Time: Stealth Attack On Evolution

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A new article in Time Magazine just came across my bloglines account.

Stealth Attack On Evolution” was on the whole a decent article. I am sure the Discovery Institute will carp anyway, even though they get quoted and even get their list of 300+ scientists cited (translation: 300+ scientists signing on to an extremely vague statement not even supporting ID, and with only 4 Steves), because they will be annoyed that the the article points out the fact that this represents a miniscule proportion of the scientific community.

One passage in the Time article was particularly groanworthy:

They [evolutionary biologists] developed the theory of punctuated equilibriums, for example, to address the fact that species remain unchanged for long periods, then suddenly start evolving.

“Equilibriums”? Eh? And most everything else about the sentence is wrong, also. How hard would it be for a journalist to say,

By the 1940’s, biologists had synthesized Darwin’s natural selection and Mendel’s genetics into the discipline of population genetics, the mathematical theory describing how genes spread through populations under the influence of natural selection. A finding from population genetics was that small populations can evolve more rapidly than large populations, and this finding, along with extensive field observations, were combined to produce the theory of allopatric (geographically localized) speciation. In 1972, Gould and Eldredge applied these results about speciation to the fossil record, producing the model of “punctuated equilibria.” They argued that if speciation was typically allopatric, the fossil record would most commonly record only widespread species, and that these would typically evolve slowly. New species (closely related to the old species) would tend to evolve in small, isolated populations, and then spread. They would therefore appear “suddenly”, geologically speaking. Punctuated equilibria therefore predicts that species-species transitions involving whole populations would tend to be relatively rare in the fossil record. It specifically did not say that “transitional fossils” in general are absent. Gould, annoyed at creationist misrepresentations of his position, specifically said in rebuttal, “Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” *

Sigh. Well, I can dream, can’t I?

* I originally mistakenly said 1973 for the date of the Punk Eek paper, the correct date is 1972. Thanks to Wes Elsberry for this and various other corrections and clarifications (see comments, below).

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As noted, I have been wading through the murky waters of the Intelligent Design / Evolution debate recently as presented by Lee Strobel in his work, The Case for a Creator; and I have to admit that I have been Read More

34 Comments

“Equilibriums”? Eh? And most everything else about the sentence is wrong, also.

I agree. This sentence was definitely “groanworthy.” Who knows where the authors got that description. I know I certainly didn’t give it to them.

They also bungled the history of the Kansas science standards a bit, but that is pretty insignificant. I really should write up a short summary of the situation since 1999 so that reporters have a better chance of getting it right.

I was bothered by this, though:

Instead, anti-evolution activists and I.D. advocates are making what appears on its face to be a perfectly reasonable request. Evolution has not been proved with 100% certainty, they say. Some legitimate scientists think I.D. is more persuasive. So, in a frequently repeated I.D. catchphrase, “teach the controversy.”

Even “on its face”, this is not a reasonable request. Science standards summarize the widely-accepted essential core science upon which schools should build their curriculum. No one claims that ID is “widely accepted”, so just because “some legitimate scientists think I.D. is more persuasive” doesn’t mean that ID should be considered in the standands.

Ken Miller has a new metaphor for the situation. He used to use the idea that the IDists were trying to do an “end-run” around established policies both for getting ideas established as science and for getting ideas into standards. However, in a radio show in Kansas City a few weeks ago, he used a better metaphor: the IDists haven’t been successful in the marketplace of ideas, so they are now looking for a government handout by going straight to school boards.

As long as we are going for pedantry, the original PE article is 1972, not 1973. And PE isn’t based on direct deductions from population genetics, but rather upon observations in field biology and the resulting theory of allopatric speciation. Ernst Mayr will kick you the next time you meet, I’m sure.

http://www.antievolution.org/people[…]s/pe104.html

http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~theobal/PE.html

That’s what I get for trying to summarize Punk Eek before dinner. I’ll correct the 1973 bit…

Regarding the “direct deductions from population genetics” bit, I was indeed oversimplifying. Punk Eek is based on the theory of allopatric speciation, which in turn was based in part on population genetics considerations, in addition to field studies, etc. Quoth your FAQ:

Patterns of speciation from neontological study

[…]

Sixth, the principles of gene flow, genetic homeostasis, and large population size inhibit widespread ancestral populations from much directional (adaptive) change. Any adaptive change found in the ancestral population is likely to be small and unrelated to evolutionary trends.

What I was trying to say was that Punk Eek is basically derived from “microevolutionary” studies, straight from the middle of Neodarwinism. Which is basically the opposite of what everyone thinks.

PE, as construed by Eldredge and Gould, is founded upon the modern allopatric speciation model which lies well within mainstream population genetics. However, PE is not novel, and in large part PE originated with Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species (Darwin credits British paleontologist Hugh Falconer with first proposing that stasis is more predominant in the fossil record than periods of morphological change). Thus, in any meaningful sense of the word, the theory of Punctuated Equilibrium is resolutely “Darwinian.”

(Conclusion of Theobald’s FAQ)

And, for the record, I would consider it a great honor to be kicked by Dr. Mayr…

Some legitimate scientists think I.D. is more persuasive.

That is an insult to legitimate scientists. “Legitimate” scientists can make compelling arguments as to why their “theory” is scientific and useful to scientists. “Legitimate” scientists make their case to scientists by publishing the results of research using their theory which shows that their theory is valuable. “Legitimate” scientists don’t write high school textbooks first and do the research later.

There are no “legitimate scientists” who think that the idea that mysterious alien beings designed and created all the earth’s life forms is more “persuasive” than the theory that life on earth is related by common descent. The people who find “ID theory” persuasive enough to push it like coca-cola on Americans who don’t know better are the same people who believe that cartoon sponges make kids gay, and who believe that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.

And when will these journalists realize that many legitimate scientists think it highly unlikely that ultra-powerful mysterious beings exist and note that there is no scientific evidence supporing the existence of such beings? And surely there are also “some legitimate scientists” who believe that they can prove that no such beings exist, using arguments that are just as self-serving as those used by the “ID theory” peddlers. What possible scientific reason could justify the ID peddlers exclusion of these viewpoints from biology classrooms if they are sincere about what they claim to be seeking (“critical thinking”)?

“Teach the controversy” is the height of hypocracy. The ID peddlers want to create controversy. The last they want is for the American people to wake up and realize that the controversy is a bunch of baloney cooked up by a group of anti-science anti-education frauds.

Being consistent with population genetics isn’t quite the same thing as being directly deduced from population genetics. Ernst Mayr has had a long history of contempt for “beanbag genetics” of the sort that permit easy deductions, which I why I thought it rather ironic to attribute PE to the wellspring of the folks Mayr often applied a verbal lash to, when it was Mayr’s insight that lay behind the development of PE.

Be it kicks or praise, getting Mayr’s attention for a moment would be a personal experience to cherish.

Don’t bag Coca-Cola!

I’ll be a bit more optimistic then GWW. I don’t say there is no “legitimate” that study ID. Just that, like ID, we have no evidence of said scientists.

I would love to actually here about actual research into ID just because it would be an interesting mixup to the norm which if all the science is done properly is always good for science. But sinse ID is currently lacking this issue just hurts science by confusing those that are easily swayed.

The short and simple way of putting it is, there are legitimate scientists who think ID is more persuasive, but they almost exclusively do so for non-scientific reasons (i.e. religion). And there are no scientists who actually study ID as an object of scientific research, because as far as anyone can tell, there’s nothing to study.

I just lucked on to an article by Provine addressing exactly the question we are discussing. According to Provine, in 1942 Ernst Mayr was a “beanbagger” on his own account (italics=internal quote of Mayr):

Mayr understood this point perfectly in Systematics and the Origin of Species, but faced a major problem. He did not know much recent genetics. His primary source for the genetics of speciation in his 1942 book came from Genetics and the Origin of Species, in which Dobzhansky had relied heavily upon Sewall Wright’s insights into genetics and evolution (PROVINE 1986, Chaps. 10–11). Mayr assumed that most speciation took place after geographical isolation was firmly in place, even if only temporarily:

Naturalists have known for a long time that island populations tend to have aberrant characteristics. WRIGHT (1931)(1932, and elsewhere) found the theoretical basis for this by showing that in small populations the accidental elimination of genes may be a more successful process than selection. Furthermore, recessive mutations have a much better chance to become homozygous than in a large panmictic population. It is therefore very important to learn something about the actual size of distributional islands and of their populations (MAYR 1942, p. 234).

Mayr then offered examples of small isolated populations of cave animals, lizards, fish, birds, and mice, all of which exhibited aberrant characteristics. His analysis of these examples again drew upon the work of Wright:

An exact determination of the size of an isolated population is of importance, in view of Sewall Wright’s work on gene loss in small populations. Owing to “accidents of sampling,” small populations have a trend toward genetic homogeneity or at least toward a much-reduced variability. This is quite apparent in taxonomic work, although only a few systematists have taken the trouble to make careful measurements and to work out the coefficients of variation (MAYR 1942, p. 235).

Why, exactly, did population size have consequences for the speciation process?

The calculations of SEWALL WRIGHT (1931)(1932, and elsewhere) indicate that effective populations have to be rather small, in the order of several hundred individuals or less, before they can be expected to approach genetic homogeneity due to accidental gene loss. If the population size is larger (thousands to tens of thousands of individuals), there still may be rapid evolution owing to mutation pressure (in the absence of appreciable selection), but the population will remain much more variable. If the size of the effective breeding population is still greater, approaching panmixia in varying degrees, evolution will be slowed down considerably. The consequence of this consideration is that evolution should proceed more rapidly in small populations than in large ones, and this is exactly what we find (MAYR 1942, p. 236).

Mayr did not actually read Wright’s articles at this time, but relied upon Dobzhansky’s writing for Wright’s views. Thus he saw Wright basically as a random drifter, whereas Wright’s “shifting balance” theory clearly emphasized strong gene interaction and subdivided larger populations, not just small isolated ones (PROVINE 1986, Chap. 9). Mayr relied upon Dobzhansky’s distilled version of Wright’s theoretical formulations for analyzing reduced variability and increased rate of evolution in relatively small, geographically isolated populations. According to Mayr, however, random genetic drift was not the only way to produce reduced variability in isolated populations:

The reduced variability of small populations is not always due to accidental gene loss, but sometimes to the fact that the entire population was started by a single pair or by a single fertilized female. These “founders” of the population carried with them only a very small proportion of the variability of the parent population. This “founder” principle sometimes explains even the uniformity of rather large populations, particularly if they are well isolated and near the borders of the range of the species (MAYR 1942, p. 237).

This was the first statement of the founder principle.

Mayr also relied upon Wright’s calculations of effective population size, usually much smaller than a mere count of individuals in a natural population. In these passages, Mayr was attempting to explain the mechanisms of geographical speciation. He and other naturalists had observed that island populations exhibited characters different from those of mainland organisms, and he concluded that the speciation process was accelerated by the isolation of relatively small populations. Mayr argued that evolution was faster in small populations than in large ones because inbreeding led to random genetic drift, accidental gene loss, and consequent increase of homozygosis and decrease of genotypic and phenotypic variability in the small populations. These mechanisms caused rapid, divergent evolution in the small populations. “The potentiality for rapid divergent evolution in small populations explains also why we have on islands so many dwarf or giant races, or races with peculiar color characters (albinism, melanism), or with peculiar structures (long bills in birds), or other peculiar characters (loss of special male plumage in birds)” (MAYR 1942, p. 236).

Over the next 10 years Mayr became a critic of “beanbag genetics”, apparently because he came to see the co-adaptedness of alleles as very important. But it appears that the effect of small population sizes remained important:

Mayr’s article, “Change of genetic environment and evolution,” begins where he left off in Systematics and the Origin of Species. Mayr was particularly impressed by Wallace’s emphasis upon the high degree of integration and coadaptation of the genome. In the 1954 article, Mayr again emphasized “the conspicuous difference of most peripherally isolated populations of species.” But whereas in 1942 he left only a vague connection between the aberrant characteristics of these isolated populations and random genetic drift, he now argued that

… for such a striking dissimilarity of peripherally isolated populations two reasons are usually cited: difference of physical and biotic environment or genetic drift. It seems to me that neither of these factors nor a combination of the two can provide a full explanation, even though both may be involved (MAYR 1954, p. 158).

The answer to such aberrant characteristics, Mayr suggested, lay in understanding that the selective value of a single allele depended greatly upon the overall genetic environment.

The genome of an individual was a highly interactive, coadapted gene complex, Mayr argued. More importantly, the individuals in an entire species shared significant portions of that coadapted gene complex, which resisted changes: “Such a well-integrated, coadapted gene-complex constitutes an evolutionary unit in spite of its intrinsic variability. Any disharmonious gene or gene-combination which attempts to become incorporated in such a gene-complex will be discriminated against by selection” (MAYR 1954, p. 165).

Therefore, the major problem was to discover how it was possible to overcome the inertia of such a coadapted gene complex. One way was to send the gene-complex through a founder population (italics are Mayr’s):

One of the obvious effects of the sudden reduction of population size in the founder population will be a strong increase in the frequency of homozygotes. As a consequence, homozygotes will be much more exposed to selection and those genes will be favored which are specially viable in the homozygous condition. Thus, the “soloist” is now the favorite rather than the “good mixer.” We come thus to the important conclusion that the mere change of the genetic environment may change the selective value of a gene very considerably. Isolating a few individuals (the “founders”) from a variable population which is situated in the midst of the stream of genes which flows ceaselessly through every widespread species will produce a sudden change of the genetic environment of most loci. This change, in fact, is the most drastic genetic change (except for polyploidy and hybridization) which may occur in a natural population, since it may affect all loci at once. Indeed, it may have the character of a veritable “genetic revolution.” Furthermore, this “genetic revolution,” released by the isolation of the founder population, may well have the character of a chain reaction. Changes in any locus will in turn affect the selective values at many other loci, until finally the system has reached a new state of equilibrium (MAYR 1954, pp. 169–170).

Mayr emphasized that a genetic revolution was not to be expected in every founder population: “A ‘genetic revolution’ in the founder population is only a potentiality but does not need to happen every time a population is isolated, if the genetic constitution of the founders does not favour it” (p. 171). He also emphasized that “during a genetic revolution the population will pass from one well integrated and rather conservative condition through a highly unstable period to another new period of balanced integration. The new balance will be reached after a great loss of genetic variability” (p. 172). Many such populations, after undergoing a genetic revolution, would be severely depleted of genetic variability and subject to extinction should the environment change. Some populations, however, might find a new ecological niche after the genetic revolution and gradually accumulate genetic variability. Mayr illustrated this possibility with his famous diagram (Figure 2), with the point C representing the genetic revolution. [point C is a big dip in genetic variability]

I confess I was not too clear on the difference between Mayr (1942) and Mayr (1954) before I read this, but it still seems to me that the implications of population genetics for evolution in small populations were a crucial bit of the allopatric speciation model.

Apart from this, there is an additional question of whether or not Mayr was right about this being the main mode of speciation – and therefore whether or not Gould was right about Punk Eek. Allopatric speciation clearly occurs, but sympatric speciation seems to be increasing in popularity again, and my vague understanding is that at least for cenozoic mammals the conclusion of paleontologists like Gingerich is that gradual transitions between species are actually fairly common in the fossil record.

Nick (Matzke) Wrote:

Allopatric speciation clearly occurs, but sympatric speciation seems to be increasing in popularity again

It’s my understanding that allopatric speciation is still considered to be the norm, but sympatric speciation is being recognized as more possible (but still quite rare). Bush’s example of host shifts in Rhagoletis is one of the most accepted forms of sympatric speciation, but new examples continuously appear in the literature. The current trend in sympatric speciation is to look at chromosomal rearrangements (e.g., Navarro, Noor, Feder), but even in these cases it is unclear if the trends are due to sympatric speciation or reinforcement.

Interestingly, Coyne and Orr’s new Speciation book barely even acknowledges Punctuated Equilibrium. They address it briefly in a couple of paragraphs when they write about the geological record, but they don’t give it the treatment it deserves based on it’s historical importance. This is probably due to the fact that both of the authors are geneticists not geologists, and they are staunch defenders of the role selection plays in speciation and PunkEek may be too much of a neutralist theory for them.

the article's author Wrote:

not from Bible-wielding Fundamentalists but from well-funded think tanks

Gee, “well-funded” by whom? They apparently don’t think to ask…

until the end of the article. Ooops!

They [evolutionary biologists] developed the theory of punctuated equilibriums, for example, to address the fact that species remain unchanged for long periods, then suddenly start evolving.

I’m not sure if that’s completely accurate. I’m currently reading Kenneth Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God.” In it, he talks extensively about “punctuated equilibrium” (punk eek). He says punk eek is often just a special case of evolution where time is compressed via the geological column; rather than an example of something being unchanged for “long periods of time” and then suddenly changing dramatically.

Time Wrote:

Evolutionary theory does have gaps, but so do relativity, quantum theory and the theory of plate tectonics. West says those are different because scientists in these fields, unlike evolutionists, aren’t afraid of intellectual debate.

None of those theories are being assaulted by religious zealots.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 8, column 2, byte 590 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Merrell 1994 Wrote:

Even more interesting is Gould’s admission that he and Niles Eldredge were ignorant of Wright’s work (Gould, 1982b) when they proposed their theory of puctuated equilibrium in 1972. This startling admission helps explain why the theory was presented with such fanfare as a breakthrough in evolutionary thought when in fact it could be easily accomodated within the existing theoretical framework.

Merrell 1994 is _The Adaptive Seascape_ p 14

Gould 1982b is The meaning of punctuated equlibrium and its role in validating a hierarchical approach to macroevolution. In _Perspectives on Evolution_, R. Milkman, Ed. Sinaur, Sunderland, Mass.]

Discovery has received funding from Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., an ultraconservative savings-and-loan heir. … Salon did a nice profile of Ahmanson last year: http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2[…]06/ahmanson/

This is my first post here at PT. You guys do a terrific job.

Re: Ernst Mayr–forgive my ignorance, but I could swear that I read that he had passed away.

If that’s not the case, then I’d be honored to be kicked by him as well! His book “What Evolution Is” remains one of the best references for a biological layperson like myself.

Unless he just kicked, Mayr is still around. He turned 100 last July and wrote a very interesting letter in Science commemorating it:

Happy birthday: 80 years of watching the evolutionary scenery.

You may be thinking of John Maynard Smith, another of the greats, who died not long ago.

RPM Wrote:

Interestingly, Coyne and Orr’s new Speciation book barely even acknowledges Punctuated Equilibrium.  They address it briefly in a couple of paragraphs when they write about the geological record, but they don’t give it the treatment it deserves based on it’s historical importance.  This is probably due to the fact that both of the authors are geneticists not geologists, and they are staunch defenders of the role selection plays in speciation and PunkEek may be too much of a neutralist theory for them.

Coyne has long been a harsh critic of PE, and feels it is nearly worthless as a scientific hypothesis, e.g.:

In the past 25 years, Eldredge and Gould have proposed so many different versions of their theory that it is difficult to describe it with any accuracy .… If a scientific theory is to be of any value as a tool for exploring the real world, it must have some stability as a set of propositions open to empirical test. Punctuated equilibrium has undergone so many transformations that it is hard to distinguish its core of truth from the “statement that morphological evolution sometimes occurs episodically.”

Jerry A. Coyne and Brian Charlesworth “On puctuated equlibria”, Science, Vol 276, Issue 5311, 337-341 , 18 April 1997

and in 2002 H. Allen Orr summed up the mainstream view of PE in the New Yorker thus:

By the nineties, most evolutionary biologists had simply stopped paying attention to punctuated equilibrium. At best, the theory looked like a moving target, veering now at breakneck speed toward Darwinism. At worst, its chief advocate seemed muddled, a mixture of radical rhetoric and malleable ideas. Punctuated equilibrium was down, if not out.

The Descent of Gould

Douglas Theobald, from Coyne & Charlesworth 1997, Wrote:

In the past 25 years, Eldredge and Gould have proposed so many different versions of their theory that it is difficult to describe it with any accuracy . … If a scientific theory is to be of any value as a tool for exploring the real world, it must have some stability as a set of propositions open to empirical test. Punctuated equilibrium has undergone so many transformations that it is hard to distinguish its core of truth from the “statement that morphological evolution sometimes occurs episodically.”

It seems to me that you could replace “Eldredge and Gould” with “Kimura” and “punctuated equilibrium” with “neutral theory” and it would still make sense. I guess both theories are guilty of hedging bets in such a way that they can remain valid, despite new evidence that would seemingly disprove them, by tinkering and making slight adaptations. In my opinion, a theory that cannot be disproven because of it’s ability to “dodge punches” may be insightful, but it has obvious limitations. It looks like I’m siding with Coyne on this one.

Oh, good grief.

Coyne is a moth guy, isn’t he? It’s important that we understand his statements are not against evolution, but against the Eldredge/Gould hypothesis that evolution often proceeds in spurts.

And since Coyne is a moth guy, shouldn’t we give careful consideration to what sort of evidence we have for fossil moths when we apply his criticisms to the fossil record PE actually illuminates?

And, isn’t PE exactly the statement “that morphological (and other) evolution sometimes occurs episodically?” This sounds like the creationist whine that, since mutation is now so well understood that only a fool would deny it, they must somehow claim that mutation is a part of non-Darwinian biology, and perhaps opposed to it.

My intent for giving the Coyne and Orr quotes was to illuminate the reason for RPM’s observation that Coyne and Orr essentially ignore PE in their book Speciation.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

Coyne is a moth guy, isn’t he?  It’s important that we understand his statements are not against evolution, but against the Eldredge/Gould hypothesis that evolution often proceeds in spurts.

Sure, he’s not arguing against evolution (where did that come from?), but neither is he arguing against the hypothesis that evolution often proceeds in spurts (an observation/hypothesis that of course originated with neither Eldredge nor Gould).

Ed Darrell Wrote:

And, isn’t PE exactly the statement “that morphological (and other) evolution sometimes occurs episodically?” 

If it were, nobody would ever have found it controversial or found it interesting. Coyne and Charlesworth state in Science (1996) 274:1748 that “shorn of [a non-Darwinian] mechanism, the theory reduces to the noncontroversial statement that morphological evolution sometimes occurs episodically.” Which was a characterization to which Eldredge and Gould vociferously objected.

Okay, I wasn’t clear that I wasn’t complaining about Mr. Theobald’s post. I did want to make it clear to trolling quote miners that Coyne’s work is not to be used against evolution the way Jonathan Wells tries to use Coyne’s work.

I may be overly sensitive, but it comes from the representations made to the Texas State Board of Education that Coyne is a dissenter from evolution, when he’s clearly not.

I think we see eye to eye – I hope the quote miners will be honest and leave the quotes in their proper context.

Does anyone have that list of 350 scientists? And does anyone have a link to the statement they signed?

My understanding is that some of the people who signed the statement do not have a doctorate in a hard science. Also do most of the people who signed the statement have a doctorate in biology?

Also, I remember reading the statement. At the time, I was struck at how vague it was. It seemed like the kind of thing that one could reasonably sign. In fact, construed in some ways that statement seems accurate. Didn’t it say that “natural selection” is not the only cause of the existence of organisms? Well, I’m not sure what they mean by “Natural Selection.” But what about genetic drift?

On punctuated equilibrium, the authors of the Time article didn’t do a good job with that. These news magazines should have scientists write these articles.

It is helpful to break Gould’s hypothesis into two parts. First, it is *clear* that some organisms are similar anatomically to their ancestors that lived millions of years before them. My understanding is that cockroaches are an example. The second hypothesis is more questionable. Gould suggested that some organisms are fairly different anatomically to their ancestors that lived thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of years earlier. Are there any clear examples? Does Gould offer any? I know that some specimens that are about 545 million years old are fairly different than any specimens that are 600 million years old. But they are not hugely different. In fact, every specimen that is about 545 million years old is fairly similar to at least one specimen that is older than it. Also, 55 million years is a long time! One more time: 55 million years is a long time!

Here is a link to Ediacaran specimens, which are about 600 million years old: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/vendia[…]ritters.html

Also, here is an article by Glenn Morton on some of the known fossil specimens that are older than 545 million years old: http://home.entouch.net/dmd/cambevol.htm

It looks to me that each specimen that is about 545 million years old is fairly similar to at least on specimen that is older than it.

Finally, the authors of the Time article say there are “gaps” in evolution. The authors should say what they mean by that, and give some examples.

I sometimes hear people say that some known fossil specimens that are 545 million years old are different than all known fossil specimens older than they are. But, as I said, they aren’t that different. From what I’ve seen each specimens that is about 545 million years old is at least fairly similar to at least one specimen older than it.

Now some of the specimens that are about 600 million years old are fairly different than the oldest known specimens. But the specimens that are about 600 million years are like cnidarians or sea anemones. And the oldest known specimens are 3.5 billion years old. They are the remains of bacteria. Three billion years is a long time!

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]d.php?id=269 has both.

Yes, many of the scientists appear to be non-scientists, and many of the scientists may well be unqualified to judge. And, as has been pointed out many times, the statement they signed could be signed in good faith by many qualified scientists who accept the ToE; many such are indeed skeptical that random mutation and natural selection are the sole items that account for the complexity of life; e.g.neutral drift and other processes appear to be significant.

I found this claim to be amusing, given the original topic of this post.

DI News Wrote:

“There’s nobody else in the blogosphere right now holding the media accountable for how the debate over evolution is reported,” added [Robert] Crowther. “We think that Evolution News & Views will do just that.”

Source

Isn’t Panda’s Thumb part of the “blogosphere?” Surely Crowther knows about PT. Or does he think that the media only misrepresents the ID position? Apparently, the phrase “holding the media accountable” really means “spin, spin, spin, spin…”

Jeremy that’s a hoot. I also liked this

“We not only plan to offer critiques and corrections to major news stories, we will also offer behind-the-scenes glimpses at journalists and how they operate when they report on this issue.”

So says the transparency-loving Discovery Institute “staff” who authored the article.

As earlier predicted by Nick Matzke, the DI is complaining about the TIME article over on their “blahg.”

John West claims that the authors of the story “parrot the NCSE.” He goes so far as to suggest that Eugenie Scott should have been listed as one of the authors. However, I recognized a lot of my comments to reporter Noah Isackson represented in the article, and I’m not associated with the NCSE. I’m sure that my colleague Ken Bingman can do the same. Why doesn’t West complain that the TIME article “parrots Jeremy Mohn and Ken Bingman?” Maybe because it’s easier to blame the “scientific establishment” than to accept that even us lowly science teachers can see through the pseudoscientific facade of ID.

Ed Darrell Wrote:

Coyne is a moth guy, isn’t he? It’s important that we understand his statements are not against evolution, but against the Eldredge/Gould hypothesis that evolution often proceeds in spurts.

First, hopefully this wasn’t directed at me for criticizing evolution because that was not my point at all.

Secondly, Jerry Coyne is a Drosophila geneticist, not “a moth guy.” I feel, as a Drosophila geneticists, that I must make this point, in order to prevent further confusion between the Drosophila research community and the moth research community.

Finally, it’s my impression that E&G’s PuncEek describes morphological evolution and speciation, and not evolution in general. Most geneticists would argue that the majority of molecular evolution occurs continuously and gradually. How speciation and morphological evolution occur, however, is debatable and within the realm of PuncEek.

Jon Fleming, thanks a lot.

One can reasonably conclude that “random mutation and natural selection do not account for the complexity of life.” For one, “random mutation” and “natural selection,” as I think the authors of the statement are using the terms, did not cause the existence of the first self-replicating molecules on earth.

I would like to thank Dr. Theobald for his informative web page entitled, All you need to know about Punctuated Equilibrium (almost): Common misconceptions concerning the hypothesis of Punctuated Equilibrium.

However, is anyone else bothered by the following statements quoted from Dr. Theobald’s web page?

From Douglas Theobald (Copyright © 2001-2003);

“One wonders if Eldredge and Gould had read anything more than the title of Chapter 10 of The Origin of Species.”

“.…were stated by Charles Darwin over 100 years before Eldredge and Gould proposed their “novel” hypothesis.”

Gould was an authority on the life and writings of Darwin and I find it ridiculous that Dr. Theobald would suggest Gould and Eldredge didn’t read Darwin’s Origin thoroughly.

Gould’s and Eldredge’s PE theory is “novel,” and was a brilliant new perspective on the origin of species despite Theobald’s opinion to the contrary.

The general tenor of Theobald’s piece is undeservedly acrimonious to Gould’s and Eldredge’s formulation of the PE theory.

My apologies in advance to Dr. Theobald if I am misinterpreting his meaning.

Here’s the link to Dr. Theobald’s web page All you need to know about Punctuated Equilibrium (almost): Common misconceptions concerning the hypothesis of Punctuated Equilibrium (http://ucsu.colorado.edu/~theobal/PE.html).

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on January 23, 2005 7:20 PM.

ID Apologists as Cheating Husbands was the previous entry in this blog.

“Loss of information” in human evolution is the next entry in this blog.

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