the specific point raised that gives you the evidence that you originally required (the link I supplied - quad erat demonstrandum), you move the goalposts and now make patently absurd claims about dating of fossils and rocks.”

    You claim to have supplied evidence. I raised questions over it. I have not moved any goal posts. Do you have a problem with my hesitation of accepting your evidence? If so then explain why.

    My Blogger profile says what I do, I guess it is safe to assume I am a Christian from it. My reason for frequenting a Blog like this is not because I want to convert you all (though it would look good on my CV), but rather to help some of you question your own pre-conceived ideas. I have said it in other conversations on this blog, that I am concerned about the truth, and I think we can learn this best from each other. Some of you guys are constantly accusing Christians and religious people of all sorts of ignorant attitudes and shallow thinking. You are right, so often they/we are guilty, I admit it. So often we cannot even see it. I just think that SOME of you guys are guilty of EXACTLY the same thing. I am just taking the opportunity to show this to those of you interested in growing as people in the truth.

    Before you go Theo, why not wait for Jack to get back? He might still put me in my place!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Dave said: No, different things. The scientific community has concluded that gravity is a law. They have not with evolution.

    You need to do some philosophy of science and some physics (not to mention biology and geology). Start here: Not just a theory (page 27). Then try this: Introduction to general relativity to see how wrong you are.

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  34. @Dave

    We have not bee squirming. We HAVE been attacking your misconceptions from different angles.

    The problems lies here: you think evolution doesn't happen. We show you where it happens, Jack shows you peer-reviewed research on the evolution of a novel enzyme, and you You stick your fingers in your ears, sing "la la la" and go immediately to answers in genesis. FAIL.

    I'm not getting sucked back into this maelstrom of bullshit. I have things to do, but I'll leave this prediction:

    We will not change your mind. You will not change ours.

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  35. Dave,

    Your confusion seems to stem from misconceptions about the terminology used here? Used in the scientific sense 'fact', 'theory' and 'law' mean something completely different to their everyday usage.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I go to answeringenesis and I get a fail. Theo goes to skeptics.com, so why doesn't he get a fail?

    Rev Larry, is that you? There is certainly some confusion of terms going on, but I do not think that accounts for all of the pickle we are in.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Dave,

    "answersingensis" explicitly demonstrates the fundamental problem with using "folk wisdom" (i.e. religion) as a system for trying to understand the Universe, as opposed to scientific enquiry.

    One deals with objective, observable "facts" which it uses to make testable predictions about how the Universe operates, the other deals with "revealed truths" which are immune from testing.

    One acknowledges its provisional and incomplete status, while the other proclaims its eternal absolute truth and inerrancy.

    One encourages innovation and self-criticism while the other encourages blind adherence to dogma.

    Are you detecting the pattern here, Dave?

    Perhaps I should be more blunt. Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies people into buildings.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Ahh, Dave... you have claimed that you read all the links to evidence that people have provided. But, you still haven't acknowledged the first link I provided you with, which did show a mutation leading to advantageous evolution. The specific thing you claimed there is no evidence of.

    Then, you simply did not look at the reference I gave to to the Australian Skeptics - a book review of "Just a Theory". It's a discussion on what a scientific theory is - that I wrote!.

    That's why I don't get a "fail". I just simply didn't want to copy and paste something I've already addressed elsewhere.

    So, either your level of reading comprehension is less than average which is why you didn't pick this up, or you're a disingenuous liar. You can write relatively well, so...

    ReplyDelete
  39. Okay, Dave, you looked at my example and gave me an Answers in Genesis article instead. I'm not going to go through with what is wrong with that article, because that would consume time I do not have. So, I'm just going to give you another example of gene duplication, one I hope you will understand better.

    This example is using yeast, which were genetically altered to have vital genes missing from their genome: genes involved in cytokinesis, which is a process in the division of cells.

    These yeast evolved a completely new cytokinesis pathway through gene duplications and other processes.

    The paper is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19041751

    Now, I'm going to address some concerns I think you will have with this example before you say them. Some of them are the same as the points you brought up against the nylon-digesting bacteria example.

    1. It does not make a difference that the original gene pathway was deleted by human intervention. This is because the act of the deletion does nothing except remove those genes from the gene pool. Once removed, if the genes can be evolved again (or genes that have a similar function evolve), then it is very strong evidence that such genes (and pathways) could evolve naturally in the wild.

    2. The fact that the yeast evolved in the lab does not mean they could not evolve the same way in their natural environment. Why would it be different? A growth medium is a growth medium, it has no effect on the processes of mutation and natural selection that drive evolutionary change. What can evolve in the lab can evolve in the wild.

    3. No genetic manipulation was involved that helped the yeast evolve a new pathway, other than setting up the original condition for the evolution, something that could easily happen naturally, as genetic mutations can naturally delete parts of the genome.

    All in all, the evolution of a new cytokinesis pathway is a massive addition of information to the genomes of these yeast cells. It is a clear and obvious example of evolution in action, just as you wanted it described.

    ReplyDelete
  40. > So, either your level of reading comprehension is less than average which is why you didn't pick this up, or you're a disingenuous liar. You can write relatively well, so...

    Theo, it's both. Check his Blogger profile. He tells lies for a living and states, 'I am not much of a reader...'

    Great picture, though. I like it a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Dave, I think this is a perfect time to alert you to the reason why scientists are frustrated in their efforts to debate creationists.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/02/how_to_respond_to_requests_to.php

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  42. Thanks for the info Jack. You have stuck to the issue, you have not reduced yourself to character assasination like others older than you on this blog. I thank you and bow to your superior knowledge in this field. That is it for me!

    Before I go, Theo, I have not lied. I did respond to the evidence you presented (I suggest you read my comments more carefully). I tried to go to the last two links you gave me but could only get one to work (the one that went to skeptics.com). Since then I have not made the claim that I have checked out every link.

    I would like to say it was a pleasure dealing with you guys, but some of you could benefit from learning to play the ball, not the man! But don't worry. I'll be back!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Naon Tiotami is to be commended for his answers. An articulate and very patient young man.

    Ah Dave, maybe you could forgive some of us long beards who are tired of hitting the same arguments you put forward from crack pot creationists, tired of having to take supposedly open minded creationists at their word only to find that they are being disengenious, having no intrest but stirring the pot, it takes some effort to prepare answers, to research, to give you a thoughtful and honest response.

    I must admit I am surprised that you have yeilded to superior knowledge. I suppose I should commend you for your sportsmanship here.

    You do however sour it with a parting blow, that undermines your good will

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  44. Oh, dear, what a pity, never mind.

    Did Dave think calling him a professional liar was an ad hominem argument? Because it wasn't. An ad hominem argument would be 'Dave is a professional liar and therefore can know nothing about science'.

    Dave has explicitly accused us of assassinating his character. I venture his character committed suicide when he became a pastor.

    And regarding evolution he is still as wrong as ever.

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  45. Apologies for the parting sour blow. I did enjoy the challenge and I thank you all for humouring me! Like I said, I had never done this before, I appreciate that you all have and I hope I have not bored you.

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  46. No problem, Dave. You are welcome back any time!

    Many of us really enjoy the dialogue with theists, and although my style is often robust to say the least, if we're going to get to the future in one piece (and one peace), we're going to have to find some common ground to share. I propose frank, open dialogue.

    May I recommend you check out some early episodes of the Evolution 101 podcast? It's a beginners' guide to evolutionary theory. Each episode deals with a single topic and is about 10 minutes long.

    You need only check it out on a 'know thy enemy' basis, but I think you'll find it fascinating anyway.

    As Aristotle said, 'It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.' and in that spirit I invite you to join us here or at my adave The Happy Singer website any time.

    Go in peace and treasure reason, Sir!

    ReplyDelete
  47. Dave - I've decided to take you at your word. As a "seeker after truth" can I suggest that instead of hanging out on the internet - set aside a whole day, go to your nearest university library, and spend the day sifting through the sheer volume of peer reviewed research about evolution in the journals located in the library.

    The sheer weight of them will be overwhelming.

    Here's a selection of titles to look for science journals and then specialist journals on evolution to start with. They will, no doubt, have decades of work for you to peruse. I doubt the same can be said for "alternatives" to evolution...

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  48. "Perhaps I should be more blunt. Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies people into buildings."

    S.t.r.a.w.m.a.n.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Science was the major factor in getting people to the moon, religion was the major factor in September 11.

    It's not a strawman if it's the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I guess it would also be true to say then that science was the major factor in the use of the atomic bomb, religion was the major factor in medical care being given to lepers in India.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not a fan of religion. Jesus was killed by religion. I am confused though, what was on the moon that we has to see? And how did a conversation about evolution get on to the topic of religion anyway?

    ReplyDelete
  51. Sorry Dave, that was my fault. Good reply though. It highlights the immense stupidity of the original comment I was quoting.

    I agree. I dislike the words "religious" and "religion" because they carry so many negative connotations. I prefer the definition of religion given in James 1:27- "To look after orphans and widows in their distress".

    ReplyDelete
  52. I have refuted NaonTiotami's claim that yeast cells have provided evidence of evolution.

    Please refer to:
    http://criticalmasspodcast.blogspot.com/2009/03/god-is-just-theory.html?showComment=1237170600000#c899751916220268768

    Cheers,
    REV

    ReplyDelete

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