Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails)

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I will send an autographed copy of the book Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by me and Paul K. Strode, to the first person who can correctly find a quotation that accurately describes evolution by natural selection and predates Darwin, Wallace, and even Erasmus Darwin by hundreds of years. To enter, just post a comment. To win, you will have to state the quotation, its author, and the approximate year. I have a specific quotation in mind, but I will consider others, as long as they clearly describe natural selection.

For the table of contents and other information about the book, go here.

In a day or so, I will declare the winner and explain why the quotation is so interesting. In the meantime, below the fold, more about Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails).

Now, about the book: It is an impassioned argument in defense of science, mostly but not exclusively the theory of evolution, and against creationism in general, but in particular intelligent-design creationism. Our position is that our most successful scientific theories are under attack by laypeople and even by some scientists who willfully distort scientific findings and use them for their own purposes.

From the preface of the book:

We address this book, in part, to those who, for whatever reasons, deny what we consider well-founded scientific facts such as the antiquity of the Earth and the descent of species. At the very least, they carry an obligation to understand precisely what they reject. We also hope to provide parents, teachers, and others with sound arguments that they can easily understand and give them ammunition with which to defend modern science.

The book is written for the layperson and is appropriate, for example, for a college class in biology for nonmajors or a course in evolutionary science versus creationism. It is also ideal for school-board members and school administrators whose science curriculums are under attack by creationists of any species.

After surveying the history of creationism and evolutionary science in the United States, we focus on how science actually works and how pseudoscience works, and then tackle creationism itself. We concentrate in particular on intelligent-design creationism and explain why its arguments are specious. We next show how evolution works, how it constantly remodels, and how it arrives at less-than-optimal solutions because it can never start from scratch, can never solve a new problem without recourse to old solutions.

Creationists misrepresent not only biology, but also geology and cosmology. They misunderstand, misrepresent, or ignore the evidence from which the ages of the earth and of the universe are deduced, so we discuss that evidence in some detail, before discussing the anthropic principle and the fine-tuning argument, neither of which we find convincing.

Returning to biology, we conclude with a section in which we demonstrate the likelihood that ethics and morality have biological, not supernatural, origins. We ask whether science and religion are compatible and conclude that science by no means excludes religion, though it certainly casts doubt on certain specific religious claims that are, frankly, contrary to known scientific fact.

My colleague Paul Strode, besides being a godsend, is a high-school biology teacher in Boulder, Colorado, and an instructor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has a PhD degree in ecology and environmental science.

135 Comments

I’m thinking about something said by Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), he spoke of evolutionary concepts, of creatures changing and adapting to what is around them.

Though I don’t have a specific quote.

“Hey guys, I really love natural selection!” - Jesus Christ - 30 AD

Do I win?

Can this be it?:

An early theory of evolution developed by muslim zoologist Al-Jahiz (c. 781 -r 868):

“Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.”

From Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of Animals)

Otherwise, I’m guessing Augustine from this article:

“Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, added that 4th century theologian St Augustine had “never heard the term evolution, but knew that big fish eat smaller fish” and forms of life had been transformed “slowly over time”. Aquinas made similar observations in the Middle Ages.…”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/new[…]tianity.html

Not what is sought - but a lovely quote anyway:

Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them. Marcus Aurelius, 2nd century

From Wikipedia :)

Aristotle summarized his idea: “Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come to be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish…”[2]

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/p[…]cs.2.ii.html

Written 350 B.C.E

infidel_michael said:

From Wikipedia :)

Aristotle summarized his idea: “Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come to be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish…”[2]

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/p[…]cs.2.ii.html

Written 350 B.C.E

Is it Aristotle? “of animals some resemble one another in all their parts, while others have parts wherein they differ. Sometimes the parts are identical in form, as, for instance, one mans nose or eye resembles another mans nose of eye, flesh flesh and bone bone and in like manner iwth a horse and with all other animals which we reckon to be of one and the same species; for as the whole is to the whole, so each to each are the parts severally.”

infidel_michael said:

From Wikipedia :)

Aristotle summarized his idea: “Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come to be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish…”[2]

http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/p[…]cs.2.ii.html

Bad quote-mining here by Wikipedia. After seemingly outlining a proto-evolutionary theory by chance ‘mutation’, Aristotle goes on to say: “Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true.”

As any good classicist would know, Aristotle is here outlining a theory of teleology, not of evolutionary thought.

Still interested in who beat the 19th century to it though.

“Chance one might say, turned out a vast number of individuals; a small proportion of these were organized in such a manner that the animals organs could satisfy their needs. A much greater number showed neither adaptation nor order; These last have all perished – thus the species which we see today are but a small part of all those that a blind destiny has produced.” Pierre Louis Maupertuis, 1750

First a bad joke: The other day Dembski was trying to fix his faulty Explanatory Filter (which looks like a DeLorean), got inside, tinkered with a few wires and accidentally transported himself back to the early Precambrian. Looking at the evidence around him he said, “Rats, Darwin will be Right.” Do I win? ;-)

Now for the seriousness. I probably don’t need to read this book, but I will. “Why Intelligent Design Fails” is in my top 5, so this has to be a winner.

This the quote you’re looking for as it’s 19th century, but it’s still rather an interesting quote.

Probably not the one you’re looking for, but I have Maupertius, from 1751:

“Nature containst he basis of all these variations : but chance or art brings them out. It is thus that those whose industry is applied to satisfying the taste of the curious are, so to say, creators of new species. We see appearing races of dogs, pigeons, canaries, which did not at all exist in Nature before. These were to begin with only fortuitous individuals; art and the repeated generations have made species of them. The famous Lyonnes every year created some new species, and destroyed that which was no longer in fashion. He corrects the forms and varies the colours: he has invented the species of the harlequin, the mopse, etc.” Systeme de la Natur, 1751

Al-Jahiz looks like the winner to me. His description is almost good enough as-is to be in a high school textbook, excepting Texas of course (for the dual reasons of being pro-evolution and from a Muslim).

Lucretius, perhaps?

And in the ages after monsters died, Perforce there perished many a stock, unable By propagation to forge a progeny. For whatsoever creatures thou beholdest Breathing the breath of life, the same have been Even from their earliest age preserved alive By cunning, or by valour, or at least By speed of foot or wing. And many a stock Remaineth yet, because of use to man …

But those beasts to whom Nature has granted naught of these same things- Beasts quite unfit by own free will to thrive And vain for any service unto us In thanks for which we should permit their kind To feed and be in our protection safe- Those, of a truth, were wont to be exposed, Enshackled in the gruesome bonds of doom, As prey and booty for the rest, until Nature reduced that stock to utter death.

On The Nature of Things, Book V

Matt, I think you should take ALL the qualifying quotes and stick them on a page at the front of the next edition.

Cheers!

I’m guessing it’s the Al Jahiz quote. And all of these quotes together only reinforce my feeling that evolution really isn’t as alien or outlandish a concept as so many clueless ideologues make it out to be. I mean, anyone with simple common sense and a pair of eyes can see that creatures with certain characteristics or skills do better than others in a given environment (i.e., the faster runners outrun the predators, injured or birth-defective creatures don’t live long); and those that do better are more likely to reproduce, and pass their better features on to their young, who then outperform others in their turn. And the same thing happens with humans: a plague kills some in a community, and those who survive it get to have kids, and their kids are less likely to be susceptible to the same disease. And of course, the strongest, smartest, and/or most energetic people get the greatest share of wealth, and get to have more kids who are more likely to have their more useful traits. Seriously, how dumb, rigid, unobservant, or mentally defective do you have to be not to see the obvious all around you? Why did we have to wait till the 19th century just to freak out en-masse about this idea, before accepting it in painful fits and starts?

All this political controversy should remind all of us that “traditional” Christianity was, and still is, a product of barbarian, backward post-Roman Europe, ignoring and rejecting the fruits of older, more educated cultures all around us.

PS: What does Harun Yahya have to say about Al-Jahiz? I’ll bet he just ignores him, as creationists ignore St. Augustine.

I’m no good at finding quotes but I woulg guess it would come from Benoit de Maillet or Comte de Buffon.

http://www.classicpersuasion.org/pw[…]mpalleng.htm

I will report a twofold truth. Now grows The One from Many into being, now Even from the One disparting come the Many. Twofold the birth, twofold the death of things: For, now, the meeting of the Many brings To birth and death; and, now, whatever grew From out their sundering, flies apart and dies. And this long interchange shall never end. Whiles into One do all through Love unite; Whiles too the same are rent through hate of Strife. And in so far as is the One still wont To grow from Many, and the Many, again, Spring from primeval scattering of the One, So far have they a birth and mortal date; And in so far as the long interchange Ends not, so far forever established gods

And how from Earth streams forth the Green and Firm. And all through Wrath are split to shapes diverse; And each through Love draws near and yearns for each. For from these elements hath budded all That was or is or evermore shall be— All trees, and men and women, beasts and birds, And fishes nourished in deep waters, aye, The long-lived gods, in honors excellent. For these are all, and, as they course along Through one another, they take new faces all, By varied mingling and enduring change.

Empedocles, ca. 490–430 BC)

and as referred to before by others:

In the Book of Animals, abu Uthman al-Jahith (781-869), an intellectual of East African descent, was the first to speculate on the influence of the environment on species. He wrote: “Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring.”

ttp://dad2059.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/did-islamic-scientists-discover-evolutionary-theory-before-darwin/

fasteddie said:

Al-Jahiz looks like the winner to me. His description is almost good enough as-is to be in a high school textbook, excepting Texas of course (for the dual reasons of being pro-evolution and from a Muslim).

Al-Jahiz seems to be more Lamarckian than Darwinian. Still, that’s not at all bad for the 9th century A.D.

Raging Bee said:

“And all of these quotes together only reinforce my feeling that evolution really isn’t as alien or outlandish a concept as so many clueless ideologues make it out to be.”

Indeed. This is why I find this site is so informative. Topics discussed here often lead in unexpected and interesting directions.

Yeah the al-Jahiz quote could definitely be read as Lamarckian, a science writer in the Independent made this point earlier this year after physicist Jim Al-Khalili’s BBC tv show on science and islam.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinio[…]1242497.html Steve Connor: Al-Khalili says that this qualifies as a theory of natural selection, but any scholar of Darwinism will point out that this could just as easily describe another, discredited evolutionary mechanism, known as Lamarckism. Sorry Jim, from what little we know of al-Jahith and his ideas on evolution, he can’t hold a candle to Darwin and Wallace.

Patrick Metthew:

As nature, in all her modifications of life, has a power of increase far beyond what is needed to supply the place of what falls by Time’s decay, those individuals who possess not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood, or cunning, fall prematurely without reproducing – either a prey to their natural devourers, or sinking under disease, generally induced by want of nourishment, their place being occupied by the more perfect of their own kind, who are pressing on the means of subsistence.

I don’t know the quote, but I’m ordering the book. :-)

Thanks for this book, Matt. It is definitely on my reading list.

And I would also applaud your choice of coauthor. Having someone who is intimately familiar with the issues of high school biology teaching is a definite plus.

If there’s anyone whom I think could have guessed it, I couldn’t have thought of anyone better than you:

Jerry Coyne said:

Patrick Metthew:

As nature, in all her modifications of life, has a power of increase far beyond what is needed to supply the place of what falls by Time’s decay, those individuals who possess not the requisite strength, swiftness, hardihood, or cunning, fall prematurely without reproducing – either a prey to their natural devourers, or sinking under disease, generally induced by want of nourishment, their place being occupied by the more perfect of their own kind, who are pressing on the means of subsistence.

BTW I am still busy promoting “Why Evolution Is True” both here at PT and elsewhere. It’s still a great book, and I am glad you wrote it, even if I’ve had some strong misgivings with some of your recent commentary posted at your blog and printed in the New Republic.

knirirr and jerry Coyne: from my reading of Patrick Matthew, he was thinking only of stabilizing selection. I don’t think he ever thought of it as a means of producing new species.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

“Men have nipples!” –Adam or somebody

Matt: you are correct that biologists also use ‘adaptation’ to mean ‘small amounts of evolution’ which is why I wrote ‘If biologists draw a distinction . . ‘. However, it is clear from Steve’s comments that, unlike biologists, he sees small amounts of evolution as being different in nature from large amounts of evolution, the old microwalking across the room and macrowalking across the country distinction.

Steve said

There is a limit as to what finches can do.

And just what is this limit? Remember, the finches were thought to be warblers, wrens, thrushes and various other birds until expert ornithologists took a look at their innards. What imposes this limit?

Adaptation is the correct description of what finches do, not evolution. The definition of evolution from the latin literally means an unfolding, a rolling out.

And a hamburger is something from Hamburg, so a chickenburger comes from a place called Chickenburg. Etymology is not a reliable guide to a word’s current meaning.

Evolution happened and stopped. Varieties/species come and go but the phenotype continues.

On the contrary, evolution is continuing to this day. Even using your idiosyncratic definition of the word does not mean it has stopped. Your use of the word ‘phenotype’ also suggests you do not know what that means. It is not equivalent to the Greek idea of the essence of an organism. It just refers to the expression of an organisms genes.

But the fossil records shows that all phenotypes are immutable.

Not at all. The fossil record, you know, all these transitionals, clearly shows that species are not immutable.

Steve P. postulates a hypothesis:

Steve P. said:

By the way, adaptation is not evolution. Evolution happened in the past and is now finished.

and proves it by redefining the meaning of words.

Then Steve P. said:

Adaptation is the correct description of what finches do, not evolution. The definition of evolution from the latin literally means an unfolding, a rolling out. So evolution and adaptation are two different animals :).

Avoids having to deal with reality doesn’t it Steve?

Then Steve P. said:

Successive adaptation has never culminated in evolution. E.Coli is such an example. After several thousand generations, it has revealed a capability to catalyze citrate. Yet, it is still e.coli. ID predicts e.coli will never be anything but e.coli, even if it is able to reveal new catalytic capabilities.

So how then did evolution ever occur in the past, and what evolved? How did your “immutable phenotypes” evolve? Are you now redefining the word evolution to mean “were intelligently designed”?

Then Steve P. said:

Evolution happened and stopped. Varieties/species come and go but the phenotype continues. There is no connection between evolution and adaptation, as Darwinism supposes by asserting that ‘macro-evolution’ can be inferred from ‘micro-evolution’. Species adapt, phenotypes don’t.

So where do you draw the lines between ‘macro-evolution’ and ‘micro-evolution’ and between “evolution” and “adaption”? In the days when evolution did occur, what evolved from what? Did organisms adapt so much for so long that they then suddenly had to evolve? For example, when did the first amphibian evolve from a particularly well adapted fish?

Dave Lovell said: So where do you draw the lines between ‘macro-evolution’ and ‘micro-evolution’ and between “evolution” and “adaption”?

Dave, he’s so mixed up its probably not worth trying. For instance, if you look at these sentences from a previous post of his, it looks like he thinks “phenotype” is a taxonomic rank. Maybe he’s confusing it with “phylum” since they both start with p.

Steve P. said:

Varieties/species come and go but the phenotype continues.…

Species adapt, phenotypes don’t…

But the fossil records shows that all phenotypes are immutable. Birds have been birds for eons and will continue to be so. Thats because phenotypes have finished their evolution…

Actual phenotype changes all the time. When moth color switches from white to black, that’s a change in phenotype. And as someone else mentioned, when leopards change their gestation period, that’s a change in phenotype.

But I do like his posts. Rabbits are different from mammals? Mmmm, that’s some good comedy.

Steve P. said:

This is incorrect according to population dynamic studies. You are equivocating individual offspring pools with entire species populations here, but at the species group level, the data shows unequivacolly that unhealthy offspring die off at a significantly higher rate than healthy ones and that their influence in the gene pool decreases over time.

Robin,

If only the healthy survive, why do animals continue to produce the same number of offspring in a generation?

Got any actual data to show that all animals do? I’m only aware of data that demonstrates that they don’t. If fact iirc there was this little blip in one particular species number of offspring across a generation that may well pose problems for that species in terms of care of the elderly. You might recall it - it was called the Baby Boom.

If successive generations optimized the gene pool by culling the unhealth, then at some point the gene pool would be pure; no need for improvement. Yet, at each and every generation, all animals produce both healthy and unhealthy offspring. They never show a tendency to ‘new and improved’ status after multiple generations. Even a species that has modified its traits in order to adapt to changing environmental conditions continue to produce both healthy and unhealthy offspring.

Generally it’s because environments are not static, but rather dynamic. There can be no such thing as “optimized” when the parameters keep changing. Further, mutations shift and natural selection shift some of the attributes of “health” based upon shifts in local and larger environments.

There may be a trigger to ‘interrupt’ reproduction. Yet, there is no trigger to modify the ratio of healthy and unhealthy offspring.

I have no idea what you mean here.

Do you see generations where there is a steady increase in healthy offspring until it reaches a plateau of 100% healthy offspring? It doesn’t happen. There is a stable fluctuation in the ratio. You can never have any extreme.

See above. Indeed many populations produce more healthy offspring overtime in environments of more stability and less dynamic fluctuation of invasive populations. Both Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons have been experiencing one of the lowest mortality rates in their offspring over the course of the last 5 years. If that isn’t an example of increasing offspring health, then you need to tell me what your terms really mean.

TW, have you noticed that all animals except for Humans are both predator and prey? That each animal type depends on other animal types for survival? How can they be competitors? They complement each other, not compete with each other.

This makes no logical sense. First off, humans are prey too. Ever heard of bacteria? There are plenty that feed on humans. Second, almost all animals depend on a variety of other animals and plants to survive, not merely for food, but for shelter, environmental conditioning and control, disease reduction, resource re-establishment, etc. As for complimenting vs competing, are you suggesting that there can’t be both? Indeed, are you suggesting that although both lions and leopards eat impala, if the impala population is 1000 and the lions eat 500, the leopards will still have 1000 impala to try and eat?

You seem to make claims out of thin air that a quick analysis of data refutes.

Steve P. -

You’re arguing with a former evolutionary biologist:

John,

Finches don’t evolve, they adapt. Their beaks get bigger and smaller as needed but they are always finches and they are always birds. There is a limit as to what finches can do.

Adaptation is the correct description of what finches do, not evolution. The definition of evolution from the latin literally means an unfolding, a rolling out. So evolution and adaptation are two different animals :).

Evolution happened and stopped. Varieties/species come and go but the phenotype continues. There is no connection between evolution and adaptation, as Darwinism supposes by asserting that ‘macro-evolution’ can be inferred from ‘micro-evolution’. Species adapt, phenotypes don’t. If they did, at some point birds would not be birds anymore, but change into something else. But the fossil records shows that all phenotypes are immutable. Birds have been birds for eons and will continue to be so. Thats because phenotypes have finished their evolution. Now birds maintain what they have through movement within their adaptive landscape.

An adaptation is quite simply a trait. It can be morphological or behavioral.

Evolution just doesn’t “happened and stopped”. As I noted in referencing published studies documenting a speciation event within mosquitoes in the London Underground subway system, Lenski’s laboratory work with E. coli strains and the classic, still ongoing, work on Darwin’s finches by Peter and B. Rosemary Grant, evolution is STILL OCCURRING. The studies I’ve quoted are merely the proverbial “tip of the iceberg”.

No “phenotypes have finished their evolution” because phenotypes CAN”T evolve. Evolution works directly on genotypes and the accumulated chromosomal changes in genotypes are reflected in succeeding generations of phenotypes.

I suggest you spend time learning something about biology, especially evolutionary biology, before commenting further. I highly recommend the textbooks on speciation (co-authored by H. Allen Orr and Jerry Coyne) and evolution (Douglas Futuyma). I also recommend reading Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True”.

Respectfully yours,

John

Steve P. said:

Robin said:

Strong Steve P. said:

Stephen, there is no correlation between reproduction and envirornmental factors. Organisms do not respond reproductively to environmental factors. They are oblivious to it. That is why each phenotype has a pre-determined rate of reproduction. It is synchronized so that the outcome of the algorithmic fluctuations is always balanced. There is no concept of competition in nature as a whole. Rather, it is fully cooperative. There are peaks and valleys but no new plateaus to reach. That is what observation shows us.

Completely wrong. There are literally thousands of studies that demonstrate you are wrong here. Butterflies that have completely changed their breeding patterns when rain patterns shift. Snow Leopards whose gestation times have changed based upon changes in the length of winter days. Plants that have stopped producing pollen during seasons of extreme draught. Are you just spouting opinion or do you actually have something other than your “uncommon sense” that you are going on to make these (clearly erroneous) claims?

Robin,

I am not talking about the ‘rate’ of reproduction. I am talking about the the quantity and quality of offspring different animal types have in a single generation.

That’s not what you indicated above. You said, “Organisms do not respond reproductively to environmental factors”, which is just plain wrong. Further, you are wrong about single generation quantity and quality, so your complaint is moot.

Why do insects produce thousands of offspring, snakes hundreds, rabbits several, and mammals on average a single or couple? And why does this never change? As well, at each generation there are always healthy and unhealty offspring.

Uhhhh…I am absolutely dumbfounded by your completely innane generalization. Rabbits produce several offspring compared to hundreds for snakes? Have you never heard the expression to reproduce like rabbits?!?! And I don’t know what snakes you’ve been watching, but those I’m familiar with produce clutches in the tens (maybe) and usually in the single digits. As for mammals…you do realize that’s a group comprising a whole lot of variation, right? Say…elephants and mice? Mice and rats reproduce in the thousands if not millions, though this fluctuates. Dogs can have large or small litters for a variety of reasons.

Of course, you keep claim “this never changes”, yet it is abundantly clearly that you are completely ignorant of even the number of offspring various groups have, never mind that those numbers vary.

This reality never changes in the face of changing environmental conditions. The ‘rate’of change in the ‘number’ of generations may change but not the quantity or quality in a single generation. This observation confirms that animal types don’t change their reproductive ‘structure’, only their reproductive ‘behavior’.

LOL! At this point I’m not even going to ask you for data to support your claim since it is evident that your claims come from thin air as opposed to actual data. Get back to me when you can actually cite some valid data instead of your opinions.

Steve wrote:

“But the fossil records shows that all phenotypes are immutable. Birds have been birds for eons and will continue to be so.”

Steve, perhaps you could tell us where you think that birds came from?

“I will send an autographed copy of the book Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by me and Paul K. Strode, to the first person who can correctly find a quotation that accurately describes evolution by natural selection and predates Darwin, Wallace, and even Erasmus Darwin by hundreds of years.”

Darwin scholar John van Wyhe

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content[…]mp;pageseq=1

“Contrary to the conventional view, Darwin seems to have been generally quite open about his belief in transmutation with his family, friends and colleagues. It does not indicate that he revealed natural selection, however.…This, after all, was his unique solution” (p.184, boldfacing added).

Charles Darwin (writing in the 3rd edition of The Origin Of Species):

http://darwin-online.org.uk/content[…]mp;pageseq=1

“In 1831 Mr. Patrick Matthew published his work on ‘Naval Timber and Arboriculture,’ in which he gives precisely the same view on the origin of species as that (presently to be alluded to) propounded by Mr. Wallace and myself in the ‘Linnean Journal,’ and as that enlarged on in the present volume. Unfortunately the view was given by Mr. Matthew very briefly in scattered passages in an Appendix to a work on a different subject, so that it remained unnoticed until Mr. Matthew himself drew attention to it in the

[page] xv

‘Gardener’s Chronicle,’ on April 7th, 1860. The differences of Mr. Matthew’s view from mine are not of much importance: he seems to consider that the world was nearly depopulated at successive periods, and then re-stocked; and he gives, as an alternative, that new forms may be generated “without the presence of any mould or germ of former aggregates.” I am not sure that I understand some passages; but it seems that he attributes much influence to the direct action of the conditions of life. He clearly saw, however, the full force of the principle of natural selection.”

An obscure passage in an appendix, yet Darwin charitably credits the writer. The point and fact remains:

“This, after all, was [Darwin’s] unique solution” (van Wyhe).

Steve is hermetically sealed. All the fossils that look like birds, were birds. Any fossil that doesn’t look all bird – by whatever capricious, sloppy, non-rigorous definition he uses – isn’t a bird. Ergo, birds did not evolve.

Matt and Richard,

Adaptation does not mean “small amount of evolution”. It refers to a feature, or a trait, of an organism, which could be morphological, behavioral, and, if not mistaken, molecular too. A related term is aptation, which was derived by paleobiologists Stephen Jay Gould and Elisabeth Vrba back in the early 1980s.

Regardless, Steve P. is displaying consistently woeful ignorance of population genetics and speciation. If he wishes to make useful comments, then he should read some of the books I’ve suggested, such as two of Jerry Coyne’s books; his recently published “Why Evolution is True” and his earlier, more technical, “Speciation (co-authored with Coyne’s colleague, H. Allen Orr).

Regards,

John

Adaptation does not mean “small amount of evolution”.

That’s not what I said. I said that adaptation is a process, but that an adaptation is used to mean an adaptive trait, in agreement with your comment. I think that Mr. P. uses it to mean a little bit of evolution, or microevolution. I have no idea where he got that misconception.

Matt,

Thanks for clarifying it. I should have noticed that distinction too:

Matt Young said:

Adaptation does not mean “small amount of evolution”.

That’s not what I said. I said that adaptation is a process, but that an adaptation is used to mean an adaptive trait, in agreement with your comment. I think that Mr. P. uses it to mean a little bit of evolution, or microevolution. I have no idea where he got that misconception.

Well Mr. P. is suffering from the usual creo canard that only microevolution is true, while “macroevolution” - in other words, speciation - isn’t.

Matt Young said:

I would guess that Aristotle’s Physics, Book II, Section 8, comes close.

The chapter is fairly long; can you give a specific citation?

“A difficulty presents itself: why should not nature work, not for the sake of something, nor because it is better so, but just as the sky rains, not in order to make the corn grow, but of necessity? What is drawn up must cool, and what has been cooled must become water and descend, the result of this being that the corn grows. Similarly if a man’s crop is spoiled on the threshing-floor, the rain did not fall for the sake of this-in order that the crop might be spoiled-but that result just followed. Why then should it not be the same with the parts in nature, e.g. that our teeth should come up of necessity-the front teeth sharp, fitted for tearing, the molars broad and useful for grinding down the food-since they did not arise for this end, but it was merely a coincident result; and so with all other parts in which we suppose that there is purpose? Wherever then all the parts came about just what they would have been if they had come be for an end, such things survived, being organized spontaneously in a fitting way; whereas those which grew otherwise perished and continue to perish, as Empedocles says his ‘man-faced ox-progeny’ did.”

Aristotle later in the chapter rejects this explanation. Missed it by THAT much!

I bought “Why Evolution Works (And Creationism Fails)”, “Why Evolution Is True”, and “Evolution The First Four Billion Years”. I read Matt’s book, and am halfway through the second. WEW(ACF)was a pretty good book, except one of the authors seemed to like repeating creationist nonsense. For example, in two places,there is the claim that Darwin could not imagine how the eye could evolve. On the next page from one of the claims, the author gives the exact steps that Darwin proposed, without crediting Darwin. Why Evolution Is True, by Jerry A. Coyne, seems to be edited a bit better, although it contains some stupid mistakes, like claiming bats use RADAR. The third book is pretty hefty, and will take a while to tackle.

Richard Simons said:

knirirr and jerry Coyne: from my reading of Patrick Matthew, he was thinking only of stabilizing selection. I don’t think he ever thought of it as a means of producing new species.

Actually, Patrick Matthew went on to say this:

[The] progeny of the same parents, under great differences of circumstance, might, in several generations, even become distinct species, incapable of co-reproduction.

(according to Wikipedia)

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on June 2, 2009 8:00 AM.

A bit more hope for Texas kids was the previous entry in this blog.

John Lynch on the DI’s purported history of ID is the next entry in this blog.

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