Transitions, transitions, transitions

| 52 Comments

Via Jerry Coyne, a special issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach devoted to transitional fossils. As Coyne notes, several of the papers include some very good teaching illustrations.

52 Comments

As one weary of the ID/Creationist’s numbingly dishonest mantra “there are no transitional fossils”, this is like good, strong coffee.

Looks like a great issue and possible the perfect classroom resource to really get some data into my students hands instead of the brief textbook overview.

This is an especially good issue since it is written by many of the foremost scholars in invertebrate and vertebrate paleobiology. For example, Jennifer Clack has been in the forefront of those who’ve unearthed much of the important new evidence in the last few years on the fish to tetrapod transition in the middle and late Devonian. So she’s the one who has written the very article on this transition in the latest EEO issue.

“There are no transitional fossils. We don’t need to see his ID. These aren’t the droids we’re looking for…”

What a wonderful treasure! Thanks!

Given the willfull ignorance of those people, I’ll take every source I can get. Thing is, with guys like this, I don’t think it’ll do any good. Still, one has to try, if for no other reason than to convince the fence-sitters.

Hermeneutics is far more interesting than digging up the earth and looking for transitional fossils that don’t exist, I’m sure you’ll find.

I posted a reply, but I’m still waiting for it to show up as of this posting.

How do we go from dinosaurs to birds,

From therapsids to mammals,

Fish to life on land,

And how do we get from ancestors like apes,

To humans that we are today?

Transitions, transitions!

Transitions, transitions!

–From “Darwin on the Roof” (unpublished)

Myriad transitional fossils: not evidence

Dinosaur statue with a saddle: ironclad proof

*heavy sigh*

Not to mention of course the popular “Flintstones” permanent exhibition on display at the Cretin Museum of Natural History in Kentucky:

James F said:

Myriad transitional fossils: not evidence

Dinosaur statue with a saddle: ironclad proof

*heavy sigh*

fnxtr said:

“There are no transitional fossils. We don’t need to see his ID. These aren’t the droids we’re looking for…”

May the farce be with you…

Of course, no matter how many transitionals one presents, the ID response will be:

1. Ask for examples of transitional fossils

2. If shown fine-grained sequence, complain it’ s too gradual and doesn’t show enough change.

3. If shown large scale trend, complain it isn’t gradual enough.

4. Bleat that there aren’t any transitional fossils.

5. Wink at the audience

5. Repeat

6. Every transitional found increases the number of known gaps by 1.

I was just skimming the Dinosaur-Bird article and notice that they refer to Archaeopteryx as a bird. I was reading the Fossils chapter in Jerry’s book last night and he refers to it as “still mostly reptile” (not a direct quote, that’s paraphrased). Wait for the creationists to jump on that one…

Still, these are great articles and very user-friendly. I’m passing a few of them off to people I know who are interested but who DON’T have Ph. D.s

I was reading the Fossils chapter in Jerry’s book last night and he refers to it as “still mostly reptile” (not a direct quote, that’s paraphrased). Wait for the creationists to jump on that one…

Wouldn’t surprise me if they do that, even though anybody familiar with the subject knows that scientists expect there to be something with some bird-like traits yet “still mostly reptile”, whether it’s Archaeopteryx or something before or something after it.

Come to think of it, since they’ve concluded that dinosaurs (or at least a lot of them) had feathers, there were already lots of “a little bird but mostly reptile” before Archaeopteryx, or even before winged theropods.

Henry

Henry J said:

6. Every transitional found increases the number of known gaps by 1.

In creationist math, that’s 2 (one on either side; and gaps never decrease).

what’s even better, this is a relatively new journal, full of great articles…

AND IT’S OPEN ACCESS!!!

It’s so vitally important that members of the general public, who don’t want to shell out up to 30.00 every time they might want to download an article, actually do have easy access to scientific information.

Frankly, this has to be one of the top ten things one could do to contribute to eliminating the gross ignorance that plagues educators all around the world and especially in the US.

oh, and before I forget:

http://www.doaj.org/

…seriously, when you’re about to publish that next article, take a close look at the open access journals and see if it isn’t worth publishing at least a note version in one, if not the full article.

Where have you been? It’s been out for a year. IMHO both Niles Eldredge and his son Greg - whom I believe majored in college as an English major - have done a great job in editing it:

Ichthyic said:

what’s even better, this is a relatively new journal, full of great articles…

AND IT’S OPEN ACCESS!!!

It’s so vitally important that members of the general public, who don’t want to shell out up to 30.00 every time they might want to download an article, actually do have easy access to scientific information.

Frankly, this has to be one of the top ten things one could do to contribute to eliminating the gross ignorance that plagues educators all around the world and especially in the US.

Qap’la and beware of the Shadows:

Henry J said:

fnxtr said:

“There are no transitional fossils. We don’t need to see his ID. These aren’t the droids we’re looking for…”

May the farce be with you…

Dave Wisker said:

Of course, no matter how many transitionals one presents, the ID response will be:

1. Ask for examples of transitional fossils

2. If shown fine-grained sequence, complain it’ s too gradual and doesn’t show enough change.

3. If shown large scale trend, complain it isn’t gradual enough.

4. Bleat that there aren’t any transitional fossils.

5. Wink at the audience

5. Repeat

You forgot “Ask for a step by step mutational path with the selection coefficients for each mutation”

Myriad transitional fossils: not evidence

Dinosaur statue with a saddle: ironclad proof

This is the key. In creationland “evidence” is defined as “anything supporting a priori belief. Can be faked and it’s still evidence. Nonsupport of belief is non-evidence.”

It’s all part of lying for Jesus - if it brings people to Christ then it is Truth, even if it’s false and the people are tricked, so long as they’re tricked in the right direction.

It’s all part of lying for Jesus - if it brings people to Christ then it is Truth, even if it’s false and the people are tricked, so long as they’re tricked in the right direction.

IMO, it has very little if anything to do with religion. And a lot more to do with in group-out group behavior, identity politics, other politics, and cult religion.

The majority of xian sects have no problem with evolution or cosmology and do just fine. Half of all xians are RCC.

As Emerson said, “A religion that denies science dishonors god, and commits suicide.” Although the suicide part can take centuries like Geocentrism.

THE BASIC SCIENTIFIC ARGUMENTS FOR GEOCENTRICITY This subject generates far more heat than light in Christian circles. Invariably the reaction is emotional because Christians do not want to be tainted with the labels of “scientific ignoramus” and such like. I here set out the basic arguments that are given more fully in my “True Science Agrees with the Bible” - Appendix 10

There really are a lot of geocentricists out there. This is from a website, Michael Bowden. Not going to give a link, he sounds sincere but really, you don’t want to go there. I wish I hadn’t.

One thing that struck me is that the issue had no article on pre-human fossils. I suppose those have been discussed to death elsewhere, but if this is supposed to be an educational tool, might as well make it complete.

It could be part of a future special issue, or perhaps they did solicit an article on it and it wasn’t forthcoming:

KP said:

One thing that struck me is that the issue had no article on pre-human fossils. I suppose those have been discussed to death elsewhere, but if this is supposed to be an educational tool, might as well make it complete.

Dave Wisker said:

Of course, no matter how many transitionals one presents, the ID response will be:

1. Ask for examples of transitional fossils

2. If shown fine-grained sequence, complain it’ s too gradual and doesn’t show enough change.

3. If shown large scale trend, complain it isn’t gradual enough.

4. Bleat that there aren’t any transitional fossils.

5. Wink at the audience

5. Repeat

Actually, IDists would ask how you know they are transitional fossils? By using homology? Comparative analysis does not break the threshold of reasonable doubt IMO. It does not comfirm common descent over common distribution; meaning it cannot determine conclusively if animals started our with nothing and build upon fortuitous mutations over deep time OR that all the information required for biodiversity was already present and simply unfolded (the original definition of evolution).

Second, all animals living right now must also be considered transitional animals since evolution is ongoing phenomenon according to Darwinists. Therefore, I would ask any Darwinists what each animal living today is transitioning into and how do we know it?

afarensis, FCD said:

Dave Wisker said:

Of course, no matter how many transitionals one presents, the ID response will be:

1. Ask for examples of transitional fossils

2. If shown fine-grained sequence, complain it’ s too gradual and doesn’t show enough change.

3. If shown large scale trend, complain it isn’t gradual enough.

4. Bleat that there aren’t any transitional fossils.

5. Wink at the audience

5. Repeat

You forgot “Ask for a step by step mutational path with the selection coefficients for each mutation”

Why of course. If you KNOW fortuitious mutations are the cause of animal transitions, then surely you can model these transitions.

After all, it is the Darwinists making the claim. You should be able to show ‘rigorously’ how fortuitous mutations are fixed in the genome in the face of numerous harmful mutations (one step forward, three steps back) and how they help transform an organism from one form into another.

Second, all animals living right now must also be considered transitional animals since evolution is ongoing phenomenon according to Darwinists. Therefore, I would ask any Darwinists what each animal living today is transitioning into and how do we know it?

Evolution is ongoing. We see it all around us. It presents major problems in agriculture and medicine daily. The new swine flu is the predicted and predictable outcome of rapidly evolving viruses.

So, yeah, every species alive today is transitional. Asking where they are going is as foolish as using the cult xian term “Darwinist” for biologist. Evolution is blind. There is no ultimate goal or direction. Statistics says that most species alive today will go extinct without descendant species. Some species will split, a few will radiate. So we don’t know for sure a whole lot as that requires knowing the future. It is equivalent to asking who will be president of the USA in 15 years.

One prediction can be made. Due to past antiviral useage patterns the new flu has already evolved resistance to 2 of the 4 flu drugs. If it keeps spreading, evolving resistance to the other 2 flu drugs is inevitable which will leave us with zero antivirals and a new virus.

raven said:

Second, all animals living right now must also be considered transitional animals since evolution is ongoing phenomenon according to Darwinists. Therefore, I would ask any Darwinists what each animal living today is transitioning into and how do we know it?

Evolution is ongoing. We see it all around us. It presents major problems in agriculture and medicine daily. The new swine flu is the predicted and predictable outcome of rapidly evolving viruses.

So, yeah, every species alive today is transitional. Asking where they are going is as foolish as using the cult xian term “Darwinist” for biologist. Evolution is blind. There is no ultimate goal or direction. Statistics says that most species alive today will go extinct without descendant species. Some species will split, a few will radiate. So we don’t know for sure a whole lot as that requires knowing the future. It is equivalent to asking who will be president of the USA in 15 years.

One prediction can be made. Due to past antiviral useage patterns the new flu has already evolved resistance to 2 of the 4 flu drugs. If it keeps spreading, evolving resistance to the other 2 flu drugs is inevitable which will leave us with zero antivirals and a new virus.

Raven,

You conflate evolution with adaptation. Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt. They are not learning, since viruses don’t have a brain. What they do is based on their configuration. Once we understand fully what viruses are, then we will be able to design a firewall around them.

ID predicts that viruses DO have limitations as to what they can do, and how much they can adapt. Once we have discovered the range of their adaptive landscape, we will make significant progress.

If we believe that organisms can transform themselves into something other than a virus in order to defeat our efforts, then we are just huffin’ and puffin’ on a treadmill, going nowhere. ID, predicting limits to adaptation, sees light at the end of the tunnel.

I use ‘Darwinist’ to differentiate between those that understand the original definition of evolution as an unfolding, and those that use the false definition of evolution as ‘building up’ of organisms from fortuitious mutations. I apologize if you see this as being an issue.

If you KNOW from the fossil record that the organisms you see are transitional, and they show a clear pattern, then you should also be able to predict the next step in its ‘evolution’, no?. If the modern synthesis KNOWS what happened, and what is happening now, then looking not 5-6 moves ahead but say, just one move ahead, should be doable.

SteveP wrote

You conflate evolution with adaptation. Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt. They are not learning, since viruses don’t have a brain. What they do is based on their configuration. Once we understand fully what viruses are, then we will be able to design a firewall around them.

Um, WTF does “learning” have to do with evolution? And adaptation (a change in the genetic composition of a population that produces more reproductively fit phenotypes) is evolution. And I suggest you talk to a competent virologist about that “firewall” claim. They’ll be happy to pay you a substantial consulting fee if you can provide some specific advice to them about that.

SteveP claimed

ID predicts that viruses DO have limitations as to what they can do, and how much they can adapt. Once we have discovered the range of their adaptive landscape, we will make significant progress.

What’s this “we”, kemo sabe? Are you in a lab somewhere beavering away at that problem? And “ID” predicts precisely nothing affirmative; it only claims that evolutionary mechanisms are inadequate to produce (some) biological structures and processes. But as far as I’m aware (and I’ve read a helluva lot of ID crap), nowhere does ID rule out the possibility that some celestial designer won’t step in again and alter the virus just when we think we have that “range” nailed. After all, Behe claims that malaria was designed, so the designing agent(s) have no qualms about building more effective pathogens. So ID in fact makes no such prediction.

SteveP wrote

I use ‘Darwinist’ to differentiate between those that understand the original definition of evolution as an unfolding, and those that use the false definition of evolution as ‘building up’ of organisms from fortuitious mutations. I apologize if you see this as being an issue.

And “evolution” in the fire service means a series of maneuvers to accomplish some task, as in “ladder evolution” or “hose advance evolution.” But that’s not is what is meant by the word in evolutionary biology. You use a caricature: “the false definition of evolution as ‘building up’ of organisms from fortuitous mutations.” Provide a citation from a reliable (i.e., scientific, biological) source that uses that definition. So far you have provided no evidence that you know enough about biology to critique it.

SteveP wrote

If you KNOW from the fossil record that the organisms you see are transitional, and they show a clear pattern, then you should also be able to predict the next step in its ‘evolution’, no?. If the modern synthesis KNOWS what happened, and what is happening now, then looking not 5-6 moves ahead but say, just one move ahead, should be doable.

That claim depends on a false premise, namely that the pattern of evolution of a population is determined by factors intrinsic to the population. That’s false. Because evolution (in the genuine biological meaning of the word) is in part a stochastic process we can’t predict specifically what will happen in some particular lineage. What will happen next year or next millenium depends on what the selective environment looks like between now and then, and that’s too complex a system to model with our available tools. Evolution isn’t a process intrinsic to a species; it’s a process of interaction between a species and its selective environment, and that selective environment has components that are stochastic, components that are chaotic (in the formal meaning of that term), and components that are (fairly) predictable. Since we can’t predict the net of those components, we can’t predict a population’s evolutionary response to them.

In some particular cases we can make some tentative predictions with a strong ceteris paribas clause. For example, Rhagoletis pomonella is in the process of speciating in North America, with the original population that was adapted to haws as hosts splitting into several host-specific subpopulations. There are already genetic changes associated with the split, and knowing how some of the relevant properties of the new host (e.g., apples) differ from the old host (haws), we can make some predictions about phenotypic changes that are likely over generations. Given the difference in fruit size and skin thickness of the new host and old host, we can expect the subpopulation that is currently evolving to prefer apples as hosts to evolve adaptations to those properties of the hosts, and in particular adaptations in the reproductive apparatus of females and likely to the larva that are produced. But specifically what those adaptations might turn out to be depends in part on random processes associated with the occurrence of mutations and sexual reproduction, and the vagaries of fixation of neutral and selectively advantageous mutations that are described by population genetics.

Steve P. said:

Why of course. If you KNOW fortuitious mutations are the cause of animal transitions, then surely you can model these transitions.

After all, it is the Darwinists making the claim. You should be able to show ‘rigorously’ how fortuitous mutations are fixed in the genome in the face of numerous harmful mutations (one step forward, three steps back) and how they help transform an organism from one form into another.

Introduction to Population Genetics. Read it and come back if you have questions.

If you KNOW from the fossil record that the organisms you see are transitional, and they show a clear pattern, then you should also be able to predict the next step in its ‘evolution’, no?. If the modern synthesis KNOWS what happened, and what is happening now, then looking not 5-6 moves ahead but say, just one move ahead, should be doable.

By the same logic it “should also be doable” for a meteorologist to tell you the exact temperature, humidity and barometric pressure that will prevail at 11:02 AM on July 9th at 5th Ave and Main St in Anytown USA. I mean, they KNOW what the weather was like over the last month, right? Why don’t you go bother the meterologists? I’m sure you could easily convince them that god creates the weather and any attempts to understand it are doomed to failure.

Steve P said

…stuff…

“Adaption” is the process of specific change in an organism, occurring in response to environmental change. Lizards develop new gut muscles. Finches develop different beak types and sizes. Pandas develop a substitute thumb. Fruit flies adapt to new food sources.

“Evolution” is the process by which these adaptions originate and become general, comprising mutation, genetic drift and other genetic change, which, if favourable, are naturally selected, and thus spread throughout a population. This process, if extended sufficiently, results in the emergence of new species.

Like all forms of life, viruses adapt and they evolve. Of course they don’t ‘learn’ except in the sense of a Bayesian program ‘learning’ to distinguish spam from real mail.

Both ID and the theory of evolution do not deny that there must be limits to adaptation. ID is less able to say what these are than evolutionary biology. The latter investigates biochemical and physical constraints to some effect, whereas the former waffles nebulously about an imaginary quality called “design”, which it thinks imposes intrinsic limits, only it doesn’t.

Your use of “Darwinist” is eccentric and demonstrates that you think evolution is some sort of philosophical speculation, which it is not. It is a description of the origin of species and explains the multitude of forms within perfectly nested hierarchies, the biogeographical distribution of species, the fossil record and much else.

There is a clear pattern that emerges from this explanation: living things track their environment, which changes, usually slowly, over time. To predict the changes in a population of living things one would need to predict environmental changes in close detail - all of them. We cannot even do this for the base physical inputs with any rigour, but worse, environmental changes include the reactions of all other lifeforms. The resulting multitude of mutually derived and mutually emergent cascades of effects are far beyond the predictive abilities we have, so much so that the idea is simply risible. Consider: we cannot predict the future course of human history, which is orders of magnitude more simple, with far fewer variables.

I have the feeling that what you mean by “one step ahead” is in any case vastly more than really one step ahead. I can predict, for example, that the next step in the evolution of the rabbit in Australia will be to develop effective resistance to the calicivirus. I think you mean something more like “What will rabbits evolve into?” Of course nobody knows what, or if, and the very question simply means that you don’t understand the scale of the process.

I think Steve P is a Poe. No-one with the slightest pretence of understanding evolution could write something as dotty as “Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt. They are not learning, since viruses don’t have a brain” without having their tongue firmly planted in their cheek. Could they?

Richard Simons said:

I think Steve P is a Poe. No-one with the slightest pretence of understanding evolution could write something as dotty as “Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt. They are not learning, since viruses don’t have a brain” without having their tongue firmly planted in their cheek. Could they?

Never forget “butterfly wombs.” Real creationists say some amazingly dumb things.

Raven,

You conflate evolution with adaptation. Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt.

It’s evolution. You are Making Stuff Up. Not coflating or confusing anything, just lying. We are done here, no point in going further.

“We lie a lot, therefore god exists”, fundie xian logic.

Evolutionary biology is critical in agriculture and medical research. It and we (biologists and related fields) see it,use it, and work with it and against it every day to feed 6.7 billion people and keep them alive.

So you can lie for another day or decade.

Richard Simons said:

I think Steve P is a Poe. No-one with the slightest pretence of understanding evolution could write something as dotty as “Viruses don’t evolve, they adapt. They are not learning, since viruses don’t have a brain” without having their tongue firmly planted in their cheek. Could they?

Has there ever been a creationist who had “the slightest pretence of understanding evolution”? The whole cult is founded on the mindless worship of willful ignorance and a couple pages of mythology. Facts are the tools of Satan to these people.

Steve P. could be a Poe, consistent with an extraordinarily muddled set of non-ideas.

As everyone knows, there is a newly evolved swine flu virus going around worldwide. We have a good idea of its torturous evolutionary history from whole genome sequencing.

It has made a fair number of people sick, put some in the hospital, and killed 200 or so. If it goes full tilt pandemic, we are looking at 1 to 2 million extra deaths worldwide next year. Whether it does or not is unknown, but as it keeps spreading in the Southern hemisphere, it looks more and more likely.

I always wondered how people would deal with a newly evolved virus when they believe evolution doesn’t exist. One which will scare them at the least, probably make them sick, and possibly kill them.

They just change the term evolution to adaptation or something else, and keep claiming it doesn’t exist.

“Swine flu is not evolving. It is just settling in and making itself comfortable.” Whatever, but that isn’t science, honesty, or even rational thought.

Steve P. -

This may come as a surprise to you, but this is indeed exactly what University of Chicago vertebrate paleobiologist Neil Shubin and his team did when they found Tiktaalik a few years ago on Canada’s Ellesmere Island:

“If you KNOW from the fossil record that the organisms you see are transitional, and they show a clear pattern, then you should also be able to predict the next step in its ‘evolution’, no?. If the modern synthesis KNOWS what happened, and what is happening now, then looking not 5-6 moves ahead but say, just one move ahead, should be doable.”

Shubin and his chief collaborator, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia vertebrate paleobiologist Ted Daeschler, didn’t just pick out Ellesmere Island on a mere whim. Instead, they looked at their geological maps for suitable exposures of sedimentary rocks of the right age and predicted that they should be able to find a creature like Tiktaalik, a “fishapod”, a truly transitional taxon between fishes and tetrapods.

This is how science works, Steve P. You make a prediction in the form of a testable hypothesis and then you try gathering data - either in the field or via an experiment - that will either support or refute that hypothesis.

Here’s another surprise for you:

Viruses can and do evolve. Ask microbial ecologist Richard Lenski of Michigan State University, whose laboratory has been in the midst of a decades-long experiment using E. coli - the bacterium found in human digestive tracts - that has created more than one strain that could be regarded as distinct species. This is the longest ongoing experiment in the laboratory that I know of which substantiates the reality of Natural Selection as an evolutionary mechanism.

For much of last week, I was yet another “guinea pig” which demonstrated how natural selection operates with respect to “swine” flu. But of course I honestly doubt that Steve P. is capable of understanding this:

raven said:

Steve P. could be a Poe, consistent with an extraordinarily muddled set of non-ideas.

As everyone knows, there is a newly evolved swine flu virus going around worldwide. We have a good idea of its torturous evolutionary history from whole genome sequencing.

It has made a fair number of people sick, put some in the hospital, and killed 200 or so. If it goes full tilt pandemic, we are looking at 1 to 2 million extra deaths worldwide next year. Whether it does or not is unknown, but as it keeps spreading in the Southern hemisphere, it looks more and more likely.

I always wondered how people would deal with a newly evolved virus when they believe evolution doesn’t exist. One which will scare them at the least, probably make them sick, and possibly kill them.

They just change the term evolution to adaptation or something else, and keep claiming it doesn’t exist.

“Swine flu is not evolving. It is just settling in and making itself comfortable.” Whatever, but that isn’t science, honesty, or even rational thought.

Steve P. said:

Actually, IDists would ask how you know they are transitional fossils? By using homology? Comparative analysis does not break the threshold of reasonable doubt IMO. It does not comfirm common descent over common distribution; meaning it cannot determine conclusively if animals started our with nothing and build upon fortuitous mutations over deep time OR that all the information required for biodiversity was already present and simply unfolded (the original definition of evolution).

Steve, common descent is an inference based on a lot of empirical data from extent AND fossil populations. I wrote a brief essay once outlining the reasoning. I reproduce it here:

The Descent Inference: How Transitional Fossil Sequences are Evidence of Common Descent

Creationists and intelligent design advocates often argue that transitional sequences are not evidence of common descent but instead are merely assumed to be such. They frequently bring up the arguments of paleontologist Henry Gee, who has said we cannot know for sure if a fossil group is directly ancestral to another. Gee, however, is convinced that transitional sequences are evidence of common descent. So, how can this be? This essay will show that common descent is not an assumption, but an inference drawn from observed phenomena in extant organisms as well as fossil data, and will lay out the reasoning behind the inference. It will also, where possible, point out aspects of the reasoning that are understood intuitively by most people. Those confronted by students or other evolution critics can use this to effectively rebut the ‘common descent is an assumption’ charge.

I. Relatedness is directly proportional to genes shared in common

This is actually something most people understand intuitively. Common expressions like ‘blood relative’ reflect this understanding. Empirical data confirm this intuitive concept. It is the basis for DNA paternity testing, for example.

II. All organisms share at least some genes in common.

This has been confirmed by protein sequence studies. Cytochrome c is a well-known example.

III. Morphological characteristics are primarily under genic or polygenic control.

This is also something most people understand intuitively. Plant and animal breeders certainly use this concept to guide their efforts. Geneticists have also confirmed this, even to the point of identifying genes that control basic body plans (homeotic genes).

IV. Morphological similarity between organisms is directly proportional to genes shared in common.

Again, this is understood on an intuitive level, when we expect siblings to resemble each other more than they resemble distant cousins. It also follows from (I), (II) , and (III). Comparative molecular studies are consistent with this as well. For example, humans and chimpanzees, which share almost all of the genes in common, are much more alike morphologically than humans and fish, who share relatively less.

V. Populations that exchange genes are more alike genetically than those that do not.

This is confirmed via the observation that when reproductive barriers occur within a population, creating subpopulations, those isolated subpopulations will independently accumulate different mutations and will undergo different allelic frequency changes over time.

VI. Barriers to reproduction between populations lead to new species.

All observed instances of speciation involve barriers to gene exchange leading to genetic divergence. These barriers can include geographic, ecological , ethological and genetic factors, but all lead to genetic divergence. In addition, no species have ever been observed to arise spontaneously: all are descendants from pre-existing, closely-related populations.

VII. Genetic divergence between isolated populations grows over time.

Once the barriers to gene exchange are in place, divergence only grows, due to independent accumulation of more and more mutations and combinations of alleles.

VIII. Degree of ancestry is a function of time since divergence

From V, VI and VII, it follows that recent speciation events result in descendant populations that are more genetically alike than in populations that diverged much earlier.

It also follows from all of the above that:

IX. Degree of ancestry is proportional to genetic similarity.

X. Degree of ancestry is also proportional to morphological similarity.

This follows directly from IV.

Once we have reached this point, the question of fossil evidence can be addressed.

1. Fossils are the remains of ancient living organisms

Many fossils are not completely mineralized, and show traces of organic material.

2. Fossil organisms, therefore, had ancestors and left descendants, just like extant organisms.

There is no observed evidence that fossil organisms lived and reproduced any differently than extant ones now do.

3. Common Ancestry can be inferred from morphological similarity

This follows from I-X, and 1-2.

4. Transitional morphological ‘sequences’ indicate chains in ancestry

While Henry Gee’s point about a transitional organism not necessarily being the direct ancestor of the next organism in the sequence is valid, from the above it can be inferred that the organism came from a population very closely related (and therefore morphologically similar) to the population that was the direct ancestor.

Sometimes you just have to wonder at the face of religious stubborness. This guy is just fishing for any excuse to dismiss science now…

As to the fossil record, I’ve been there, done that. I grew up being “spoon fed” what the humanists are pushing down our kids’ throats for almost 2 decades. Fossil records have no universal agreement, and every museum or Discovery/Nova show I’ve seen pushes the same tired diatribe. I am aware of the hoaxes on both sides, to be fair to your comment. Again: evidence that the records can’t be trusted. I don’t truly disrespect paleontologists, but it’s educated conjecture on their part. If there were conclusive “AHA!” evidence, one wouldn’t have to search anywhere: it would be all over the news quicker than I could bat an eyelash.

Beats me, how does one deal with this?

Reynold said:

Sometimes you just have to wonder at the face of religious stubborness. This guy is just fishing for any excuse to dismiss science now…

As to the fossil record, I’ve been there, done that. I grew up being “spoon fed” what the humanists are pushing down our kids’ throats for almost 2 decades. Fossil records have no universal agreement, and every museum or Discovery/Nova show I’ve seen pushes the same tired diatribe. I am aware of the hoaxes on both sides, to be fair to your comment. Again: evidence that the records can’t be trusted. I don’t truly disrespect paleontologists, but it’s educated conjecture on their part. If there were conclusive “AHA!” evidence, one wouldn’t have to search anywhere: it would be all over the news quicker than I could bat an eyelash.

Beats me, how does one deal with this?

Patiently lay out your case, and see if it works. That is all you can do. However, considering how “educated conjecture” is held in such disregard, I doubt the facts will help.

Steve P. said:

Actually, IDists would ask how you know they are transitional fossils?

Would IDists ask that question via publishing an article in the primary scientific literature, as legitimate scientists do when they have something substantive to offer?

Or would they instead limit their efforts to composing pseudoscientific screeds aimed at their ignorant disciples? (Which, admittedly, is a financially lucrative endeavor, albeit a despicable one.)

Beats me, how does one deal with this?

You don’t. It is almost impossible to turn a crackpot.

What they are doing is staring mountains of evidence gathered over centuries right in the face, and denying they exist.

It isn’t that hard. How do the Geocentrists (26% of the fundies) or the Glow In The Dark Moonists or Flat Earthers reconcile their “faith” with the real world? AFAIK, they don’t even try.

I admit that this is a bit off topic, but for those in the New York City area (or will be), the second annual World Science Festival will start tomorrow and run through Sunday. Quite a few of the events have sold out already, but these - which should be special interest to PT visitors - are still available. Information on ordering tickets for each event is listed at the web addresses provided for each event:

Transparent Brain Visible Thoughts

Thursday, June 11, 2009, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM, Kimmel Center, NYU

So you thought nobody could know what you’re thinking? Well, you’re right. For now. But fMRI brain research, identifying patterns linked to thoughts, is moving forward at a pace that’s surprising even experts. Host Scott Simon joins leading neuroscientists for a state-of-the-art tour through research that’s closing in on an ability to make our thoughts visible. The program will also explore related research on brain controlled prostheses and the newly emerging field of neuroethics.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]parent-brain

Watching Wilson and Watson and the Future of Life on Earth

Thursday, June 11, 2009, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM, NYU Skirball Center

Hailed by Newsweek as “the most exciting individual in American theater”, Actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith melds journalism and performance to create insightful one-woman vignettes depicting two of the most influential scientists of our day – Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, and “father of biodiversity and sociobiology” E.O. Wilson. Following the performance, Charlie Rose hosts Nobel Laureate Harold Varmus and head of NOAA Jane Lubchenco in an exploration of the impact Watson and Wilson have had on modern life and how their work will profoundly shape the future.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]n-and-watson

!@#$% Traffic From Insects to Interstates

Friday, June 12, 2009, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM, Kimmel Center, NYU

Can marching ants, schooling fish, and herding wildebeests teach us something about the morning commute? Robert Krulwich guides this unique melding of mathematics, physics, and behavioral science as Mitchell Joachim, Anna Nagurney and Iain Couzin examine the creative and sometimes counterintuitive solutions to one of the modern world’s most annoying problems.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2009/traffic

Portraits of Perception The Human Face

Friday, June 12, 2009, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM, Baruch Performing Arts Center

What makes Mona Lisa’s smile so intriguing? What makes Picasso’s portraits so compelling? Kurt Andersen hosts artists Chuck Close and Devorah Sperber, with neuroscientists Margaret Livingstone, Chris Tyler and Ken Nakayama, as they examine the power of brain imaging technology to illuminate how we perceive the most intimate yet public of features, the human face.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]f-perception

What It Means to Be Human The Enigma of Altruism

Friday, June 12, 2009, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM, NYU Skirball Center Though many animals display cooperative behavior, human cooperation is distinct. Alan Alda hosts E.O. Wilson, Sarah Hrdy and other leading evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and humanitarians as they examine the origins and evolution of human cooperative behavior.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]/to-be-human

Notes & Neurons In Search of the Common Chorus

Friday, June 12, 2009, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM, Gerald W. Lynch Theater, CUNY

Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, scientist Daniel Levitin and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate music’s note-worthy interaction with the brain and our emotions. Special Musical Guests Naren Budhkar, Tabla Parag Chordia, Sitar Amber Docters van Leeuwen, Cellist

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]-and-neurons

Avian Einsteins

Saturday, June 13, 2009, 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM, NYU Skirball Center

How do we learn to speak? What is the connection between language and movement? Join a broad and distinguished panel of biologists, psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, musicians and writers, including leading bird scientists Erich Jarvis and Irene Pepperberg, on an exploration of how striking parallels between bird and human brains are providing sharp new insights into how we acquire language and links between hearing and movement. Featuring a special appearance of Snowball, the dancing cockatoo of YouTube fame.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]an-einsteins

Science Faith Religion

Saturday, June 13, 2009, 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM, Tishman Auditorium, The New School Public debate, pitting atheist against believer, typically yields a polarized picture. Might a more nuanced conversation that transcends simplistic assertions, and weaves insights from physics, biology, and psychology provide a more fruitful exchange of ideas? Bill Blakemore hosts scientists Lawrence Krauss, Ken Miller and Guy Consolmagno, and philosopher Colin McGinn to find out.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]ith-religion

Time the Familiar Stranger Mysteries of Mind and Time

Saturday, June 13, 2009, 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM, Gerald W. Lynch Theater, CUNY

Time allows us to live in the moment, reflect on the past, plan for the future. It’s our most familiar, precious, yet mysterious commodity. Celebrated author and neurologist Oliver Sacks and psychologist Daniel Gilbert draw on converging insights from physical, biological and neurological perspectives to reflect on this most vital factor shaping the human experience.

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com[…]iar-stranger

For additional information, please look at the World Science Festival’s website:

http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/2009

raven said:

Beats me, how does one deal with this?

You don’t. It is almost impossible to turn a crackpot.

What they are doing is staring mountains of evidence gathered over centuries right in the face, and denying they exist.

It isn’t that hard. How do the Geocentrists (26% of the fundies) or the Glow In The Dark Moonists or Flat Earthers reconcile their “faith” with the real world? AFAIK, they don’t even try.

Yep. You’ve gotten that right. I’ve tried and it totally doesn’t work.

Ah well, I tried.

While this is a bit off topic, I am still surprised that Coyne didn’t seize the opportunity that was handed to him by the World Science Festival here in New York City, by agreeing to participate in its roundtable panel discussion on Science, Faith and Religion (Those participating include physicist Lawrence Krauss - perhaps best known for his book, “The Physics of Star Trek” - and Ken Miller. I will be in attendance as one of several hundred in the general audience.). Coyne could have used this opportunity not only to make a persuasive case why science and scientific organizations should not have an “accomodationist” stance towards religion, but also explain why the Templeton Foundation - which is providing substantial financial support to the World Science Festival - should be scorned by all.

Beats me, how does one deal with this?

1. Explain in small words why you find their argument to be wrong.

2. Wait for them to declare victory.

3. Roll eyes.

4. Walk away.

5. Take some aspirin for the headache caused by rolling eyes too hard.

Henry

Reynold said: Beats me, how does one deal with this?

Inspire their kids to go to mainstream universities and get Ph.D.’s. (Yeah, J. Wells et al. are exceptions, but the rule is still worth betting on.)

Don’t bring that Henry Gee into it. The man is clearly an idiot.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on June 8, 2009 2:57 AM.

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