Icons of ID: The Cambrian Explosion

| 40 Comments

Dembski’s recent lamentations about what he considered the selective use of data by evolutionists (googlewars) motivated me to look in some more detail at how ID proponents are handling topics such as the Cambrian Explosion. My findings conclude that ID proponents are still confused about the Cambrian explosion, the fossil record, and the molecular data which contradicts their cartoonish portrayal of the Cambrian. Based on selective ‘evidence’ and poor scientific arguments, the impression is created that the Cambrian explosion is a problem for evolutionary theory or supportive of intelligent design. Neither assertion is true – unless one accepts that Intelligent Design is all about ignorance. The lack of any scientifically relevant hypothesis by Intelligent Design to explain the Cambrian explosion exemplifies the scientific vacuity of ID, and I won’t even mention the theological risks.

I was initially drawn to the Cambrian Explosion because Intelligent Design theorists had presented it as irrefutable proof of a designer. But after looking into the matter, it seems more like the Cambrian Explosion is a proving ground for evolutionary theory. Rather than a paucity of Precambrian fossil evidence, there is an abundance of it. Rather than throwing in the towel when faced with the rapid appearance of biological variation, scientists have come up with numerous theories explaining how the explosion of life could have happened. In all of this, I find myself disillusioned by the ID proponents. It seems that they too often distort the facts, or outright lie, to ‘prove’ their position. How can there ever be a valid search for truth if information is intentionally withheld or misrepresented? The Cambrian Explosion: Proof of ID? by Jason Crowley

Amen

Ironically Meyer argues that

When credible experts disagree about a controversial subject, students should learn about the competing perspectives.

The irony is that there are no credible experts who disagree and present a competing scientific perspective.

Or as Kevin Padian in The Talented Mr. Wells argues:

Ask how Wells and his colleagues will replace evolution with Intelligent Design, and where the peer-reviewed research for it is. Have them explain exactly who the Intelligent Designer is, exactly when and where He (She? It? They?) intervened in the history of the Earth and its life, and exactly how this can be shown to everyone’s satisfaction. Nobody here but us scientists? Then let’s make Intelligent Design a testable hypothesis and see how robust it is.

Meyer and Campbell write:

First, some scientists doubt the idea that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor. Why? Fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period (530 million years ago) when many major, separate groups of organisms or “phyla” (including most animal body plans) emerged suddenly without clear precursors. Fossil finds repeatedly have confirmed a pattern of explosive appearance and prolonged stability in living forms – not the gradual “branching-tree” pattern implied by Darwin’s common ancestry thesis. Discoveries in molecular genetics and embryology have also challenged universal common ancestry.

Controversy over life’s origins Students should learn to assess competing theories San Francisco Chronicle Open Forum December 10, 2004

As usual with Meyer, it seems to be largely a rewrite of Meyer’s Incorporate Controversy into the Curriculum Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 15, 2004

There are many problems with this statement. While I can appreciate the creationist interpretation given to these data by Meyer, a more scientific investigation quickly shows that there is little support for his position. Valentine, an expert on the Cambrian explosion, author of “On the origin of phyla” and often quoted by ID proponents writes:

Valentine Wrote:

The title of this book, modeled on that of the greatest biological work ever written, is in homage to the greatest biologist who has ever lived. Darwin himself puzzled over but could not cover the ground that is reviewed here, simply because the relevant fossils, genes, and their molecules, end even the body plans of many of the phyla, were quite unknown in his day. Nevertheless, the evidence from these many additional souces of data simply confirm that Darwin was correct in his conclusions that all living things have descended from a commmon anscestor and can be placed within a tree of life, and that the principle process guiding their descent has been natural selection.

The data on which this book is based have accumulated over the nearly century and a half since Darwin published On the Origin of Species, some gradually, but much in a rush in the last several dedades. I have been working on this book for well over a decade, and much of that time has been spent in trying to keep up with the flood of incredibly interesting findings reported from outcrops and laboratories. I am stopping now not because there is a lull in the pace of new discoveries (which if anything is still picking up), but because there never will be a natural stopping place anyway, and because the outlines of early metazoan history have gradually emerged from mysteries to testable hypotheses.

Valentine On the Origin of Phyla 2004: Preface

In fact (recent fossil) data as well as molecular genetic data do not support the creationist interpretation of Meyer et al.

Meyer, author of the The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117, 213-239 is critically reviewed in the Paleontology Newsletter:

Many readily available papers that depart significantly from his conclusions are omitted without excuse, and the logic of his arguments is not always as tight as it should be. On the most general level, Meyer doesn’t understand the bare-bones mechanics of natural selection acting on ‘random’ variation.

The tainting of Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. Ronald Jenner the paleontology newsletter (57)

for more details as to the many problems with Meyer’s arguments see Meyer’s Hopeless Monster.

Meyer may claim that ‘a few scientists’ have a particular viewpoint of the Cambrian explosion but other than a foundation in creationist rethoric, his viewpoints have limited scientific relevance (see for instance a review of the Cambrian by Christian scientists Keith B Miller [1]). Certainly the suggestion that such ideas deserve to be discussed in a highschool curriculum does a disservice to both science education as well as science itself.

What is worse is that Meyer artfully conflates two issues, namely the Cambrian explosion and the issue of a single common ancestor. First of all let it be clear that Darwinian theory nor Neo-Darwinian theory requires a single common ancestor. Anyone familiar with Darwin’s writings would be aware of his position on these issues. The evidence of common descent however is extremely solid as is described in full detail in Douglas Theobald’s 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution The Scientific Case for Common Descent.


Some relevant resources

  • Icons of ID: Carl Woese the final word? by Pim van Meurs
  • The Precambrian to Cambrian Fossil Record and Transitional Forms by Keith B. Miller editor of Perspectives on an evolving creation

    There is much confusion in the popularized literature about the evidence for macroevolutionary change in the fossil record. Unfortunately, the discussion of evolution within the Christian community has been greatly influenced by inaccurate presentations of the fossil data and of the methods of classification. Widely read critiques of evolution, such as Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Denton,1 and Darwin on Trial by Johnson,2 contain serious misrepresentations of the available fossil evidence for macroevolutionary transitions and of the science of evolutionary paleontology. In “On the Origin of Stasis by Means of Natural Processes,” Battson similarly does not accurately communicate the rapidly growing body of evidence relevant to the Precambrian/Cambrian transition.

    The above discussion shows that the presentation of the Precambrian to Cambrian fossil record given by Battson does not reflect our present understanding of the history of life.32 Many metazoan groups appeared before the Cambrian, including representatives of several living phyla. Furthermore, the many small scale, plate, and spine-bearing organisms of the earliest Cambrian, while sharing characteristics with several living phyla, are also similar enough to each other to be classified by some workers into a single phylum.33 Even when the metazoan fossil record for the entire Cambrian is considered, the morphological disparity cannot be equated with that of living organisms, unless the subsequent appearance of all vertebrate and insect life be ignored. In addition, many living phyla, including most worm phyla, are unknown from the fossil record until well into the Phanerozoic.34 Thus, to claim the near simultaneous appearance of virtually all living phlya in the Cambrian is not an objective statement of the fossil evidence but a highly speculative, and I believe unsupported, interpretation of it.

  • Taxonomy, Transitional Forms, and the Fossil Record Keith B Miller

  • The literature speaks of “horizontal” change, which is acceptable because it is within the “kind.” Although microevolution can explain horizontal change, evolution taking place “within a kind” is limited because genetic variation is limited: It is not possible to derive one kind from another. “Basic body plans,” as creationists call them, are distinct from one another, and thus “vertical” changes between kinds cannot occur (Ramm 1955). In antievolution literature, vertical change equates with macroevolution, or evolution above the species level. The basic body plans of major phyla which appear in the so-called Cambrian explosion are seen by most Old Earth Creationists as evidence of Special Creation. Antievolutionism and Creationism in the United States, NCSE Resource

40 Comments

I notice in citing “Meyer’s hopeless monster” you have ignored the fact that Discovery Institute has already pointed out that it fails to address the issues that Meyer raised.

Ironically, despite the objections of the fellows of the DI, the article does address the issues raised namely 1. The absence of any positive theory of ID 2. The selective use of evidence

I think that the only harm done to science is that PBSW published a paper that is evidently slipshod science, due to a flagrant failure of the reviewing process. However unfortunate that may be, it is nothing new, and it happens to the best. As a result, the only trophy that proponents of ID can really boast about at home is that ID is promoted in a paper that should never have passed the reviewing process, as was belatedly realized by the council of PBSW. In fact, that Meyer promotes ID in his article is, I think, largely beside the point.

In my most favourable judgment, Meyer’s paper reads like a student report. He has evidently read a lot of papers, and he has the best intentions of providing a critical discussion of his chosen topic. And, considering what he has read, he does an OK job. I would let him pass, probably with a B. However, he would not get an A or A+ because the literature that he has selected is severely biased. Many readily available papers that depart significantly from his conclusions are omitted without excuse, and the logic of his arguments is not always as tight as it should be. On the most general level, Meyer doesn’t understand the bare-bones mechanics of natural selection acting on ‘random’ variation.

Meyer’s criticisms are a bit more taxing than the standard flimsy roadblocks that creationists have tried to erect in the way of evolutionary theory. However, so far evolutionary theory has had no problem in its unwavering march through fundamentalist blockades. No exception here. I think that Meyer’s paper shouldn’t have been published because it was an inadequate review. The blame for this lies wholly with the refereeing process, for which the editor is ultimately responsible. And here is where it gets interesting.

The tainting of Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. by Ronald Jenner, Section of Evolution & Ecology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA

From PvM’s link, some really fascinating information about Sternberg, the referee who approved Meyer’s paper for publication:

Sternberg is associated with the “Baraminology Study Group,” and he is on the editorial board of their “Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group.” In many respects baraminology is phylogenetics from the dark side, the almost exact mirror image of systematic biology. It is the study of the taxonomy of “created kinds,” or “baramins.” The goal of baraminology (see ) is precisely antithetical to the goal of phylogenetics in biology. Baraminologists search for the discontinuities separating independently created groups of organisms. Using terminology eerily reminiscent of cladistics, baraminologists seek to identify “the unbridgeable chasms between body plans” upon the basis of which they erect holobaramins, monobaramins, polybaramins, and apobaramins. Discontinuities are located between “forms for which there is no empirical evidence that the character-state transformations ever occurred. The mere assumption that the transformation had to occur because cladistic analysis places it at a hypothetical ancestral node does not constitute empirical evidence.” Using a range of techniques, such as Analysis of Patterns (ANOPA), baraminologists try to map out the structure of creation. This generates some wonderful, and very brave stuff, especially because the investigations are couched in terms of science, such as “tests,” and because the papers endeavour to bring biblical Scripture and the findings of science into congruence with each other. I call this “brave” because the baraminologists first dispose of virtually all hard-won insights from the historical sciences, ranging from archaeology to astronomy. They discard over 99% of geological time by compressing the Earth’s history from more than four billion years to a mere couple of thousands of years, and then use scientific reasoning to reconstruct all that happened in this shortened period. As an indication of the amusing results, let me give you some examples from the fourth issue of “Occasional Papers of the Baraminology Study Group,” which contains the proceedings of the “Discovering the Creator” conference.

Joseph Francis, co-colleague of Sternberg on the editorial board of the journal, presented a paper documenting the benevolence of God by showing that microbes must have been created as good organisms. Their nasty pathogenic and parasitic habits must have arisen after the Fall of man from the Garden of Eden, because, expectedly, before the Fall there could have been no death and disease. In another paper, of which Francis is co-author, it is similarly argued that viruses must have performed “beneficial functions” before the Fall. Another paper struggles with the question of the implications of death before the Fall, as suggested by evolutionary theory and the fossil record. Another argues that, perhaps, animals that display “natural evil”—i.e. predators, pathogens, and parasites that kill other organisms—have two sets of genes, one for “benign morphology and behavior,” and one for “malignant morphology and behavior.” The former set of genes would then have been expressed before the Fall, while the second set of genes would only have become active after the Fall, with the origin of death and evil. This paper also includes my absolute favourite citation: “Satan et al.” And there is more. One paper is concerned with squirrel phylogeny and biogeography. It argues that, of course, squirrel biogeography must have been strongly influenced by the great Flood, since the squirrels, like all other animals, would have had to have dispersed from Ararat after the Ark landed there. I would think that if that were indeed the case, by now we would already have incontrovertible molecular phylogenetic evidence that showed that the highest volcano in Turkey is unambiguously the unique cradle for all animals. And so the papers continue.

Obviously, scientists need not worry. This is just a parallel research programme. If you don’t believe in the literal word of the Bible, then you need not be concerned with baraminology. We should hardly expect baraminologist papers infiltrating peer-reviewed science journals. You wouldn’t think so, would you? A relatively “scientific” paper, such as the one by Meyer could be excused, but the Ark of Noah? Surely such writings would never slip past our watchful eyes, would they? Unfortunately, it has already happened.

And so on, a truly worthwhile article these brief excerpts don’t really do justice to.

aCTa Wrote:

… Discovery Institute has already pointed out that it [“Meyer’s Hopeless Monster”] fails to address the issues that Meyer raised.

Please be specific, Mr. Troll. What issues were not addressed? At least give us a link to the DI communique in question: I, for one, am disinclined to pick through all the waste the DI excretes in search of this one complaint.

Has Behe ever commented or been asked to comment on the scientific merit of articles like this

Another argues that, perhaps, animals that display “natural evil”—i.e. predators, pathogens, and parasites that kill other organisms—have two sets of genes, one for “benign morphology and behavior,” and one for “malignant morphology and behavior.” The former set of genes would then have been expressed before the Fall, while the second set of genes would only have become active after the Fall, with the origin of death and evil. This paper also includes my absolute favourite citation: “Satan et al.”

or this

One paper is concerned with squirrel phylogeny and biogeography. It argues that, of course, squirrel biogeography must have been strongly influenced by the great Flood, since the squirrels, like all other animals, would have had to have dispersed from Ararat after the Ark landed there.

Can we assume that the same argument that the Cabrian explosion somehow or another is evidence of Intelligent Design must also be thoroughly inconsistent with young earth creationism and all it pomps and works?

Yes the Cambrian explosion would pretty much be inconsistent with YEC. Some YECs believe that it represents the first stages of recolonisation after a flood in the Archean. The silly people.

Ironically, a bunch of us went a-travelling through the Ediacaran period (geologically speaking,in South Australia) just recently, and found fossils that were way older than the Cambrian. Given the extremely rare conditions for fossilisation of soft-body organisms (anoxic low-energy silting marine environments), the explosion of the Cambrian body types (phyla) may not be so radical or so abrupt as thought popularly…

Neat, John, what’s your tentative age range for them?

Just one question. Has anyone tried to quantify the extent to which efforts by these creationists/IDers has diverted efforts of scientists from actually engaging in science? Instead of fighting rear-guard actions against the creationists/IDers? To “channel” economists, time is a “scarce resource,” and to the extent to which the time from bona fide scientists is channeled into fending off the creationists/IDers, they won’t be able to use that time to do real science.

Creationists/IDers do no real science. As far as I can tell, the only reason they do things like they’re doing is to enhance their fund-raising.

Russell: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]&id=2248 should do the job.

(I) GME ignore the large body of peer-reviewed biological literature supporting Meyer’s contention that the origin of morphological novelty is a fundamental and unsolved problem for evolutionary theory.

(II) The literature that GME do cite to show that this problem has been solved is obsolete or irrelevant, or it actually supports Meyer’s case.

(III) GME fail to address, let alone rebut, Meyer’s detailed analysis of why neo-Darwinism, self-organization theory and structuralism do not account for the origin of new forms and body plans.

Russell: http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]&id=2248 should do the job.

(I) GME ignore the large body of peer-reviewed biological literature supporting Meyer’s contention that the origin of morphological novelty is a fundamental and unsolved problem for evolutionary theory.

(II) The literature that GME do cite to show that this problem has been solved is obsolete or irrelevant, or it actually supports Meyer’s case.

(III) GME fail to address, let alone rebut, Meyer’s detailed analysis of why neo-Darwinism, self-organization theory and structuralism do not account for the origin of new forms and body plans.

I’ve tried refreshing several times, but it doesn’t seem to be there. Doubtless as soon as I press “Post” again it will appear twice.

Incidentally, unless I missed it, this DI paper didn’t excite anything like the response to Meyer’s original one. I tried to find out if that was because what was being said was irrefutable i.e. true but didn’t seem to get a straight response to this line of questioning either.

If Creationist Troll wants to argue that Meyer’s argument is one of appeal to ignorance then fine. But the strawman is that the issue was not really the appearance of novelty in the Cambrian but the non sequitur switch to ‘thus ID is a better explanation’ when in fact 1) there is no theory of ID 2) evolutionary science is progressing quite nicely on understanding the origin of morphological novelty. Just because not everything is solved yet, should not be taken as evidence for ID.

Meyer ignored many references which contradicted his thesis namely that evolutionary theory could not possibly explain… and in some cases used references which contradicted his claims.

The DI response did not excite much excitement since it did not resolve any of the problems with the Meyer paper other than showing that ID has no theory.

Or as Prof Scott Gilbert states

New evolutionary synthesis

This slide summarizes differences between the population genetic and developmental genetic approaches. Both are critical and necessary for evolution. Many critics pointed out that population genetics cannot directly explain macroevolution. But when you add developmental genetics to the theory, you have a wonderful robust mix that can explain both evolution both within species and in higher taxa. It turns out that we humans are closer to other animals than we thought, and that the mechanisms by which the living world is generated are highly conserved.

Gilbert’s Madison Lecture contains many goodies including a rebuttal of one of Wells’ many flawed claims.

Explore the claims by Meyer on the evolution of feathers for instance and compare them to the actual papers and scientific knowledge. Or the author of one of the papers quoted

It ain’t pretty

Meyer ignored many references which contradicted his thesis namely that evolutionary theory could not possibly explain … and in some cases used references which contradicted his claims.

Oddly enough, for the record, this is exactly what DI claimed that GME did. And the funny thing is, when I went to look at the references that GME plastered throughout their paper, it was true - papers that were supposed to provide evidence for evolution turned out to have assumed what GME said they provided evidence for.

With regard to the “wonderful robust mix”, does that mean that any evidence can be fitted into the framework of population genetics+developmental genetics? That’s what ReMine argued in “The Biotic Message” - there is absolutely no evidence that can’t be accommodated into evolution, by invoking some process or other. Because it isn’t a scientific theory - it is a worldview that will take whatever evidence is presented - and indeed will simply adapt to accept it. It has to! - because the central tenet isn’t science, it is philosophy/atheology.

act:

That’s what ReMine argued in “The Biotic Message” - there is absolutely no evidence that can’t be accommodated into evolution, by invoking some process or other.

And ReMine is completely and totally wrong. There is evidence which could not be accomodated by the MS.

Try this exercise: explain, using only the mechanisms and tenets of the MS, the presence of a modern rabbit in genuinely pre-Cambrian strata.

Explain, using on the mechanisms and tenets of the MS, the existence of two morphologically identical, but genetically divergent avians.

Go ahead: put your money where your mouth is. You won’t be able to do it.

Because it isn’t a scientific theory - it is a worldview that will take whatever evidence is presented - and indeed will simply adapt to accept it. It has to! - because the central tenet isn’t science, it is philosophy/atheology.

This statement shows two things: you don’t understand the theory of evolution, and you don’t understand science.

The theory is NOT a world-view; it’s a theory. The little test above is to show you that discordant facts can exist (despite your claim otherwise).

And science adapts to new data; if it didn’t, then it would be religion.

Finally, the central tenet of evolution (and just what is that, in your mind?) is purely scientific and says nothing whatever about theology.

Apparently, you argue from a position of ignorance. Don’t you find that difficult?

PvM:Meyer ignored many references which contradicted his thesis namely that evolutionary theory could not possibly explain … and in some cases used references which contradicted his claims.

CT Wrote:

Oddly enough, for the record, this is exactly what DI claimed that GME did. And the funny thing is, when I went to look at the references that GME plastered throughout their paper, it was true - papers that were supposed to provide evidence for evolution turned out to have assumed what GME said they provided evidence for.

Seems you fell for the DI’s strawman after all. Have you looked at the paper on feathers? Have you looked at the references to Valentine? Does it not concern you to find out that these papers do not support Meyer’s claims and in fact oppose them?

Valentine quotes

Not to mention the references to Valentine’s excellent book “the origin of phyla”. Why the DI and Meyer refer to this book is beyond me as it hardly supports their claims.

Could you please present support for YOUR claims about GME? Without creating the same same strawman as the ‘staff of the DI’? And even if GME were guilty of what you claim they are, does this somehow alleviate or diminish the many problems with Meyer’s paper?

And could you please share with us this somewhat elusive theory of ID? Unless we agree that it is basically an appeal to ignorance argument more commonly known as “God of the gaps”.

Rilke’s Granddaughter: The example you gave of the rabbit is trivial. It would be impossible for the strata to be tagged as pre-Cambrian because it had a rabbit fossil in. So the problem will never arise.

I can’t propose morphologically identical but genetically divergent avians - however, the fact that this is far from a trivial issue for evolution is made clear by the interest that the “morphologically unique” duck-billed platypus - which has obvious morphological convergencies with … er, ducks … but is genetically divergent. It has received corresponding interest from the scientific community - is there a settled explanation yet?

CT Wrote:

I can’t propose morphologically identical but genetically divergent avians - however, the fact that this is far from a trivial issue for evolution is made clear by the interest that the “morphologically unique” duck-billed platypus - which has obvious morphological convergencies with … er, ducks … but is genetically divergent. It has received corresponding interest from the scientific community - is there a settled explanation yet?

How familiar are you with the duck billed platypus beyond the creationist strawmen that is? Please tell us…

And why the distraction I wonder? Why not address the example? Your claims about the rabbit fossil are another typical creationist strawman. Don’t you ever get tired of them?

Testing

It would be impossible for the strata to be tagged as pre-Cambrian because it had a rabbit fossil in.

False. If the strata were conclusively dated as pre-Cambrian by radoisotope dating, it would be tagged as pre-Cambrian. (Therte are ways of directly dating sedimentary rock, or it could be dated by igneous layers aboive and below).

… but if you found a rabbit in a rock, then would you bother dating it by radioisotope dating?

Also, (from ICR)

… the results of the RATE project , a 10-year research programme to examine the foundations of this area of science. Whereas most published radiometric dates are derived from one or two dating methods, the new research has consistently made use of four major methods. The researchers have found that they always give different results, often with major discrepancies.

I have written a much longer post relating to PvM’s questions, and have spent about an hour trying to get it posted, with no success.

Sorry, that should have been BCS.

PvM: Platypus? Not familiar at all - didn’t even know it was a creationist strawman. I was asked to identify some morphologically similar/genetically divergent avians - and I couldn’t, but invited “you evolutionists” to comment on the morphological similarity between ducks’ bills and platypus bills. The point being that it was suggested by RG that morphological similarity with genetic diversity would falsify evolution. Are you saying that this is not the case - that it can be accommodated within evolution? If so, I have been short-changed by RG - can I have another example of a test that might falsify evolution to make up for it?

I went back through some of the papers that related to synthesis of new proteins in GME (this section has yet to be addressed by DI). The ones I looked at were fairly consistently relating to co-option and modification of proteins by new metabolic pathways. There is obviously an expectation that new proteins (or proteins being used in a new way like this) are derived from functionality that exists within the organism - the people writing the papers are keen to identify the antecedent proteins. Would evolutionists argue that this was the normative means for new proteins to arise?

Evolutionists argue that this demonstrates that new proteins/genes can arise. However, I (and judging from the DI’s output, they as well) don’t think this is a sufficient demonstration of evolution. Micro-evolution, maybe - and I am quite happy to aver that a design that wasn’t able to adapt to changing environments would be a poor design - but not an engine of macro-evolution.

Why not? What more could I (or a creationist or an ID’er) ask for?

Creo Troll writes “I have written a much longer post relating to PvM’s questions, and have spent about an hour trying to get it posted, with no success.”

There are some restrictions that are effective in blocking trashy spam, evidently sent by spambots, that includes inducements to xxx sites for instance. I had trouble a few days back posting a very simple comment. If you send me your comment to me at earthlink I may be able to spot the source of the problem. Or maybe not. I’ll probably be gone most of the day shopping & helping someone move, but I’ll get to it and reply one way or another.

Well, it comes back to the level of specification. I am happy that a 200 aa protein doesn’t have to be 100% specified (which would identify one protein in a “domain space” of 1.6x10260. But even if only 20% of the aa positions need to be specified, and each of those could be one of four aa’s, then the protein in the “domain space” of proteins is 1 in 540 - nearly 1028 - which is still incredibly highly specified - you are talking about one protein in tonnes of random proteins (proton mass 10-27 kg, 100 protons per amino acid, 100 aa’s per protein). Don’t like this calculation of how specified a protein is? Well, offer a better calculation! I’m not the biologist. The thing is, I’ve been trying to get a handle on the proposed statistics for months on this site, and nobody offers anything very meaningful by way of answers.

So when we are talking about a protein being co-opted for a new metabolic pathway, we are talking about a highly specified protein receiving a few modifications, but remaining highly specified. We are not talking about a highly specified protein appearing from a random sequence of amino acids.

CT Wrote:

If so, I have been short-changed by RG - can I have another example of a test that might falsify evolution to make up for it?

Love them strawmen…

Speaking of strawmen, CT quotes from ICR

… the results of the RATE project , a 10-year research programme to examine the foundations of this area of science. Whereas most published radiometric dates are derived from one or two dating methods, the new research has consistently made use of four major methods. The researchers have found that they always give different results, often with major discrepancies.

Love the smell of strawmen. They should deal with for instance Dalrymple’s excellent book which dispells many of these creationist myths. CT, you should really try to expose yourself to actual science rather than to the work of a group devoted to supporting a young earth interpretation at all cost.

Stop trolling my dear friend. Your protein specification example is another one of misunderstanding (I am being generous here)

The only thing that I was interested in in that paragraph was the fact that different radiometric dating methods give different dates. Is this the case? If this is the case, how do you decide what is the correct answer? By looking at the fossils in it?

Still won’t accept the last bit of what I wrote before. I HATE this interface!

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 22, column 11, byte 1746 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Reread your own posts, oh troll-like one. You claim that there would be no facts incompatible with the TOE. I offer you two. You fail to address them and try to change the subject.

It’s shocking that creationist apologists still trot out that horse carcass. The other class of obvious incompatible facts are the arrival of the All Powerful Aliens (resembling Hindu deities, of course) in their Ship of Light. After they they drain Lake Powell (fuel for their ship), they appear with the George Bush on international TV (he’s naked and a has a probe up his butt). They announce that they created all of the life forms on earth and set it up so it looks like they evolved. Then they turn Bush into an early chordate, fry him up, and eat him. As they depart earth, they drop a 10,000 ton chunk of “blue ice” onto Jerusalem.

This is one example of an incompatible fact out of millions of possible facts. Have creationists no imaginations?

aCTa Wrote:

The only thing that I was interested in in that paragraph was the fact that different radiometric dating methods give different dates. Is this the case? If this is the case, how do you decide what is the correct answer?

Troll please read up on radiometric dating. But here is a brief explanation.

There are a number of different “radiometric dating methods”

These methods are well known and most have conditions that will give false results. These conditions are also well known.

Sample comes in and based on the conditions a few methods are picked to avoid the false results. i.e.

Potassium-argon dating of rocks from lava flows known to be modern gave ages millions to billions of years older.

is a well known issue and selection of this test can still be done with proper selection of material (note this happens BEFORE the test. They don’t date 20 samples and pull the 1 they like)

These results don’t exactly match but when you look at the ± figures they are very close. Its like asking 4-5 people how old your grandmother is and them all getting within a year or 2 of her age. Are you going to complain? You make it sound like someone is calling your grandmother 30 and another 120.

Troll try reading Radiometric Dating A Christian Perspective

some other links are, but I strongly suggest the link above Creationist claims : Radiometric dating gives unreliable results.

Creationist claims : The use of radiometric dating in geology involves a very selective acceptance of data. Most discrepant dates are not published. This selective reporting may account for consistencies in the data; internal consistencies, mineral-pair concordances, and agreements between differing dating methods may be illusory.

Radiometric dating assumes radioisotope decay rates are constant, but this assumption is not supported. All processes in nature vary according to different factors, and we should not expect radioactivity to be different.

Well, the board has refused my post six times, so let’s try in pieces.

but if you found a rabbit in a rock, then would you bother dating it by radioisotope dating?

If it were found in a stratum that was likely to be pre-Cambrian by stratigraphic position (which is very likely if a rabbit in such strata existed), you bet your ass you would.

Of course, the point is that a rabbit in pre-Cambrian strata would be strong evidence against evolution.

Next piece:

The only thing that I was interested in in that paragraph was the fact that different radiometric dating methods give different dates. Is this the case?

Often different methods give very slightly different dates due to the fact that they are measuring very slightly different things (e.g. the point at which uranium became fixed in a cooling lava flow versus the point that potassium became fixed in the same lava flow). Significantly different dates from different methods or different tests on the same samples are rare, but it does happen occasionally.

Piece 3:

If this is the case, how do you decide what is the correct answer? By looking at the fossils in it?

Typically not; most dated rocks don’t have fossils. If there are fossils, they are data that you take into consideration. Mostly you decide by investigating the geology of the area, running more tests, and trying to find a reason why the answers are different. A section of “How Old is the Earth: A Reply to Scientific Creationism” (G. Brent Dalrymple, in “Evolutionists Confront Creationists”, Awbrey, F. and Thwaites, W. (eds.). Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division, AAAS 1, Part 3, California, AAAS. pp. 66-131) gives a brief illustration of the process, and how creationists misrepresent the results. Woodmorappe (Woodmorappe, J. 1979. “Radiometric geochronology reappraised” Creation Res. Soc. Quart. 16: 102-129, 147: republished in 1994 in “Studies in flood geology; a compilation of research studies supporting creation and the flood”) lists tests on diabase dikes in Liberia, expected to be 185 million years old, that (he said) tested as 186-1230 million years old. Dalrymple responds:

“The Liberian example (Table 2) is from a report by Dalrymple and others (34). These authors studied dikes of basalt that intruded Precambrian crystal-line basement rocks and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks in western Liberia. The dikes cutting the Precambrian basement gave K-Ar ages ranging from 186 to 1213 million years (Woodmorappe erroneously lists this higher age as 1230 million years), whereas those cutting the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks gave K-Ar ages of from 173 to 192 million years. 40Ar/39Ar experiments on samples of the dikes showed that the dikes cutting the Precambrian basement contained excess 40Ar and that the calculated ages of the dikes do not represent crystallization ages. The 40Ar/39Ar experiments on the dikes that intrude the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, however, showed that the ages on these dikes were reliable. Woodmorappe (134) does not mention that the experiments in this study were designed such that the anomalous results were evident, the cause of the anomalous results was discovered, and the crystallization ages of the Liberian dikes were unambiguously determined. The Liberian study is, in fact, an excellent example of how geochronologists design experiments so that the results can be checked and verified.”

So, in this case they used a more expensive test (Ar-Ar) to clarify and verify the results of the simpler and less expensive K-Ar tests.

Piece 3:

If this is the case, how do you decide what is the correct answer? By looking at the fossils in it?

Typically not; most dated rocks don’t have fossils. If there are fossils, they are data that you take into consideration. Mostly you decide by investigating the geology of the area, running more tests, and trying to find a reason why the answers are different. A section of “How Old is the Earth: A Reply to Scientific Creationism” (G. Brent Dalrymple, in “Evolutionists Confront Creationists”, Awbrey, F. and Thwaites, W. (eds.). Proceedings of the 63rd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Division, AAAS 1, Part 3, California, AAAS. pp. 66-131) gives a brief illustration of the process, and how creationists misrepresent the results. Woodmorappe (Woodmorappe, J. 1979. “Radiometric geochronology reappraised” Creation Res. Soc. Quart. 16: 102-129, 147: republished in 1994 in “Studies in flood geology; a compilation of research studies supporting creation and the flood”) lists tests on diabase dikes in Liberia, expected to be 185 million years old, that (he said) tested as 186-1230 million years old. Dalrymple responds:

Piece 4:

The Liberian example (Table 2) is from a report by Dalrymple and others (34). These authors studied dikes of basalt that intruded Precambrian crystal-line basement rocks and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks in western Liberia. The dikes cutting the Precambrian basement gave K-Ar ages ranging from 186 to 1213 million years (Woodmorappe erroneously lists this higher age as 1230 million years), whereas those cutting the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks gave K-Ar ages of from 173 to 192 million years. 40Ar/39Ar experiments on samples of the dikes showed that the dikes cutting the Precambrian basement contained excess 40Ar and that the calculated ages of the dikes do not represent crystallization ages. The 40Ar/39Ar experiments on the dikes that intrude the Mesozoic sedimentary rocks, however, showed that the ages on these dikes were reliable. Woodmorappe (134) does not mention that the experiments in this study were designed such that the anomalous results were evident, the cause of the anomalous results was discovered, and the crystallization ages of the Liberian dikes were unambiguously determined. The Liberian study is, in fact, an excellent example of how geochronologists design experiments so that the results can be checked and verified.

So, in this case they used a more expensive test (Ar-Ar) to clarify and verify the results of the simpler and less expensive K-Ar tests.

CT Wrote:

The only thing that I was interested in in that paragraph was the fact that different radiometric dating methods give different dates. Is this the case? If this is the case, how do you decide what is the correct answer? By looking at the fossils in it?

Different methods will give different values although most often their values are within the error bounds for the methods involved. If discrepancies are found, one can try to establish if some of the assumptions were violated. Isochron methods as such provide for a powerful method to test (self) consistency.

How does CT explain the vaste amounts of concordant dates I wonder? Or are we being trolled here? If not, please spend some time familiarizing yourself with science before making such silly claims. I understand that it may be easy to rely on YEC data, as an ex-YECer I am very aware of how YECism can cloud the judgement.

gww asks

Have creationists no imaginations?

No. If they did, they’d probably be ‘evolutionists’!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on December 13, 2004 11:14 PM.

Deep homologies in the pharyngeal arches was the previous entry in this blog.

Leave no child behind, TEACH EVOLUTION! is the next entry in this blog.

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