Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher

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I'm feeling rather peeved about the failures of the media—in particular, this lazy parroting of Discovery Institute press releases. A ridiculous list of "Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher", the product of the despicable Dr Wells and his worthless tract, Icons of Evolution, has been going around for years, and has been answered multiple times, yet it still gets published as if it were a serious challenge. I've addressed Wells' mangling of developmental biology, and there is a thorough demolition of Icons of Evolution on talk.origins; Wells scholarship is appallingly poor, and his questions are so misleading and dishonest that they are basically scientific fraud. In particular, the NCSE has done an excellent job of putting together brief, media-friendly answers to Wells' questions, and those answers need to be spread around more widely. So here they are, Responses to Jonathan Wells's Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher:

Q: ORIGIN OF LIFE. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life's building blocks may have formed on the early Earth -- when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?

A: Because evolutionary theory works with any model of the origin of life on Earth, how life originated is not a question about evolution. Textbooks discuss the 1953 studies because they were the first successful attempt to show how organic molecules might have been produced on the early Earth. When modern scientists changed the experimental conditions to reflect better knowledge of the Earth's early atmosphere, they were able to produce most of the same building blocks. Origin-of-life remains a vigorous area of research.

Q: DARWIN'S TREE OF LIFE. Why don't textbooks discuss the "Cambrian explosion," in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor -- thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?

A: Wells is wrong: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all are post-Cambrian - aren't these "major groups"? We would recognize very few of the Cambrian organisms as "modern"; they are in fact at the roots of the tree of life, showing the earliest appearances of some key features of groups of animals - but not all features and not all groups. Researchers are linking these Cambrian groups using not only fossils but also data from developmental biology.

Q: HOMOLOGY. Why do textbooks define homology as similarity due to common ancestry, then claim that it is evidence for common ancestry -- a circular argument masquerading as scientific evidence?

A: The same anatomical structure (such as a leg or an antenna) in two species may be similar because it was inherited from a common ancestor (homology) or because of similar adaptive pressure (convergence). Homology of structures across species is not assumed, but tested by the repeated comparison of numerous features that do or do not sort into successive clusters. Homology is used to test hypotheses of degrees of relatedness. Homology is not "evidence" for common ancestry: common ancestry is inferred based on many sources of information, and reinforced by the patterns of similarity and dissimilarity of anatomical structures.

Q: VERTEBRATE EMBRYOS. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for their common ancestry -- even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?

A: Twentieth-century and current embryological research confirms that early stages (if not the earliest) of vertebrate embryos are more similar than later ones; the more recently species shared a common ancestor, the more similar their embryological development. Thus cows and rabbits - mammals - are more similar in their embryological development than either is to alligators. Cows and antelopes are more similar in their embryology than either is to rabbits, and so on. The union of evolution and developmental biology - "evo-devo" - is one of the most rapidly growing biological fields. "Faked" drawings are not relied upon: there has been plenty of research in developmental biology since Haeckel - and in fact, hardly any textbooks feature Haeckel's drawings, as claimed.

Q: ARCHAEOPTERYX. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds -- even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?

A: The notion of a "missing link" is an out-of-date misconception about how evolution works. Archaeopteryx (and other feathered fossils) shows how a branch of reptiles gradually acquired both the unique anatomy and flying adaptations found in all modern birds. It is a transitional fossil in that it shows both reptile ancestry and bird specializations. Wells's claim that "supposed ancestors" are younger than Archaeopteryx is false. These fossils are not ancestors but relatives of Archaeopteryx and, as everyone knows, your uncle can be younger than you!

Q: PEPPERED MOTHS. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?

A: These pictures are illustrations used to demonstrate a point - the advantage of protective coloration to reduce the danger of predation. The pictures are not the scientific evidence used to prove the point in the first place. Compare this illustration to the well-known re-enactments of the Battle of Gettysburg. Does the fact that these re-enactments are staged prove that the battle never happened? The peppered moth photos are the same sort of illustration, not scientific evidence for natural selection.

Q: DARWIN'S FINCHES. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection -- even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?

A: Textbooks present the finch data to illustrate natural selection: that populations change their physical features in response to changes in the environment. The finch studies carefully - exquisitely - documented how the physical features of an organism can affect its success in reproduction and survival, and that such changes can take place more quickly than was realized. That new species did not arise within the duration of the study hardly challenges evolution!

Q: MUTANT FRUIT FLIES. Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution -- even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory?

A: In the very few textbooks that discuss four-winged fruit flies, they are used as an illustration of how genes can reprogram parts of the body to produce novel structures, thus indeed providing "raw material" for evolution. This type of mutation produces new structures that become available for further experimentation and potential new uses. Even if not every mutation leads to a new evolutionary pathway, the flies are a vivid example of one way mutation can provide variation for natural selection to work on.

Q: HUMAN ORIGINS. Why are artists' drawings of ape-like humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident -- when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?

A: Drawings of humans and our ancestors illustrate the general outline of human ancestry, about which there is considerable agreement, even if new discoveries continually add to the complexity of the account. The notion that such drawings are used to "justify materialistic claims" is ludicrous and not borne out by an examination of textbook treatments of human evolution.

Q: EVOLUTION A FACT? Why are we told that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific fact -- even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?

A: What does Wells mean by "Darwin's theory of evolution"? In the last century, some of what Darwin originally proposed has been augmented by more modern scientific understanding of inheritance (genetics), development, and other processes that affect evolution. What remains unchanged is that similarities and differences among living things on Earth over time and space display a pattern that is best explained by evolutionary theory. Wells's "10 Questions" fails to demonstrate a pattern of evolutionary biologists' "misrepresenting the facts."

Teachers, you should be aware that there are solid answers to all of these ginned-up "controversies" that the Discovery Institute is pushing, and none of them require invoking mythical designers or bizarre conspiracies by biologists.

Journalists, could you please take notice of the fact that there is an excellent resource you can turn to when creationists send you press releases? Talk to the National Center for Science Education. They're often ready with the answers, and if they aren't, they can tap into the science community and get them for you.

105 Comments

Homology is not “evidence” for common ancestry: common ancestry is inferred based on many sources of information, and reinforced by the patterns of similarity and dissimilarity of anatomical structures.

You should consider rewriting this bit; I, and I suspect many readers, find the distinction between “evidence” and “a source of information” on which a conclusion is “based” awfully subtle. I mean, suppose a prosecutor said “The blood DNA match is not ‘evidence’ for the defendant’s guilt; rather, his guilt is inferred based on many sources.” I think it’s clear that, indeed, regardless of the amount of evidence in favor of common ancestry, the fact that homology is part of it doesn’t make homology not evidence.

While reading that I do get an impression that there is an implication that homology isn’t actually evidence on its own. To someone who isn’t sure about the concepts surrounding evolution, it would appear to be an extremely odd and probably even confused statement. Perhaps a statement that homology isn’t the *only* piece of evidence would be a better start?

Textbooks discuss the 1953 studies because they were the first successful attempt to show how organic molecules might have been produced on the early Earth. When modern scientists changed the experimental conditions to reflect better knowledge of the Earth’s early atmosphere, they were able to produce most of the same building blocks. Origin-of-life remains a vigorous area of research.

That is an innacurate claim by the NCSE.

The Urey-Miller experiment generated racemic mixtures of amino acids, whereas biotic reality is made of homo-chiral amino acids. Further, in addition to destructive cross reactions in realistic origin-of-life scenarios, there were not provided plausible pathways for the formation of exclusive alpha-peptide bonds.

The 1953 attempt was a failure, not a success, or at the very least it was inconclusive.

Charles Thaxton will appear in the Kansas hearings, he and his co-authors wrote in Mystery of Life’s Origin why Miller’s experiment is not only inadequate, but even if we are generous and say it was plausible, we are confronted with the following problems:

But what if polypeptides and other biopolymers had formed in the prebiotic soup? What would their fate have been? In general the half-lives of these polymers in contact with water are on the order of days and months—time spans which are surely geologically insigificant.

Besides breaking up polypetides, hydrolysis would have destroyed many amino acids. In acid solution hydroloysis would consume most of the tryptophan, and some of the serine and threonine. Further, acid hydrolysis would convert cysteine to cystine, and hydrolysis would destroy serine, threonine, cystine, cysteine, and arginine in the alkaline solution generally regarded to have characterized the early ocean. An alkaline solution would also have caused several deamidations.

.… If there ever was a primitive soup, then we would expect to find at least somewhere on this planet either massive sediments containing enormous amounts of the various nitrogenous organic compounds, amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, and the like, or alternatively in much-metamorphosed sediments we should find vast amounts of nitrogenous cokes. In fact no such materials have been found anywhere on earth. ….. Based on the foregoing geochemical assessment, we conclude that both in the atmosphere and in the various water basins of the primitive earth, many destrctive interactions would have so vastly diminished, if not altogether consumed, essential precursor chemicals, that chemical evolution rates would have been negligible. The soup would have been too dilute for direct polymerization to occur. Even local ponds for concentrating soup ingredients would have met with the same problem.

Furthermore, no geological evidence indicates and organic soup, even a small organic pond, ever existed on this planet. It is becoming clear that however life began on earth, the usually conceived notion that life emerged from an oceanic soup of organic chemicals is a most implausible hypothesis. We may therefore with fairness call the sceanrio “the myth of the prebiotic soup.”

No, it is an accurate statement. Your obfuscations are typical creationist red herrings.

1. Textbooks discuss the 1953 studies because they were the first successful attempt to show how organic molecules might have been produced on the early Earth.

This is correct. The experiment showed that organic molecules can spontaneously arise under simple conditions.

2. When modern scientists changed the experimental conditions to reflect better knowledge of the Earth’s early atmosphere, they were able to produce most of the same building blocks.

This is correct. There are a lot of variations on the old Urey experiments. It turns out that organic gunk arises fairly easily.

3. Origin-of-life remains a vigorous area of research.

This is correct. Scientists are actively studying the phenomena and trying to figure out how it works.

The experiment was a success, despite dishonest prevarications by creationists to the contrary. Complex organic molecules can be generated by non-specific, undirected processes. That’s all it aimed to show, and that’s what it did show.

If Charles Thaxton is going to say that Miller’s experiment is invalid or inaccurate, Salvador, he’s a liar.

Are these “witnesses” at the Kansas hearings being vetted to see that they are not cranks or crackpots?

Is Thaxton even a researcher in the area? Which part of the NASA astrobiology team is he working with?

Oh? You didn’t know that astrobiology, based on the promise that was offered by the Miller-Urey experiment, is a key area of research at NASA?

Does this mean, Salvador, that your team will now try to cut more research funds at NASA?

Where will you guys stop in your drive to censor science?

“Does this mean, Salvador, that your team will now try to cut more research funds at NASA?”

yes, Delay has placed himself as the key arbiter of NASA funding. Your assumption is absolutely correct.

…Not to mention that the truth of evolutionary theory stands apart from the truth of any given abiogenesis theory…

In case you need to see what DeLay is up to wrt NASA:

http://www.thenation.com/docprint.m[…]9&s=corn

the right is moving faster than the eye can follow. it’s quite a shell game, and we are all being conned.

One can claim the the Urey-Miller experiment is a success if one wants to remain in denial by believing racemic monomers are really plausible precursors to homochiral polymers. The bio chemists and protein engineers in our IDEA chapters will have a field day with that! Anyway.

Q: DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE. Why don’t textbooks discuss the “Cambrian explosion,” in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor – thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?

A: Wells is wrong: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals all are post-Cambrian - aren’t these “major groups”? We would recognize very few of the Cambrian organisms as “modern”; they are in fact at the roots of the tree of life, showing the earliest appearances of some key features of groups of animals - but not all features and not all groups. Researchers are linking these Cambrian groups using not only fossils but also data from developmental biology.

The term “group” was referring to phylum as Wells clarifies in Response to NCSE

Wells writes:

The “major groups” to which my question refers are the animal phyla. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are sub-groups (classes) of a single phylum. The NCSE is using semantics to give the illusion that the Cambrian explosion never happened.

to help give an example of “grouping”

For example, a gopher snake would be described in the Linnaen System this way: Kingdom Animalia Phylum Chordata Class Reptilia Order Squamata Family Colubridae Genus Pituophis species catenifer

Wells might be faulted for not using the more technical term “phyla”, but a charitable reading of the question would have conveyed the sense of his arguement. In any case, perhaps we’ll amend the question to use the term “phyla”. Thanks to the NCSE for their editorial suggestion :-)

Further, in Paleozoic Era Paleobiolgy shows that NCSE is arguably wrong in their claim that fish are post-cambrian.

and, if you’re unsure of where DeLay stands wrt to the religious right…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/w[…]otFound=true

he is very clear on the subject.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the questions of ‘Where did I come from?’ ‘Why am I here?’ ‘Where am I going?’ ‘Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ “ DeLay said. “Only Christianity offers a way to understand that physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive worldview that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

Tom DeLay, April 12, 2005

basically, it appears to me that creationists have key figures in many (all?) key areas of federal science funding at this point.

We seem to be halfway to losing this battle, regardless of whether we win in court.

Charles Thaxton, an inarticulate dweeb, concludes

It is becoming clear that however life began on earth, the usually conceived notion that life emerged from an oceanic soup of organic chemicals is a most implausible hypothesis.

I wonder: what is Thaxton’s more plausible theory? By chance, does it have anything to do with mysterious alien beings?

Fyi, Thaxton is one of those insufferably arrogant Christians (surprise!!!) who goes to extreme lengths to recite pleasing tales about his religion.

In their book, The Soul of Science,{5} authors Nancy Pearcey and Charles Thaxton make a case for the essential role Christianity played in the development of science.

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:[…]st&hl=en

Thaxton is also a Disclaimery Institute shill, happily taking money from the likes of Christian Reconstructionist extremists like Howard Ahmansen.

Thaxton can be Exhibit 3,321 in the list of obvious reasons why the anti-science bozos in Kansas are part of political strategy to run around the First Amendment and promote a bigotry-fueled warped version of Christianity that deserves to fade out of existence yesterday.

So Salvador, can you think of any reason not to teach Thaxton’s thesis about the “essential” role of Chrsitianity in the development of science in public science classes?

I mean, other than the fact that it’s pure self-serving horsecrap.

@salvador:

define “plausible” for me, please. as in terms of probability.

“fish are post-cambrian”

“fish” are typically defined by ichthyologists as BONY fish, not cartilaginous. now rethink what you just said.

the simplistic article you reference even makes mention of this:

“The first detailed record of vertebrates appears during the Cambrian as fossils of jawless fish…which had skeletons made of cartilage rather than bone”

is your mind really that simple that you would take quotes meant for the press, , and take them for complete scientific explanations??

ding-ding. wake up Salvador, your dreaming.

you are arguing against posts made for the press (as mentioned by the thread’s poster, no less). is that the current level of your understanding of the issues involved?

really, you’re making yourself look simple.

Go to this link

and click on Number 28 and you can hear this Charles Thaxton character take a giant dump on science.

Click on Number 23 to hear Thaxton say that “in terms of function” writing text is “precisely what happens” when nucleic acids are translated into proteins.

Also you can hear him admit that most of his colleagues (an understatement, to say the least) describe Thaxton’s belief that the process of translation is “obviously” “intelligently designed” as “rubbish.”

Will Thaxton be testifying to this fact as well? What reason will he give to the board as to why the vast vast majority of genuine and productive scientists are unable to see what Thaxton finds so “obvious”?

I suspect Thaxton’s reason is that scientists are “obviously” hindered by their inability to invoke deities as explanations for incompletely understood events that took place hundreds of millions of years ago.

But I don’t suppose Thaxton will be so straightforward. First, he’s an inarticulate buffoon. Second, he’d risk “blowing his cover” (note to Thaxton – it’s a bit late for that).

If we were to apply Salvador T. Cordova’s line of reasoning (and the latter word is applied only loosely here) to organic chemistry, we would be forced to exclude from consideration any description of Freidrich Woehler’s efforts, because they did not lead us directly convenient synthetic schemes for nylon or C60.

One can claim the the Urey-Miller experiment is a success if one wants to remain in denial by believing racemic monomers are really plausible precursors to homochiral polymers. The bio chemists and protein engineers in our IDEA chapters will have a field day with that!

Sal, you should ask these IDEA biochemists and protein engineers if a surface-based catalyst of chemical reactions can be inherently stereoselective.

Cordova Wrote:

to help give an example of “grouping”

For example, a gopher snake would be described in the Linnaen System this way: Kingdom Animalia Phylum Chordata Class Reptilia Order Squamata Family Colubridae Genus Pituophis species catenifer

I don’t think IDers should get to use a phylogenetic classification system. After all, it is based on the idea that all of the animals in each group are more closely related to each other than to all of the animals in all of the lower groups. Until IDers explain why this follows from their as yet to be explained theory I would think that they would avoid talking about it. Or if common descent is a part of ID theory they should say so as a group. From what I can tell there are as many ID positions on common descent as there are ID positors. ‘Course they’re so vague how can you tell? At any rate I hope that Irigonegaray is able to get all these guys on record as at least giving sort of positive claims about common descent, as well as asking them about that clotting cascade that was their big thing a couple years ago until scientists explained how it evolved. I haven’t heard a peep about it since. I realize Irigonegaray isn’t going to debate these guys about science, but when they babble on it would be nice to get them to commit to some specifics, and then point out all of the places they contradict each other. Also to remind everybody of all of their failed predictions - such as that nothing like Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, etc. would ever be found, etc. Ah well, there’s always Dover.

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Q: DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE. Why don’t textbooks discuss the “Cambrian explosion,” in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor — thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?

Salvador: The term “group” was referring to phylum as Wells clarifies in Response to NCSE

You mean those phyla “appeared together in the fossil record fully formed …”? Pull the other one!

On a more depressing note, check out CBS News web site for this story: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005[…]692524.shtml

“New Tactic In Evolution Debate”

“…critics of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection are equipping families with books, DVDs, and a list of “10 questions to ask your biology teacher.

The intent is to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of students as to the veracity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The result is a climate that makes biology class tougher to teach. Some teachers say class time is now wasted on questions that are not science-based.”

The article includes all ten questions - but of course none of the answers to them, such as the ones presented here.

look… the article might be on a cbs newssite, but please NOTE WHO WROTE IT:

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald ©Copyright 2005 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

i doubt it reflects cbs’s view on the issue, if that’s of any consolation to you.

Wells might be faulted for not using the more technical term “phyla”, but a charitable reading of the question would have conveyed the sense of his arguement. In any case, perhaps we’ll amend the question to use the term “phyla”. Thanks to the NCSE for their editorial suggestion :-)

Too bad Wells is still wrong and blatantly so. He doesn’t seem to be aware that several phyla appear in the Precambrian and others in the Ordovician. Cnidarians, molluscs and sponges, for example, have a clear and obvious Precambrian record while bryozoans don’t appear until the Ordovician. Also, numerous soft-bodied phyla have no fossil record at all so claiming “all major animal groups” appear in the Cambrian is simply wrong.

It’s also worth pointing out the dirty little secret the creationists never want to discuss – there is no “Cambrian Explosion” for plants at all! The plant equivalents of phyla appear scattered across hundreds of millions of years. Did God leave the plants to a different designer?

Some of these answers are quite good, but at least two are bothersome.

The answer to the first question, on the Origin of Life and the Miller-Urey experiment is weak. It is essentially: “we don’t care how life originated, so that gives us license to continue speaking of this oversold result, even though it creates the false impression that we do know how life started. And as long as we keep saying: we don’t care, we don’t care, we don’t care, all is fine.” The first part of the answer is reasonable: evolution is not concerned with the origin of life. (Although that begs the question, why then mention Miller-Urey at all?) There should then follow a mea culpa regarding the historic and continued misuse of the Miller-Urey experiment.

But the really, really bad answer is to the peppered moth question. It is inconceivable to me that you would tell students that reenactments a la Gettysburg are proper fare for a science text. That falsified pictures in science are fine, as long as they demonstrated a point. (We’re not talking about cartoon of electrons around a nucleus, but staged photographs.) The answer to this question should involve abandoning the moths-on-trees example, acknowledging it was a blunder/fraud, and use instead real examples to make the point.

Mr Cordova,

in ref to #27980

For one way of how “racemic”* material can react in such a way to give enantiomerically enriched material with no chiral catalysis or input, have your pet biochemists look up autocatalytic methods of generating homochiral material from a “racemate”. I can find you a few interesting references if you require, but I would hope that a serious and interested scientist could easily do a SciFinder search to get reviews and papers on the subject. I’d suggest you get a synthetic organic chemist or two to look at them rather than a biochemist btw.

It would probably also be to your benefit to look up some of the simple molecules found in astrochemistry, and of the interesting condensation reactions that some simple carbonyl compounds spontaneously undergo to give surprisingly complex molecules, sometimes with high diastereoselectivities even in the absence of chiral input.

* I put quotes around racemate and racemic for a good reason. Strongly autocatalytic processes can be successfully catalysed by relatively small populations of catalyst (in this case reaction product), and while we tend to assume that our flask of racemic material is purely 50:50 of each enantiomer, reality is more complex. For this 50:50 ideal to be the case there would have to be an absolutely even number of molecules in every racemic mixture and every mixture would have to be perfectly homogenous throughout, in terms of its 1:1 component mixture. Local (variations in a whole sample) in concentrations of specific enantiomers in a racemic solution (for example) are more than sufficient to be ampolified by autocatalytic processes.

Hey Dr Cordova, you still have not answered my four simple questions.

As promised, I will ask again. And again and again and again. As many times as I need to, until you answer.

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method?

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

The Urey-Miller experiment generated racemic mixtures of amino acids, whereas biotic reality is made of homo-chiral amino acids. Further, in addition to destructive cross reactions in realistic origin-of-life scenarios, there were not provided plausible pathways for the formation of exclusive alpha-peptide bonds.

The 1953 attempt was a failure, not a success, or at the very least it was inconclusive.

How dreadful.

What is the plausible alternative offered by intelligent design “theory”? How does intelligent design “theory” postulate that life began, and how do we test this hypothesis, whatever it is, using the scientific method?

Please try to answer without runnign away this time, Doctor. People might begin to think that you are avoiding questions that you don’t want to answer. We wouldn’t want them to think THAT, would we.

I just want to point out that all of theswe “ten questions” were used prior to the Aguillard case, by the YECs. Indeed, the YECs were also very fond of compiling lists like “Twenty Questions for Evolutionists”.

So once again, we see that ID is simply a clone of creation “science”, despite all their loud claims that they are different.

I would also add with respect to the Cambrian explosion, that the apparently sudden nature of the event may have as much (or more) to do with taphonomy as evolution.

Yes it’s true Dr. Ellington has made a living for 20 years publishing papers on behalf of flawed theory, I acknowledge that.

I respect also the impartial testimony and the impartial approval of his peer reviewers who will do what they can to perpetuate their journals and jobs.

We all know the treatmet Sternberg and Meyer got. Who reviews the correctness of Ellington’s work except us IDists? Sure I’d be willing to submit to the same journals as Ellington and basically tell them that their mistaken. What chances of approval will I get unless I have someone like Richard Sternberg as editor and reviewer?

And as far as Art’s question, care to give a quantitative figure of stereo selectivity especially during a plausible polymerization process? When Fox tried to polymerize even non-racemic amino acids, he ended up making them racemic through his polymerization process. Kind of killed the stereo selectivity there, eh Art?

Dembski groupie Cordova said:

One can claim the the Urey-Miller experiment is a success if one wants to remain in denial by believing racemic monomers are really plausible precursors to homochiral polymers.

I’ve done a little bit of work on polymers, so I can tell you, either Cordova doesn’t know what he’s saying here, or he’s lying. I vote for the “doesn’t know” option.

1) Urey-Miller is not a failure if it fails to produce polymers with certain stereochemistries. Urey-Miller is a success at showing that organic molecules can self-assemble under primitive conditions. This scares the bejesus out of creationists.

2) There are many ways one chirality could have been selected for. Certain simple compounds will even distinguish the two. “This new polymer strongly interacts with one enantiomeric form of an amino acid or component in a racemic mixture enabling chiral separations.” http://www.research.ucla.edu/tech/ucla98-601.htm. While scientists don’t know how it happened in the case of earth yet, you’d have to be a creationist to misrepresent this as a mortal problem to evolution. Indeed, some creationists even calculate the odds of a long stereochemically-specified polymer arising from a racemic mixture, then pronounce it thermodynamically impossible. I wonder if it is possible to even be an IDiot without abusing statistics.

Very nice, Salvador. A nearly total non-response to the substantive questions. Outstanding.

Who reviews the correctness of Ellington’s work except us IDists?

Pardon the guffaw, this was really funny.

Salvador, any ID advocate is free to pursue graduate studies in the appropriate field, start experimenting on abiogenesis, and demonstrate, empirically, that any specific hypothesis about it currently being pursued by other scientists is wrong. If the experiments are well-designed and the conclusions solid, they will be published without need for editorial favors or tricks. That’s how science works.

The act of constant repeating that an entire field is wrong, while refusing to address the actual evidence, does not constitute “review”. It’s called nagging.

The sad thing is that we people that accept mondern science and evolution are in the minority. the poll i saw today was something like 24% of american accept evolution and 48% believe in creationism. the whole thing kind of scares me. the majority of people want to topple arab religious states, but they want to create on here.

bingo.

the majority of people want to topple arab religious states, but they want to create on here.

bingo.

Well, it’s not a theocracy that Americans object to — it’s just that the Muslim kooks have the wrong “theo”.

In comment 28083

Andrea Bottaro Wrote:

Let’s make one point clear: peppered moths do rest on tree trunks, and the effect of cryptic coloration against tree bark is the same on trunks (where they rest occasionally - 25% of the time or so, according to Majerus and others) or branches and branch/trunk junctions (where they rest more often).

I don’t believe there is any evidence available to justify the statement that peppered moths rest on tree trunks “25% of the time or so”. Nor do I believe that any active researchers on the peppered moth, including Majerus himself, would endorse it.

The evidence that has been cited to support the statement was first published by Howlett and Majerus in 1987 (Ref. 1), and updated by Majerus in his book Melanism in 1998 (p.123), and then again in his 2004 Darwin day address to the British Humanist association (powerpoint slide 42).

But in the first of the references cited above, Howlett and Majerus note that there is almost certainly a very strong observer-induced bias in the data. When gathering it they searched tree trunks much more often than other surfaces, and they would have completely missed any potential resting sites high up in the canopy that were not conveniently observable from the ground.

While they do draw some conclusions from their data about the moth’s preferred resting sites (which I will get to below), they also conclude that:

The observer bias makes an appraisal of the relative importance of these sites impossible.

In other words, Howlett and Majerus consider that drawing even rough quantitave conclusions about the moth’s normal resting sites from their data is not justified.

I have never seen Majerus give any quantitative estimate of the proportion of peppered moths that he believes rest on any particular parts of trees. From what I have read of his writings, however, I suspect he would consider that they probably rest quite a bit less than 25% of the time on what he commonly refers to as “trunks”. I have even seen a couple of statements of his which, if given a strict literal interpretation and taken out of context, could be reasonably construed as saying that peppered moths do not rest on tree trunks. (Don’t bother asking for a citation, since I am not prepared to give one. Potential quote-miners who wish to find the statements will have to trawl through Majerus’s writings to do so.)

Nevertheless, I also suspect that when Majerus refers to “trunks” in such statements as, for example, “B. betularia rarely rest by day on tree trunks” (from Ref 2, p.155), he is probably referring only to the first two categories into which he classifies the moths’ resting sites when presenting his data. Here is the data from slide 42 of his Darwin day presentation where he gives the number of moths he had observed resting naturally on various parts of trees:

Exposed trunk: 7 Unexposed trunk: 7 Trunk/branch joint: 23 Branches: 22

The figure of approximately 25% supposedly resting on “trunks” comes from combining the first two categories in these data to give a total of 14 out of 59 that were apparently found there. However, when describing the initial set of data they collected, Howlett and Majerus say:

Of the 15 moths found [up to that time] near trunk branch joints, 12 were directly below the branch and three roughly on a level with it. In all cases they were within 8 cm of the join.

In other words, of the 23 moths scored in the table above as having rested near trunk-branch joints, at least 12, and probably more, were actually observed on the trunks below the joint. Thus, the proportion of moths observed resting on trunks was in fact closer to 45% than to 25%. The concusions that Howlett and Majerus drew were:

… that B. betularia habitually utilizes three main resting situations: (a) tree trunks within a very short distance of a branch/trunk join, and always below so that the moth is in shadow; (b) on branches, and again probably on the underside; (c) on foliate twigs. The observer bias makes an appraisal of the relative importance of these sites impossible.

Thus, while these data cannot be used to justify the conclusion that peppered moths rest on tree trunks “25% of the time or so”, they certainly show that the moths do in fact rest there, and that they probably do so some quite significant proportion of the time if the parts of the trunk just below trunk-branch joints are included.

  • 1. Rory J. Howlett & Michael E.N. Majerus, The understanding of industrial melanism in the Peppered moth (Biston betularia) (Lepidoptera: Geometridae), Biol J. Linn. Soc., 30 (1987), 31-44.
  • 2. Majerus, M.E.N., Brunton, C.F.A. & Stalker, J., A bird’s eye view of the peppered moth, J. Evol. Biol., 13 (2000), 155-159.
  • Yes, that’s right, folks. Cordova assumes that the pH and other chemical conditions on the early earth were homogenous. It never seems to have occurred to him that, much like today’s earth, the early earth may have been a rather chemically diverse place. Instead he sees it as a small, well-stirred reaction vessel. Of course, part of the problem is that he’s a YEC and doesn’t believe this at all; it’s pure rhetorical fiction on his part. (That’s a nice way of saying it’s an ideologically-motivated lie, for any of you lurkers who have trouble with subtlety.)

    I assume no such thing, but the problem is all the origin of life scenarios require vast pools of soup since the improbability of life is so great, supposedly one needs a vast pool to help overcome the odds. Small isolated soups are inssufficient.

    A chemically diverse place? In effect saying most of the Earth is inhosbitable to abiogenesis, like it is today. Good proof against abiogenesis. Great to see how you guys just self destruct your arguments.

    Cordova Wrote:

    …the problem is all the origin of life scenarios require vast pools of soup since the improbability of life is so great, supposedly one needs a vast pool to help overcome the odds. Small isolated soups are inssufficient.

    Please show your math.

    Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 14, column 12, byte 2009 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

    Cordova Wrote:

    It shows that when an environmental change reverts back to a previous state, the population reverts back to a previous state.

    Yeah. It shows that can happen (surprise, surprise!). What does it tell us about when the environment doesn’t revert back to what it was? Or about when an organism migrates into a different environment?

    The finch beak actually is wonderful example that natural selection has limits to what it can accomplish. The beak lengths won’t grow to infinity if we starve the finches will it?

    Wow! what a powerful insight! Without the IDers to correct our misconceptions, “Darwinists” had always assumed that they would grow to infinity!

    One could argue that the finch beak examples show that natural selection has limits.

    Whoa! Another paradigm shift! I suppose diehard “Darwinists” will counter with some nonsense about the selective disadvantages of having too large a beak.

    …(unless one accepts Dembki’s theorem, and it becomes apparent, Darwinian evolution is a ridiculous claim)

    … one still needs to correlate complexity with natural selection. Something that has never been done convincingly, and actually, in my view something that has been falsified.

    Really? Where? How do you explain the generation of Spiegelman’s “monster” RNA’s we discussed earlier?

    “Those who have eyes, let them see.”

    What about the blind cave fish of the genus Astyanax?

    http://pharyngula.org/images/astyanax.jpg

    Salvador T. Cordova argues from incredulity: “Small isolated soups are insufficient.”

    So, are you conceding that slightly larger soups would have been sufficient? Regardless, I think it would be pretty difficult to accurately measure primordial soup size… unless of course we can find some soup fossils.

    Also SCT:

    ”…A chemically diverse place? In effect saying most of the Earth is inhospitable to abiogenesis, like it is today. Good proof against abiogenesis…”

    Now children, what have we learned today? That’s right! We’ve learned that if something is just too difficult to imagine - for you personally, not for the experts who actually know anything about the subject at hand - then it absolutely could not have happened!

    Oh sh*t, did I just say that? I’m sorry, children. Do not apply anything I just said to what we’ve been learning here in Sunday School…

    …Oh, wait. Did I just say “sh*t?” Disregard that, as well, children.

    … (unless one accepts Dembki’s theorem, and it becomes apparent, Darwinian evolution is a ridiculous claim)

    There was supposed to be a

    [guffaw]

    after that Cordova quote, but it got lost in a formatting glitch.

    Reason being, of course: name one real biologist who does accept Dembski’s theorem.

    [ crickets chirping ]

    Salvador T. Cordova wrote:

    It shows that when an environmental change reverts back to a previous state, the population reverts back to a previous state. Dembski’s displacement theorem shows how outrageous it is to believe there can even be selective forces in nature to create the degree of complexity we see. It’s circular reasoning to claim that the selective forces exited in the past to create the complexity of life, and the comlexity life is evidence the selective forces existed.

    Do you think that maybe a shorter beak could be more advantageous in the previous state? Is it circular reasoning to say the designers keep having to increase the complexity of life as they are continuously improving the ability of predators to capture prey and prey to escape predators?

    The finch beak actually is wonderful example that natural selection has limits to what it can accomplish. The beak lengths won’t grow to infinity if we starve the finches will it? One could argue that the finch beak examples show that natural selection has limits. It’s would be more academically honest to say:

    Do you think if finch beaks got to about 10 feet long the finches might have a little trouble flying so maybe natural selection would limit the number of finches with 10 foot beaks in a population?

    1. We don’t really know if Darwinian mechanisms are sufficient to explain the complexity life given the fact we have little clue what the limits of natural selection really are (unless one accepts Dembki’s theorem, and it becomes apparent, Darwinian evolution is a ridiculous claim)

    You’re deliberately misrepresenting evolution here (dude, you can get away with this in your fundie club, but it doesn’t work in a place like this), as well as putting one crackpot on a pedestal while saying the thousands of scientists who have researched natural selection make ridiculous claims. We know plenty about the limits of natural selection as demonstrated above.

    2. One actually measures natural selection in the wild. It is apparent, that the question is open, as evidenced by Berlinski’s article: The Strength of Natural Selection in the Wild

    Some counter claims agains Berlinky’s interpretation have been offered by PZ and Glen Davidson. I’m not so sure, however, Berlinisky has been refuted. The question is open, and Dembksi’s theorem argues against such pressures even existing over the long term toward adding integrated complexity. Even if there is strong correlation between natural seleciton and biology, one still needs to correlate complexity with natural selection. Something that has never been done convincingly, and actually, in my view something that has been falsified. Reductive evolution and extinction are the rule, not the execption. Therefore long term complexity increase is doubt. Finch beaks do little to make the case for large scale information increase.

    Does Dembski’s theorem and Berlinski’s interpretation say that even if the beaks got to 10 feet long, the wingspan got to 40 feet, and other parts got huge there wouldn’t be large scale information increase because it would still be a finch?

    Reason being, of course: name one real biologist who does accept Dembski’s theorem.

    [ crickets chirping ]

    OK. Perhaps I’m setting the bar too high. Name one serious thinker in any field who accepts Dembski’s theorem.

    well, define “serious thinker”.

    there are apparently quite a few who believe in ID. not that they can justify their views scientifically, but they do exist.

    It shows that when an environmental change reverts back to a previous state, the population reverts back to a previous state.

    How dreadful.

    What, again, did you say the scientific theory of ID is? How, again, did you say t could be tested using the scientific method?

    Oh, that’s right — you DIDN’T say, did you . … . .

    Hmmmm . … .

    Sal, I can think of only threee possible reasons for your continuing refusal to answer my simple quesiton. They are:

    (1) there is no scientific theory of ID, and those who claim there is, are just lying to us.

    (2) there *is* a scientific theory of ID, but you are too dumb to know what it is,

    or

    (3) there *is* a scientific theory of ID, and you *do* know what it is, but for some unfathomable reason, you don’t want anyone *else* to know what it is.

    If you won’t answer my simple question, Sal, would you at least tell me *why* you won’t answer it? Is it reason number one, number two, or number three?

    My money, of course, is on number one. … .

    I Wrote:

    name one real biologist who does accept Dembski’s theorem.

    [ crickets chirping ]

    OK. Perhaps I’m setting the bar too high. Name one serious thinker in any field who accepts Dembski’s theorem.

    To which Sir ToeJam responded:

    well, define “serious thinker”.

    there are apparently quite a few who believe in ID. not that they can justify their views scientifically, but they do exist.

    I guess that’s part of “lowering the bar”. I’m curious to hear Sal’s definition of “serious thinker”. But what I’m looking for is a respectable academic, writing in a professional peer-reviewed journal. Someone in a position to actually judge Dembski’s “theorem” - like, say, David Wolpert. Someone, in other words, who is not just waving ID pom-poms.

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    This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on May 3, 2005 6:55 PM.

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