Random Nonsense

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Over at Uncommon Descent William Dembski is linking to the random mutation site with approval. Claiming to be a “ Darwinian Evolution Experiment”, all it is is a simple random mutation generator. To be “Darwinian”, a system has to have selection as well. No selection, as in this case, well, it’s a waste of space. So why is Dembski linking to a site that he knows is a attacking a strawman version of evolution? Maybe its a bit of street theatre to distract people from the fact that he is happy with Ann Coulters appalling book, you know, the one where she falsley accuses honest scientists of fraud?

If you want to see a real Darwinian Evolution Experiment pop over to Zachriel’s Word Mutagenation and Phrasenation pages, where mutation and selection is used. Not only only do you get to evolve plain English words and phrases (the thing that the random mutation site claims you can’t do), you get to look at the code and see how it is done! Extra cool. If you are hankering for an old style Dawkins Weasel program, I maintain an archive here.

324 Comments

Just out of curiosity, has anyone found a creationist who does an honest job of figuring selection into his calculations. Offhand, I can’t recall a case of a creationist who even *recognizes* that selection exists. In all the thousands of repetitions of the 747 in a junkyard, not one nod in the direction of selection. Like the concept simply cannot penetrate the creationist brain.

So I don’t believe Dembski realizes that mutation without selection is a strawman. For him, there is no selection. He has to my knowledge never registered that it exists or what it might imply. I think Dembski instinctively tunes selection out because his convictions cannot allow it, and then tunes out the fact that he’s done so.

Maybe its a bit of street theatre to distract people from the fact that he is happy with Ann Coulters appalling book, you know, the one where she falsley accuses honest scientists of fraud?

There’s another theory that he’s trying to hide his Danish rotteness.

Either way, it’s good times for UD-watchers at the moment.

Bob

Flint Wrote:

For him, there is no selection. He has to my knowledge never registered that it exists or what it might imply.

I did ask on another thread for an example of a creationist calculation of information in evolution that actually models the branching and pruning of natural selection but was told:

I would just say that it’s not hugely relevant

This is actually sort of interesting, in that there are so many ways this random mutator does not capture the complexity of living organisms, and their response to mutation. It might be fun to try and explain some of the dynamics that escapes the model, here.

One big, obvious problem with this simulation is not just that there is no selection (as a poster on UD says, you can always just hit back and try again), but that there is also no replication. If you’ve only got one individual, giving birth to one child in each generation, you’re not going to experience much evolutionary success. If this model were to take a sentence, make 10 million copies of it, and start letting them mutate and reproduce differentially, you could get rater better dynamics.

To a point at least. Another crucial difference is that in living systems, the genome is the recipe for ‘baking the cake’, rather than a blueprint, and slight alterations in the recipe for a living thing can perturb the entire development of the organism, with all sorts of mechanisms helping to constrain the result into something reasonable, according to the organism’s innate capacity for dealing with a variety of insults and sub-optimum environmental conditions. English is a terribly rigid system by comparison, with a simple binary correct/incorrect decision rule for grammatical and syntactical correctness.

Another difference is that this mutator just shows point mutations, there is no mechanism for splicing in redundant copies of portions of the text to serve as a reserve pool of functionality while one or the other copy undergoes additional mutation. Even if such were to happen, the strict rules of English would make the result seem far more bizarre and disturbing to us than gene duplication is to many organisms.

Another difference is that sexual reproduction is not modelled in any way, so there is no mixing of viable alleles into new combinations.

Surely there are more?

simple random mutation generator

I just wonder what the author of this bioinformatics masterpiece wants to show by writing a deliberately nonfunctional program… Does he think that by producing an example that doesn’t work at all he somehow refutes the entire idea ? Anyone can write a basic math program that doesn’t get the numbers right faster than I can type this post : int main(){ printf( “2 * 2 = 5\n” ); return 0; } Does that imply that basic math doesn’t work as well ?

Zachriel’s page has some good analysis of the mathematics of a mutating system of English words, though the mutation he is using is at the level of substituting English words for English words, not doing letter changes.

The inimitable DaveScot correctly (for a change) points out that the cited entry at UD was not authored by Dembski. In the ensuing comments, one tinabrewer waxes skeptical over the importance of selection, apparently believing that unless there’s some type of new and improved selection that she hasn’t heard of, selection isn’t all that significant:

It interests me, in reading the comments that follow this post at PT, that the PT people seem convinced that “selection” is so terribly significant in evolution. There seems to be some muddy water on this one, for everyone concerned. I myself have always felt, just at a gut level, that the aspect of random mutations is the only really controversial aspect of RM+NS, since to me, natural selection is just an obvious uncreative static mechanism. Are they referring to other popular new selection mechanisms, and how significant are these in the overall story?

Jim Wynne wrote:

The inimitable DaveScot correctly (for a change) points out that the cited entry at UD was not authored by Dembski.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]rchives/1234

Is Dembski even saying anything about what’s going on with his site? He doesn’t bother to correct wrong ideas that his fans shoot off.

Ian’s Weasel page http://www.health.adelaide.edu.au/P[…]ys/whale.htm has lots of good stuff.

The great divide:

“I myself have always felt, just at a gut level…” – tinabrewer

“… I try not to think with my gut.” – Carl Sagan

I believe Stephen Colbert pointed out that he and GW are both ‘gut thinkers’ and don’t need to rely on the truthiness of ‘facts’. god what an hilarious analogy.

I have to say it’s really an incredibly amateurish example. 1) No example of selection. 2) It utilizes language as its example. Language works by a series of interreated symbol systems used by the observer, and communication breaks down if you interfere with these enough. It doesn’t compare well to genetic information, in my opinion. 3) It then argues that randomness is irrelevant for science and thus evolution. I’m still figuring out the logic that if it involves randomness it’s not science. 4) He has a disclaimer at the end that is exceptionally sad. Scroll all the way to the bottom (it’s too large to post politely). Roughly he reveals his ignorance of genetics and experimental design - by his words, it seems that no one could ver do an experiment on evolution because it’d be Intelligent Design since it involves a designer.

I also admit I take this rather personally. I’ve been doing a site of random creativity. for quite some time and *I* never get used as an example of justifying Intelligent Design.

If randomness is so utterly useless then why do spamers use random generators to fool filters?

Engineer Perry Marshall, creator of the linked random mutation site, can be seen debating in a long thread on IIDB. Utterly impervious to criticism. (Unfortunately, a few of his interrogators choose wrong lines of attack on Marshall’s main claim and no one rolled up their sleeves and gave the general explanation of how the genetic code could have evolved naturally from the RNA world (RNA synthetases, selection for replication effectiveness & efficency, etc.), so Marshall now boasts he carried the day.)

“by his words, it seems that no one could ver do an experiment on evolution because it’d be Intelligent Design since it involves a designer.”

Typical ID catch-22. I’ve seen them argue that a mathematical model that showes how the (adaptive) information content of genomes can increase in time is not a valid argument since the model was intelligently designed. This must be the 6th law of thermodynamics: just when you think they can’t get more stupid, they pull it off anyway.

Actually, human language seems to me to be a pretty good example of evolution. Everyone knows that French, Spanish, and Italian all “evolved” (in some sense) from Latin, all since the time of Christ. However, to randomly change words (or letters) in a modern French sentence and expect to still have a valid modern French sentence is laughable. [Well, okay. French is a bad example. You can change all sorts of letters in a French sentence, and it’s *still* unpronounceable. :-) ] It’s also laughable that that one should expect to be able to change random words or letters in a modern French sentence and eventually come up with a valid modern Spanish sentence, with each change resulting in some valid sentence in some modern language. Same is true for Latin to modern French. Yet we *know* that such changes occurred. Over time. Over *lots* of time. The language itself changed, so that these seemingly “random” changes actually were meaningful at the time they were used, even though those changes may no longer make sense to us today.

Has anyone seen a comparison of the parallels between the evolution of human language, and the evolution of species?

And yet the letters which make up the words are only a symbolic reference to the spoken language. Mere tokens or hieroglyphs, not to be confused with words themselves and words (an aural media) with meaning or the message. The idolaters slavishly revere words and sentences. So it is appropriate to beat them with their own idols.

Scott Wrote:

Has anyone seen a comparison of the parallels between the evolution of human language, and the evolution of species?

Robert Pennock does a good treatment of the subject in his book Tower of Babel

And yet the letters which make up the words are only a symbolic reference to the spoken language. Mere tokens or hieroglyphs, not to be confused with words themselves and words (an aural media) with meaning or the message. The idolaters slavishly revere words and sentences. So it is appropriate to beat them with their own idols.

So I don’t believe Dembski realizes that mutation without selection is a strawman. For him, there is no selection. He has to my knowledge never registered that it exists or what it might imply. I think Dembski instinctively tunes selection out because his convictions cannot allow it, and then tunes out the fact that he’s done so.

This is not correct. Dembski attempts to calculate an upper bound on information that may be fixed by natural selection per generation in this essay.

From these observations it is clear that selection can accumulate a lot of information over successive generations. As is noted Joklik and WillettÕs (1976, p. 78) microbiology text, ÒWithin a short period, often as short as 20 minutes, a bacterium can create a complete duplicate of itself, which in turn is capable of duplicating.Ó Over a billion years, at one bit of information introduced every twenty minutes, selection could in principle produce 26 trillion bits of information, certainly enough to handle any conceivable genome. Nonetheless, from these observations it is equally clear that selection can only produce a very limited amount of information at any one generation. 100 bits is certainly too generous. The most fecund breeders with which I am familiar are certain fish whose spawn include a hundred million eggs. A realistic upper limit on the amount of biological information introduced by selection is therefore around 30 bits. For many organisms it is far less. Mammals, for instance, have an upper limit of about 5 bits of information per generation through selection.

Just because the analysis alluded to is incompetent doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Wesley,

Thanks for the reference. Sounds to me as though Dembski really does address selection here, but does so in order to dismiss it as so inadequate to produce what we observe as not really to exist in practice after all.

In other words, he is *explicitly* tuning it out. Or have I misunderstood his intent here?

Having been intimately involved in the nitty gritty of natural selection I’m just flabergasted that creationists can’t possibly understand how vitally important selection is to the process. I think that fundamentalists huge problem with sex in general definately colors their understanding and perspective when it comes to natural selection.

It’s just so amazingly simple. I’ve had offspring. They are like me and my wife… only a little bit different. But I recongnize things I “selected” in my wife (or she selected in me) that are in my children.… This sort of thing goes on for a billion years and those incremental changes become monumental.

You add in environmental factors and some random mutation and it becomes staggeringly obvious..

I have come to the conclusion that if you are even remotely capable of functioning at a relatively high mental capacity and you don’t believe, when push comes to shove, in evolution then you have severe emotional problems, or are really lacking in imagination.

It’s really hard not to turn a post into a rant.… I’m really just amazed that people don’t accept evolution as fact.…

I think Dembski has made it clear over the years that he believes that genes pop entirely out of random noise - so I think selection hasn’t sunk in.

You know what I noticed about that typing monkey website? They only seem to count the shakespeare that is correct from the beginning. So there could be several sentences of shakespeare in the middle, but they’re not counted. Evolution works from every beginning and end part of genes. If it is selectable it is selectable - it doesn’t have to be right at the beginning only.

It would be interesting to see a program specifically created to show how shakespeare could evolve over time with incremental steps of mutation and selection. All the first website is doing is saying that the chance of getting the entire thing in one fell swoop is incredibly small. Which no one disputes.

I’m sure other examples of selection has been offered here, as in prototyping and markets. For example, I’ve succeeded in establishing a healthy population of my favourite sugarfree soda at the closest store by selection on an initially random sample. (I’m also sure that an IDier identifies that with intelligent design by the store owner, instead of an automatic reaction from the market mechanism. Sigh!)

Dragon says: “by his words, it seems that no one could ver do an experiment on evolution because it’d be Intelligent Design since it involves a designer.”

Yes, it’s reminding of the QM observer that quantum babblers use for special appeals to explain consciousness (or souls, as they want to have it). Here another experimental artifact is taken in custody to purportedly support a dualistic world view.

There are ways to “unobserve” QM, but they have some small problems as all QM interpretations. (Consistent histories with decoherence by thermodynamic equilibria observers, such as the vacuum itself - problems with selection rules. Manyworlds with decoherence without observers - problems with randomness.) So they also don’t sell easily, if the public doesn’t want to listen to the message.

from the fact that he is happy with Ann Coulters appalling book, you know, the one where she falsley accuses honest scientists of fraud?

Nothing new there, I just finished reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells.

wamba Wrote:

I just finished reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells.

Is there a place that compiles science-focused reviews of such books? It’d be very useful to have a quick reference to anti-science books like that.

TalkOrigins is pretty much your first place to look for things like that, AFAIK.

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/

The strawman cited here is especially bad because it doesn’t take even selection into account. But another thing missing is any appreciation of the role of populations in actual evolution.

Obviously if there were just one organism, and it had an offspring of exactly 1 before dying, then mutation would not be very helpful given any probability less than 1 that a mutation would lead to non-viable offspring. That would even hold if (contrary to out experience) most actually were beneficial. You could add selection to this strawman example, and you’d still be able to prove the obvious, but in a slightly more subtle way.

In real-life population dynamics, the next generation must have at least the potential to be greater than the current generation by some percentage. Without any limiting factors, this leads to exponential population growth, which is obviously unsustainable, but the percentage of viable offspring (perhaps altered by mutation rate) is not a limiting factor provided there are enough total offspring. Ultimately, the limiting factors may involve food, disease, predation, etc.

Warning, I am not a biologist so somebody correct me if I say something stupid below:

(a) The usual case is that the offspring of some organism has either no significant mutations or maybe some neutral ones. By this I mean the offspring that make it to the point of actually being born, hatching, germinating, etc. Any genetic variation is mostly due to the combination of parents’ genes.

(b) A less usual case is that the offspring has a deleterious mutation (that makes it less fit).

(c ) An even less usual case is that the offspring has a beneficial mutation (that makes it more fit).

Case (b) isn’t going to hurt you provided your overall rate of reproduction is high enough. Errors don’t happen exclusively in biological systems, after all. They happen in “intelligently designed” manufactured products too. As long as they don’t happen too often, their cost is borne by the successful copies.

Case (c ) is rare enough that you could ignore it in oversimplistic models of living things. If you’re running a farm or a pedigree dog breeder, say, you might classify anything out of the ordinary as a defect without hurting your yield. However, in nature, there is nobody making this arbitrary distinction. In short, there is nothing to stop evolution from happening, so why would you not expect it to happen?

The point that I think people really miss is that the main engine that enables evolution is not mutation, but the opposite: the extraordinarily accurate reproduction of an enormous amount of genetic material across generations. If the next generation were simply riddled with random generations with significant effects on phenotype, then evolution could not progress. Of course, without any mutation it would not progress either. But with a relatively low rate of mutation including some tiny fraction that are beneficial, evolution is the expected outcome.

I wrote: “would not be very helpful given any probability less than 1 that a mutation would lead to non-viable offspring.”

I inverted my logic midway through. I meant to say that if you had any probability greater than 0 that a mutation would lead to non-viable offspring, then the “give birth to one child and die” method would eventually fail, even if you had an unrealistically high probability of beneficial ones. So even if you tried to incorporate selection into the silly example on the linked web page, you would still have a very poor model of what evolution entails.

I wrote: “riddled with random generations” and meant “riddled with random mutations”

Sorry for not catching these in preview mode. It’s amazing how much the errors stick out after posting.

David Sadler Wrote:

The intelligent design model explains why the fossil record shows the sudden appearance of fully-formed, fully-differentiated and fully-functional life forms…

… “Poof!”

The intelligent design model

What intelligent design model?

Nelson says there ain’t one, Gilder says there ain’t one, and Johnson says there ain’t one.

You know something they don’t?

David Sadler wrote:

The intelligent design model explains why the fossil record shows the sudden appearance of fully-formed, fully-differentiated and fully-functional life forms…

Poof on earth

Poof on Mars

Indicating: 1. poor aim 2. spill over 3. drive by poofing with a shot gun

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Flank, Coin and Steviepinhead - probably your real names - couldn’t even begin to answer Darwin and Sunderland so you insult the poster. How intellectual and scientific. How mature.

This is why IDers win public debates with Darwinists and why Darwinism is on the way out.

Yes, hearing the words of evolutionists questioning their own theory is too much to handle for the true believers. It’s heresy in the church of Macro-Evolution.

Start here, David, and perhaps move on to this.

Suffice to say, Darwin was a very cautious thinker and searched for every possible hole or defect in his theory. That’s called being a good scientist. Why IDers openly criticize him for rigorously applying critical thinking to his own theories, I’ll never understand.

As to why they would use a source 150 years out of date to discuss the Cambrian explosion…that I understand all too well.

Hi, Anton,

Let’s move forward then.

“What is so frustrating for our present purpose is that it seems almost impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of what seems a rather unlikely sequence of events. … An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle. – Francis Crick, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of DNA, Life Itself, p. 79 –

“I don’t know how long it is going to be before astronomers generally recognize that the combinatorial arrangement of not even one among the many thousands of biopolymers on which life depends could have been arrived at by natural processes here on the earth. Astronomers will have a little difficulty in understanding this because they will be assured by biologists that it is not so, the biologists having been assured in their turn by others that it is not so. The “others” are a group of persons who believe, quite openly, in mathematical miracles. They advocate the belief that tucked away in nature, outside of normal physics, there is a law which performs miracles (provided the miracles are in the aid of biology). This curious situation sits oddly on a profession that for long has been dedicated to coming up with logical explanations of biblical miracles.… It is quite otherwise, however, with the modern miracle workers, who are always to be found living in the twilight fringes of thermodynamics.” – Fred Hoyle, “The Big Bang in Astronomy,” New Scientist, v. 92, no. 1280, November 19, 1981, p. 521-27 [explaining that “there are 2,000 complex enzymes required for a living organism but not a single one of these could have formed on earth by random, shuffling processes in even 20 billion years,” comments by Luther Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma] -

Hi, Anton,

The author of http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC300.html uses a lot of qualifiers ‘may’ ‘probably’ and so on.

What leaps out is that the author is pushing back the sudden appearance of the life forms but they are still fully formed, fully functional and fully differentiated. Their appearance is sudden.

If all these life forms are the end result of the slow process of mutation, selection and differentiation, where are the ‘morphs’ between A and Z?

If all life emerged and differentiated from a single organism or even (by some miracle) a thousand living cells of different types, mutation and morphing had to be the rule, not the exception. Since mutation is going to produce as many mistakes as successes and if fossilization is a rare event, then fossilization would snapshot the rule, not the exception. Yet what stands out and what the author you suggested above is saying is that the fossil record snapshots unique life forms that can be classified with their own name thus differentiating them from other similarly differentiated life forms.

The fossil record observes sudden appearance of fully functional, fully differentiated life forms, when the math of (first life + mutation = how many species?) is an incredible equation missing only the proof of all this mutation and change in the fossil record. Considering the number of mutations required to get a positive mutation, the majority of the mutations would have produced a mass of grossly deformed and classifiable creatures. Yet, as any trip to the museum shows, the life forms are very nicely unique, functional and fully formed.

The linked author did nothing to counter the essential claim of Darwin or the evolution critics of his day regarding the point of sudden appearance. He merely ‘pushed’ the dates back.

Do you see the point?

Here are some more quotes, many from well known evolutionists. Insulting me will not change the quotes for the facts which these men were confronting regarding their profession…

David Sadler

“The known fossil record fails to document a single morphological transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model of Darwinism can be correct. Doubts about gradualistic evolution have been for long years suppressed.” – Steven Stanley Professor of paleontology at Johns Hopkins University, –

“We paleontologists have said that the history of life [the fossils] supports the story of gradual adaptive change, all the while knowing that it does not.” – Niles Eldridge –

“Each new generation, it seems, produces a few young paleontologists eager to document examples of evolutionary change in their fossils… of the gradual progressive sort. The fossils, rather than exhibiting the expected pattern, just seem to persist virtually unchanged. This extraordinary conservatism looks to the paleontologist keen on finding evolutionary change as if no evolution has occurred. These studies are considered ‘failures’ and are not even published. Paleontologists see stasis [no change] as ‘no results’ rather than a contradiction of the prediction of gradual progressive evolutionary change.” – Niles Eldridge –

“That theory [macroevolution] as a general proposition is effectively dead despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy.” – Stephen Jay Gould, professor of paleontology at Harvard and a preeminent figure in evolution theory wrote in Paleobiology –

“Darwin’s theory of natural selection has never had any proof. There may be wide discrepancies within species (microevolution), but the gaps with between the species (macroevolution) cannot be bridged.” – Richard Goldschmidt, professor of geology at the University of California at Berkeley –

“Evolution has not taught us how birds descended from reptiles, mammals from earlier quadrupeds, quadrupeds from fishes or vertebrates from invertebrates. To seek the stepping stones between the gaps is to seek in vain, forever.” – D’Arcy Thompson in one of the great classics of biology On Growth and Form –

“Species appear in the sequence very suddenly, show little or no change during their existence in the record, then abruptly go out of the record. It is rarely clear that the descendants were actually better than their predecessors… biological improvement is hard to find.” – From the Bulletin of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History –

“This is true of all 32 orders of mammals. In no case is an approximately continuous sequence of one order to another known. The break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculation. The absence of transitional forms is not confined to mammals. It is an almost universal phenomenon and has long been noted by paleontologists.” – George Gaylord Simpson who preceded Gould at Harvard –

“Most species exhibit no directed change during their tenure on Earth, nor does a species arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestry. It appears all at once and fully formed.” – Stephen Jay Gould, professor of paleontology at Harvard writing in Natural History –

“Modern gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees spring out of nowhere, as it were. They are here today, they have no yesterday.” – Donald J. Johanson (discoverer of Lucy) –

“The first and most important steps of animal evolution are even more obscure than those of plant evolution.” – Boston University biologist Paul Weiss –

“We are in the dark concerning the origins of insects.” – French zoologists, Pierre-P. Grasse –

“The lungfish, like every other group of fish that I know, have their origins firmly based on nothing.” – Said E. White, world-class authority on lungfishes –

“The origins of the higher categories are shrouded in mystery; they appear abruptly in the fossil record without evidence of transitional forms.” – David Raup, professor of geology at the University of Chicago –

“I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used to visualize such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic license, would that not mislead the reader?” – Dr. Colin Paterson, author of “Evolution” for the British Museum of Natural History in a letter to Luther Sunderland dated April 10, 1979 –

Sadler Wrote:

What leaps out is that the author is pushing back the sudden appearance of the life forms but they are still fully formed, fully functional and fully differentiated. Their appearance is sudden.

What seems to not be fully formed, functional and differentiated is your ability to understand what you’ve read. As you appear to be reasonably intelligent, this means that the suppression of your facilities is willful. But humor us for a moment, if you will, and assume that you’re wrong and that biological evolution is well established. What would a life form that is not fully formed, fully functional and fully differentiated look like. Help us, David. What should we be looking for? Something half cat and half dog?

The midsummer holiday was long and eventful, apparently so was this thread.

David says: “What is the survivability or “production” benefit or advantage for any such change in non-living matter leading that matter to change in the direction of a non-living organism waiting for life to enable it to reproduce thereby allowing natural selection to begin?”

A combination of raw material production and products that produced fastest and was most robust to environmental change become the more common. Of those systems, those that had the ability to somewhat reproduce would be amongst the most common. And so on.

I agree with ‘Rev’, you argue like a vitalist. There was no non-living organism (an organism is by definition living) and it wasn’t ‘waiting’. As in evolution, the fittest survived. It is merely that before reproduction you can’t say “natural” selection since it assumes replication.

David says:

“But do you agree there are things that are living and things that are non-living?”

There is a difference between “life” and “being alive”. Life started once about 3 billion of years ago, and haven’t stopped since. Evolution tells us it is this “life” that has branched out in the currently living organisms. In a very real sense each organism starts to die as soon as it is spawned off as an individual - sooner or later it will stop metabolise. Defining “being alive” has a different meaning for higher organisms though - as soon as our brains are dead we are medically and legally dead.

David says:

“Let’s move forward then.” And continues, to again, discuss abiogenesis though it has nothing to do with evolution and the fossil record.

As Anton has already explained: “It is easy to prove that natural chemical reactions can produce a replicator; even the creationist’s caricature “a whole lot of atoms banged into each other just so…” is clearly not physically impossible. What is not yet known is the feasibility and likelihood of each particular chemical pathway leading to a replicator. The field of pre-biotic chemistry is concerned with exploring this.”

David says:

“What leaps out is that the author is pushing back the sudden appearance of the life forms but they are still fully formed, fully functional and fully differentiated. Their appearance is sudden.”

That isn’t what he says. He presents earlier fossils to answer the claim on “the Cambrian explosion, with no ancestral fossils”. The earlier in strata you look the lifeforms are smaller and harder to fossilise by their internal construction. The record naturally and predictively peter out. The earliest fossils are traces in seabeds, mineralised colonies of bacterias or traces of bactrias in rocks. We don’t expect fossils of early life such as RNA worlds.

Fossils do not appear suddenly. Their appearance and the progressively richer record is explained by evolution and contradicts creationism. Do you see the point?

David says:

“Here are some more quotes, many from well known evolutionists.”

You are quotemining, expressing quotes out of context. This will not impress anyone and move a discussion further. Make a point instead.

“Life started once about 3 billion of years ago,”

Lest someone starts to argue age, let me rephrase to “Life started once billion of years ago,”

BTW, if I come out as concentrated on David here, I noted the interesting discussion about modelling observational facts and theories on one side and philosophical claims on Truth on the other. OTOH, it is a complicated mess where different models are feasible, quite like QM interpretations, thus conflict prone. :-)

David Sadler Wrote:

Let’s move forward then.

I notice that, in “moving forward,” the topic seems to have shifted from the Cambrian Explosion to abiogenesis…almost as if the progress of evolutionary biology has helped to explain the former and make the latter accessible to research and discussion. That’s interesting, isn’t it?

“What is so frustrating for our present purpose is that it seems almost impossible to give any numerical value to the probability of what seems a rather unlikely sequence of events.… An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle. — Francis Crick, Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of DNA, Life Itself, p. 79 —

Well, let’s see what Crick said with Orgel twelve years later, in “Anticipating an RNA World: Some Past Speculations on the Origin of Life: Where Are They Today?”

“How clearly did we anticipate the exciting experimental discoveries of the last decade? We must confess that we did not anticipate them at all! We discussed a number of hypothetical schemes for the origins of our genetic system and touched on each of the major features of the RNA world hypothesis. However, we did not ourselves search for, nor did we encourage others to search for, relics of the RNA world in contemporary organisms. We took it for granted that RNA-based catalysis was necessarily less efficient than protein-based catalysis, and consequently that RNA catalysts had been superseded by protein enzymes in every case. The same assumption led us to underestimate the potential complexity of an RNA world.”

“How much influence did our speculations have on the subsequent development of the subject? Very little. We doubt that Cech or Altman were aware of our papers when they made their important discoveries. The lesson is clear: speculation is fun, but even correct hypotheses without experimental follow-up are unlikely to have much effect on the development of biology.”

Later,

“We did not seriously consider the possibility that there was a midwife, a replicating pre-RNA world of quite differentchemistry based, for example, on clays, as suggested by Cairns-Smith (11), or an alternative organic polymer (12). Such a pre-RNA world would have possessed the catalytic activity necessary to start the RNA world but it may not have needed to transfer its genetic information directly to that of the new (RNA) replication system. We now find this idea attractive. Whether molecular relics of a pre-RNA world still exist remains to be seen.”

Being able to change one’s mind is a very important talent for a good scientist, and Crick is to be commended here. Incidentally, Crick also wrote,

“The age of the earth is now established beyond any reasonable doubt as very great, yet in the United States millions of Fundamentalists still stoutly defend the naive view that it is relatively short, an opinion deduced from reading the Christian Bible too literally. They also usually deny that animals and plants have evolved and changed radically over such long periods, although this is equally well established. This gives one little confidence that what they have to say about the process of natural selection is likely to be unbiased, since their views are predetermined by a slavish adherence to religious dogmas.”

“I don’t know how long it is going to be before astronomers generally recognize that the combinatorial arrangement of not even one among the many thousands of biopolymers on which life depends could have been arrived at by natural processes here on the earth. Astronomers will have a little difficulty in understanding this because they will be assured by biologists that it is not so, the biologists having been assured in their turn by others that it is not so. The “others” are a group of persons who believe, quite openly, in mathematical miracles. They advocate the belief that tucked away in nature, outside of normal physics, there is a law which performs miracles (provided the miracles are in the aid of biology). This curious situation sits oddly on a profession that for long has been dedicated to coming up with logical explanations of biblical miracles.… It is quite otherwise, however, with the modern miracle workers, who are always to be found living in the twilight fringes of thermodynamics.” — Fred Hoyle, “The Big Bang in Astronomy,” New Scientist, v. 92, no. 1280, November 19, 1981, p. 521-27 [explaining that “there are 2,000 complex enzymes required for a living organism but not a single one of these could have formed on earth by random, shuffling processes in even 20 billion years,” comments by Luther Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma] -

Fred Hoyle, of course, was an astronomer and not a biologist, which made him a poor authority on whether and how biologists might be misinforming astronomers. His errors in applying combinatorics to abiogenesis have been well documented-you may wish to start here.

David Sadler Wrote:

The author of http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC300.html… uses a lot of qualifiers ‘may’ ‘probably’ and so on.

Surely you aren’t objecting to this? Don’t you think such qualifiers may sometimes be appropriate when discussing events 600 million years ago?

What leaps out is that the author is pushing back the sudden appearance of the life forms but they are still fully formed, fully functional and fully differentiated. Their appearance is sudden.

That probably wouldn’t have “leapt out” if you had read so far as Response 1.

And, as others asked, what sort of unformed, nonfunctional life would you expect to see in the fossil record?

If all these life forms are the end result of the slow process of mutation, selection and differentiation, where are the ‘morphs’ between A and Z?

I hope you realize that you’re essentially asking why we haven’t dug up the fossils of every viable organism which ever lived. I can explain why this is an unrealistic aspiration if you’d like, but it should suffice to consider the sheer number of fossilizable life forms that have lived and died on this planet, and compare the total size of our museum collections.

Yet what stands out and what the author you suggested above is saying is that the fossil record snapshots unique life forms that can be classified with their own name thus differentiating them from other similarly differentiated life forms.

Anything can be classified with its own name–particularly if it turns up rarely enough that you don’t have much like it. Conversely, there are fossils which are so plentiful and vary so continuously that it’s quite difficult to classify or label them. One of the more amusing such cases is that of fossil hominids, as touched on here (although I saw more on this in a lecture by Jeff McKee and I don’t recall if the comparison in question is available anywhere online). Creationists all agree that such fossils are either “apes” or “men,” but the transitional fossils are labeled “definitely man” by some creationists and “definitely ape” by others!

The fossil record observes sudden appearance of fully functional, fully differentiated life forms, when the math of (first life + mutation = how many species?) is an incredible equation missing only the proof of all this mutation and change in the fossil record. Considering the number of mutations required to get a positive mutation, the majority of the mutations would have produced a mass of grossly deformed and classifiable creatures. Yet, as any trip to the museum shows, the life forms are very nicely unique, functional and fully formed.

Actually, every living human carries on the order of a hundred new mutations. Yet, with the exception of Paris Hilton, we generally aren’t grossly deformed and unclassifiable. Most mutations are neutral, not negative.

Aside from that, you’re making the implicit assumption that a population would have to carry all those negative mutations along with the positive ones. But that’s not how evolution works. If a thousand individuals in a population are born with negative mutations and a single one is born with a positive mutation, the thousand negative mutations will vanish from the population as their bearers are reproductively out-competed, while the positive mutation will (on average, at least) persist and flourish. That’s the “selection” in “natural selection.”

Here are some more quotes, many from well known evolutionists. Insulting me will not change the quotes for the facts which these men were confronting regarding their profession…

Quote-mining does not an argument make. Those “evolutionists” remained evolutionists after making those quotes, which alone should tell you you’re misinterpreting them. Unless you honestly believe that periodically biologists whisper to one another–or openly publish(!?)–the equivalent of “Hey, did you know our discipline is one giant fraud?”, then go right back to work and forget about it.

Anton Mates wrote

One of the more amusing such cases is that of fossil hominids, as touched on here (although I saw more on this in a lecture by Jeff McKee and I don’t recall if the comparison in question is available anywhere online). Creationists all agree that such fossils are either “apes” or “men,” but the transitional fossils are labeled “definitely man” by some creationists and “definitely ape” by others!

The paradigmatic figure for that general comparison is on Talkorigins. Which skull is human and which is “ape” is not agreed amongst creationists. See here for various creationist classifications.

RBH

Ministry of Truth Wrote:

This is why IDers win public debates with Darwinists and why Darwinism is on the way out.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Then why do IDers lose every scientific debate and every court case?

Now go annoy someone else, troll.

RBH Wrote:

The paradigmatic figure for that general comparison is on Talkorigins. Which skull is human and which is “ape” is not agreed amongst creationists. See here for various creationist classifications.

Wonderful, thanks for pulling that up.

“relics of the RNA world in contemporary organisms”

Ooops, I completely forgot that class of fossils. The scarcity still applies, I guess.

““Life started once about 3 billion of years ago,”

Lest someone starts to argue age, let me rephrase to “Life started once billion of years ago,””

Today I have the energy to check: “life is theorized to have evolved from non-life somewhere between 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago.” “3500 Ma Lifetime of the last universal ancestor; the split between the bacteria and the archaea occurs.” “In 2002, William Schopf of UCLA published a controversial paper in the scientific journal Nature arguing that geological formations such as this possess 3.5 billion year old fossilized algae microbes.” (Wikipedia).

Um, either my memory didn’t completely expire during midsummer festivities, or I made a lucky guess.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 90, byte 90 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

It doesn’t matter. One creationist said “Just try a little experiment yourself. Start with a short 2 or 3-letter word …”; he didn’t say where the word should come from. And now another creationist illustrates his failure to comprehend by asking a pointless and irrelevant question.

P.S. This thread is 7 weeks old. Surely there must be something more recent that creationists can ask foolish questions about.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on June 19, 2006 7:32 AM.

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