Darwin and the vermiform appendix

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Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research

Last night, I asked for a copy of an article (I have plenty now, thanks!) that was getting a lot of press. The reason I was looking for it is two-fold: the PR looked awful, expressing some annoying cliches about evolution, but the data looked interesting, good stuff that I was glad to see done. Awful and interesting — I’m a sucker for those jarring combinations. My favorite pizza is jalapeno and pineapple, too.

I’m going to split my discussion of this article in two, just to simplify dealing with it. This is the awful part. I’ll do the interesting part a little later.

The paper is about the appendix, that tiny little organ in your gut that doesn’t have a whole lot of obvious function. The point of the work is to try and show that yes, it does something — which is fine and interesting, although I will quibble a bit with their interpretation. Where they go awry, though, is in trying to pick a fight with a dead man, and making that the focus of their public relations.

Now, some of those same researchers are back, reporting on the first-ever study of the appendix through the ages. Writing in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Duke scientists and collaborators from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University conclude that Charles Darwin was wrong: The appendix is a whole lot more than an evolutionary remnant. Not only does it appear in nature much more frequently than previously acknowledged, but it has been around much longer than anyone had suspected.

“Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks,” says William Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgical sciences at Duke and the senior author of the study. “Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.’”

Charles Darwin is dead. Your research can’t be very cogent if your approach to drum up interest is to dig up a 120-year-old corpse and kick it around; is there anyone alive who disagrees with you who can put up a more informative and entertaining struggle? What this does is pick this one fellow as a symbol of the whole edifice of evolutionary theory, which has the advantage of making one’s work seem very, very important (even if one is stacking the deck to do it), but has the disadvantage of giving every creationist on the planet something to masturbate over, and they’re icky enough without your help.

It’s also annoying. Charles Darwin was wrong about many things — I’ll even give an example at the end of this article — and it’s part of the nature of science that everyone’s work will be revised and refined over time, and some of us will even be shown to be completely wrong. It’s rather unseemly to collect a lot of data that Darwin did not have, run it through PAUP 4.0 on a fast computer, map the data onto a molecular consensus phylogeny, and cackle gleefully over discovering something Darwin did not know. Really, it doesn’t make you a better scientist than Darwin.

To make it even worse, people who do this can’t even make the corpse-fight a fair fight — they have to stuff the pathetic dead body with straw. In this case, they’re padding Darwin’s investment in the appendix a fair amount. They cite one work by Darwin, The Descent of Man, which mentions this issue. He wrote one whole paragraph on the topic, and here it is, in its entirety; it was presented briefly as part of a long list of human rudimentary structures, such as wisdom teeth, muscles of the ear, and the semilunar fold of the eye.

With respect to the alimentary canal, I have met with an account of only a single rudiment, namely the vermiform appendage of the caecum. The caecum is a branch or diverticulum of the intestine, ending in a cul-de-sac, and is extremely long in many of the lower vegetable-feeding mammals. In the marsupial koala it is actually more than thrice as long as the whole body. (46. Owen, ‘Anatomy of Vertebrates,’ vol. iii. pp. 416, 434, 441.) It is sometimes produced into a long gradually-tapering point, and is sometimes constricted in parts. It appears as if, in consequence of changed diet or habits, the caecum had become much shortened in various animals, the vermiform appendage being left as a rudiment of the shortened part. That this appendage is a rudiment, we may infer from its small size, and from the evidence which Prof. Canestrini (47. ‘Annuario della Soc. d. Nat.’ Modena, 1867, p. 94.) has collected of its variability in man. It is occasionally quite absent, or again is largely developed. The passage is sometimes completely closed for half or two-thirds of its length, with the terminal part consisting of a flattened solid expansion. In the orang this appendage is long and convoluted: in man it arises from the end of the short caecum, and is commonly from four to five inches in length, being only about the third of an inch in diameter. Not only is it useless, but it is sometimes the cause of death, of which fact I have lately heard two instances: this is due to small hard bodies, such as seeds, entering the passage, and causing inflammation. (48. M. C. Martins (“De l’Unite Organique,” in ‘Revue des Deux Mondes,’ June 15, 1862, p. 16) and Haeckel (‘Generelle Morphologie,’ B. ii. s. 278), have both remarked on the singular fact of this rudiment sometimes causing death.)

Note why Darwin classed this appendage as vestigial: because it is greatly reduced compared to the homologous organs in non-human relatives, and because it currently exhibits a great range of variation, which is apparently non-functional. These are criteria which the paper in question does not refute at all. Darwin does say that the appendix is “useless”, and the paper will show some evidence that that is wrong. It’s also irrelevant.

The reason why it is irrelevant is that the presence of some function is not part of the definition of a vestigial or rudimentary organ — Darwin obligingly concedes that evolution will salvage some utility out of organs with little retention of their original function, but which are present as a consequence of contingency. He discusses this at greater length in On the Origin of Species, and here is a significant chunk of the relevant writing.

Organs or parts in this strange condition, bearing the plain stamp of inutility, are extremely common, or even general, throughout nature. It would be impossible to name one of the higher animals in which some part or other is not in a rudimentary condition. In the mammalia, for instance, the males possess rudimentary mammae; in snakes one lobe of the lungs is rudimentary; in birds the “bastardwing” may safely be considered as a rudimentary digit, and in some species the whole wing is so far rudimentary that it cannot be used for flight. What can be more curious than the presence of teeth in foetal whales, which when grown up have not a tooth in their heads; or the teeth, which never cut through the gums, in the upper jaws of unborn calves?

Rudimentary organs plainly declare their origin and meaning in various ways. There are beetles belonging to closely allied species, or even to the same identical species, which have either full-sized and perfect wings, or mere rudiments of membrane, which not rarely lie under wing-covers firmly soldered together; and in these cases it is impossible to doubt, that the rudiments represent wings. Rudimentary organs sometimes retain their potentiality: this occasionally occurs with the mammae of male mammals, which have been known to become well developed and to secrete milk. So again in the udders in the genus Bos, there are normally four developed and two rudimentary teats; but the latter in our domestic cows sometimes become well developed and yield milk. In regard to plants the petals are sometimes rudimentary, and sometimes well-developed in the individuals of the same species. In certain plants having separated sexes Kolreuter found that by crossing a species, in which the male flowers included a rudiment of a pistil, with an hermaphrodite species, having of course a well-developed pistil, the rudiment in the hybrid offspring was much increased in size; and this clearly shows that the rudimentary and perfect pistils are essentially alike in nature. An animal may possess various parts in a perfect state, and yet they may in one sense be rudimentary, for they are useless: thus the tadpole of the common salamander or water-newt, as Mr. G. H. Lewes remarks, “has gills, and passes its existence in the water; but the Salamandra atra, which lives high up among the mountains, brings forth its young full-formed. This animal never lives in the water. Yet if we open a gravid female, we find tadpoles inside her with exquisitely feathered gills; and when placed in water they swim about like the tadpoles of the water-newt. Obviously this aquatic organisation has no reference to the future life of the animal, nor has it any adaptation to its embryonic condition; it has solely reference to ancestral adaptations, it repeats a phase in the development of its progenitors.”

An organ, serving for two purposes, may become rudimentary or utterly aborted for one, even the more important purpose, and remain perfectly efficient for the other. Thus in plants, the office of the pistil is to allow the pollen-tubes to reach the ovules within the ovarium. The pistil consists of a stigma supported on a style; but in some Compositae, the male florets, which of course cannot be fecundated, have a rudimentary pistil, for it is not crowned with a stigma; but the style remains well developed and is clothed in the usual manner with hairs, which serve to brush the pollen out of the surrounding and conjoined anthers. Again, an organ may become rudimentary for its proper purpose, and be used for a distinct one: in certain fishes the swimbladder seems to be rudimentary for its proper function of giving buoyancy, but has become converted into a nascent breathing organ or lung. Many similar instances could be given.

I’ve highlighted the part most important for this discussion. Darwin did not discuss the appendix or caecum at all in the Origin, but this description does apply. If a portion of the gut, a digestive organ, is diminished in size such that it no longer contributes to the primary function of the organ, but does retain a secondary function, such as assisting in immunity, or as the authors of the recent paper will argue, in acting as a reservoir of bacteria for recolonizing the gut, then it is still a vestigial organ. It has lost much of its ancestral function.

I do not understand why this is so hard for so many people to comprehend. Biology is plastic and opportunistic. Accidents of history will always still be incorporated into the whole of the organism; we make do, or we die. Just because something is does not mean that the entirety of its nature is the product of selection.

I mentioned that I’d point out errors in Darwin’s understanding. They’re there, but note that seeing them now 150 years after he wrote his big book does not make me smarter than Darwin, nor does it invalidate the overall picture of his theory. You can see one ‘error’ in the quote above: we are now pretty certain that the original function of the swimbladder in fish was respiratory. It evolved first as a supplement to the gills, providing access to the rich oxygen content of the atmosphere, and was secondarily adapted to function for bouyancy. Hah, silly Darwin, that he did not know a detail of paleontology and phylogeny that would be worked out a century after his death!

He also made a more substantial error. He wondered how organs became smaller over time, and his answer was, unfortunately, a bit Lamarckian and also a bit muddled.

It appears probable that disuse has been the main agent in rendering organs rudimentary. It would at first lead by slow steps to the more and more complete reduction of a part, until at last it became rudimentary,- as in the case of the eyes of animals inhabiting dark caverns, and of the wings of birds inhabiting oceanic islands, which have seldom been forced by beasts of prey to take flight, and have ultimately lost the power of flying. Again, an organ, useful under certain conditions, might become injurious under others, as with the wings of beetles living on small and exposed islands; and in this case natural selection will have aided in reducing the organ, until it was rendered harmless and rudimentary.

“Disuse” is the magic word there: if a cavefish lived in the dark and never used its eyes, the idea was that its progeny would then have smaller eyes. This is not correct, but it was a central part of Darwin’s invalid theory of heredity. This is a much more substantial failing of Darwin’s work, but again, I can’t claim credit for figuring this out; it took the work of Mendel to get the core of genetics puzzled out, and then it took a whole generation of scientists to work out how genetics and evolution fit together. We can say “DARWIN WAS WRONG!” about that, but we can’t really say that about his treatment of vestigial organs in general, which seems to hold up fairly well…perhaps because Darwin himself was not so fervently committed to the absolute adaptedness of every single feature of every single organism as some of his later followers.

That said, I’ll move along to the substance of the paper next, which really does have some good stuff in it. Most of my complaints here are with the abysmal presentation of the ideas in it by the popular press, aided and abetted by the scientists themselves. Just keep in mind that whenever these press releases that declare “Darwin was wrong” appear, it’s usually an example of grandstanding and the regrettable tendency of competitive scientists to think the way to impress people with the importance of their work is to get into a penis-measuring contest with poor dead Chuck.


Smith HF, Fisher RE, Everett ML, Thomas AD, Randal Bollinger R, Parker W (2009) Comparative anatomy and phylogenetic distribution of the mammalian cecal appendix. J Evol Biol. 2009 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print]

113 Comments

If this was the “awful” part (NOT!), I’m really looking forward to reading the interesting part.

Scientists unintentionally give creationists ammunition all the time. Heck, sometimes they don’t even NEED to quote mine - we do the work for them. I remember cringing when Steven Pinker talked about evolution “orthodoxy” while attacking fellow scientists with whom he disagreed in his book “How the Mind Works.”

Let’s also remind the authors of that paper that whatever function may be assignable to the appendix, it is not an essential one. The appendix can be removed without any effect other than eliminating the risk of appendicitis.

The appendix can be removed without any effect other than eliminating the risk of appendicitis.

Unless there’s something to the idea of it being a reservoir for use in repopulating the local bacterial ecosystem, which would be relevant only in the event of a local ecological disaster within the digestive tract.

But anyway, imnsho, the main error in this kind of argument is the implication that evolution theory depends on any one piece of data. What it depends on is overall patterns that are expected if theory is correct, and not expected if it’s wrong, and any real argument against it would have to address that.

Henry

Benjamin Carson:The Pediatric Neurosurgeon with Gifted Hands

ACTS&FACTS • J A N U A RY 2 0 0 9 J e r r y B e r gma n , P h . D .

He added that 150 years after Darwin, there is still no evidence for evolution. It’s just not there. But when you bring that up to the proponents of Darwinism, the best explanation they can come up with is “Well…uh…it’s lost!”…I find it requires too much faith for me to believe that explanation given all the fossils we have found without any fossilized evidence of the direct, step-by-step evolutionary progression from simple to complex organisms or from one species to another species. Shrugging and saying, “Well, it was mysteriously lost, and we’ll probably never find it,” doesn’t seem like a particularly satisfying, objective, or scientific response.10

Carson concluded that the “plausibility of evolution is further strained by Darwin’s assertion that within fifty to one hundred years of his time, scientists would become geologically sophisticated enough to find the fossil remains of the entire evolutionary tree in an unequivocal step-by-step progression of life from amoeba to man.”11

References 9. Carson, B. S. 2008. Take the Risk. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 126. 10. Ibid, 130. 11. Ibid, 129.

Dr. Bergman is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Toledo Medical School in Ohio.

henry, you are a quote mining moron. No one here with even a shred of decency, integrity or honesty believes any of the lies you copy and paste, so please go away.

Henry,

When you can quote from a scientific journal instead of Act Like You Have the Facts then maybe someone will listen. Until then keep your flatulance to yourself.

Still Trolling For Grades, I see.

Sad, really.

Sigh, Monday and Henry’s once again setting up for another week of trolling.

OK, Henry, so what does “Benjamin Carson:The Pediatric Neurosurgeon with Gifted Hands” say about the nylon bug, or lenski’s long-term e-coli experiments ?

Oh, that’s right, Carson says nothing about some of the most significant research in the field.

Hmm. now I wonder why that is?

Carson does take time to say Darrwin is shot down by his prediction that a step-by-step progression would be found, but then totally glosses over the fact that most of it has been found already.

In short, your expert with the magic hands is a classic creationist. He’s got an impressive day job but he knows jack shit about what he’s talking about when it comes to science.

He waves his hands and ignores not only the elephant in the room, but the fact that there are many people in the room jumping up and down saying “Hey! Look! there’s a freakin’ elephant in here with us, moron!. Big gray thing! Over here!”.

Am I wrong? Then point me to where he discusses the implications of the known homonid fossils.

(Que the sound of chirping crickits while we await a change of subject form Henry).

henry, please answer for the LIES I pointed out in your ICR propaganda from 2.5 months ago before posting any more of that garbage.

And by the way, asking a medical doctor about evolution is like asking an astronaut about relativity.

Having had a chance to skim the paper now, I think that the press comments PZ cites are the real problem. The paragraph about Darwin in the actual paper is relatively benign. Also the paper is well-entrenched in the evolution of cecae and the appendix, so I don’t think creationists could get away with much here. Nevertheless, I await the lying and omission from ICR…

KP said:

henry, please answer for the LIES I pointed out in your ICR propaganda from 2.5 months ago before posting any more of that garbage.

And by the way, asking a medical doctor about evolution is like asking an astronaut about relativity.

Just in case you’ve missed the introduction to the article, here’s the second paragraph.

Dr. Carson is a leading research scientist. A “voracious reader of the medical and scientific literature” from his graduate school days, he has long been very interested in scientific research and has been very active in this area for his entire career,5, 6 with over 120 major scientific publications in peer reviewed journals, 38 books and book chapters, and grant awards of almost a million dollars. His achievements have so far earned him 51 honorary doctorates, including from Yale and Columbia Universities.

5. Green-Bishop, J. February 2004. The Healing of a Healer. Dallas Weekly. 6. Carson, B. S. 1990. Gifted Hands. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Henry wrote:

“Dr. Carson is a leading research scientist. A “voracious reader of the medical and scientific literature” from his graduate school days, he has long been very interested in scientific research and has been very active in this area for his entire career,5, 6 with over 120 major scientific publications in peer reviewed journals,…”

Great, so why don’t you quote from one of those articles? Act Like You Have the Facts is definately not one of them. Here is a hint Henry, no one is interested on his musing about life on Mars either.

henry said:

Benjamin Carson:The Pediatric Neurosurgeon with Gifted Hands

ACTS&FACTS • J A N U A RY 2 0 0 9 J e r r y B e r gma n , P h . D .

He added that 150 years after Darwin, there is still no evidence for evolution. It’s just not there. But when you bring that up to the proponents of Darwinism, the best explanation they can come up with is “Well…uh…it’s lost!”

Please, henry, find me one instance of a “proponent of Darwinism” saying “Well … uh … it’s lost!”.

I’ll give you a hand in your search: Google can’t find any such instance, only an instance of Dr. Carson claiming that “proponents of Darwinism” say this.

Dr. Carson seems to have not only gifted hands, but a gifted, creative, lying imagination.

So, henry, our quote-mining moron, please explain why Dr Carson has not received the Nobel Prize in Biology for disproving Evolutionary and General Biology?

Oh, wait, that’s because Dr Carson and you are nothing but Liars for Jesus.

stevaroni said:

Sigh, Monday and Henry’s once again setting up for another week of trolling.

OK, Henry, so what does “Benjamin Carson:The Pediatric Neurosurgeon with Gifted Hands” say about the nylon bug, or lenski’s long-term e-coli experiments ?

Oh, that’s right, Carson says nothing about some of the most significant research in the field.

Hmm. now I wonder why that is?

Carson does take time to say Darrwin is shot down by his prediction that a step-by-step progression would be found, but then totally glosses over the fact that most of it has been found already.

In short, your expert with the magic hands is a classic creationist. He’s got an impressive day job but he knows jack shit about what he’s talking about when it comes to science.

He waves his hands and ignores not only the elephant in the room, but the fact that there are many people in the room jumping up and down saying “Hey! Look! there’s a freakin’ elephant in here with us, moron!. Big gray thing! Over here!”.

Am I wrong? Then point me to where he discusses the implications of the known homonid fossils.

(Que the sound of chirping crickits while we await a change of subject form Henry).

I can’t tell about Dr. Carson’s view on the nylon bug, Lenski’s e-coli experiments, or homonid fossils, but I wouldn’t be surprised that he rejected these as any evidence. After 40,000 generations of e-coli, you still have e-coli. That wouldn’t change after 40 million or 40 billion or 40 trillion generations. They are still e-coli.

“We’re closed.” – henry’s mind.

Dr Carson deserves my unqualified respect, and has it. He is a particularly distinguished neurosurgeon, and by all accounts a fine human being.

But he is not a geneticist, nor a molecular biologist, nor a physicist, nor a biochemist, nor a paleontologist. His many peer-reviewed publications are, rightly, significant contributions to his field, outside of which he is a layman. A well-informed layman, and an intelligent one, certainly, but still a layman. He is entitled to his opinion, as are we all, but it is no more than opinion.

I know of no peer-reviewed publication in which he produces evidence challenging the Theory of Evolution, or rebuts the evidence for it. I very much doubt that he would be able to, notwithstanding his eminence in his field. His remarks on the subject were given informally, and consist essentially of saying that no evidence for the theory satisfies him, although he unreasonably hyperbolises this to the point of saying that there is no evidence.

He is wrong. There is evidence. At least five main heads converge on the Theory of Evolution: perfect nesting of living things; genetics; biochemistry and molecular biology; the fossil record; and actual observation of speciation in the laboratory and the field. This evidence has been presented in enormous detail and depth in peer-reviewed journals, specifically so that it can be verified and tested exhaustively. It is powerful. It is compelling. It is consistent.

If Dr Carson, or anyone, thinks that they can challenge that evidence, then let them. Dr Carson, for all his eminence, has not done it. I’m sure he would like to add a Nobel Prize to his various other honours. Striking a fatal blow against the Theory of Evolution would be the best way to win one. But he hasn’t done it yet.

henry said:

I can’t tell about Dr. Carson’s view on the nylon bug, Lenski’s e-coli experiments, or homonid fossils, but I wouldn’t be surprised that he rejected these as any evidence. After 40,000 generations of e-coli, you still have e-coli. That wouldn’t change after 40 million or 40 billion or 40 trillion generations. They are still e-coli.

Can you at least write the name correctly? It’s E. coli. If you really want to be correct it should be italicized: E. coli. But it’s not e-coli any more than its h-sapiens.

Henry wrote:

“After 40,000 generations of e-coli, you still have e-coli. That wouldn’t change after 40 million or 40 billion or 40 trillion generations. They are still e-coli.”

Wrong again Henry. Here is a reference from Lenski’s work that documents speciation in action after just 20,000 generations:

PNAS 96(13):7348-7351 (1999)

Now just in case you don’t happen to read the reference, allow me to summarize for you. Mutations were discoverd that allow for increased genetic divergence leading to the production of new species. The mutations are documented and their ability to produce new species is demonstrated.

Perhaps Dr. Carson would like to publish a rebuttal of Lenski’s nearly two hundred articles in peer reviewed journals regarding his E. coli experiments. Perhaps he can describe in detail a mechanism that can somehow limit genetic divergence. Perhaps he can explain exactly how such a mechanism operates. Or perhaps his opinions are just worthless.

Look Henry, if you really believed that 40 trillion generations would not produce anything different then you would be performing the experiment. Are you doing this Henry? We eagerly await the publication of your results.

fnxtr said:

“We’re closed.” – henry’s mind.

No, henry’s mind has been forced into the religious equivalent of a drug induced coma from which it will probably never awaken from.

I mean, seriously, what sort of moron tries to win by trying to invalidate evolution by saying that evolutionary biology experiments with Escherichia coli “e-coli” (sic) are no good because they’re “still bacteria”? Oh, wait, the sort of moron who piths himself to make God happy, and has intellectual integrity inferior to even a used car salesman.

40,000 generations of e-coli, you still have e-coli. That wouldn’t change after 40 million or 40 billion or 40 trillion generations. They are still e-coli.

Um, no.

After 40,000 generations you clearly have a different E.coli than you started with. Quite significantly diferent inasmuch as this new bug can live off an entirely different food source.

Imagine, for a moment, how that kind of modification might affect macro animals - if, for example, there was suddenly a species of tigers that could live off grass instead of antelope - and you get some concept of how big the difference really is in terms of new habitat that has suddenly opened up.

After 40 million generations ( about 20,000 years at this rate - a pittance in the geological timescale ) you’d have something 1000 times as different.

And so on, and so on.

the problem here, henry isn’t that the numbers aren’t big enough to do the work, it’s that your imagination isn’t big enough to understand the implications of really huge numbers.

stevaroni said:

Imagine, for a moment, how that kind of modification might affect macro animals - if, for example, there was suddenly a species of tigers that could live off grass instead of antelope - and you get some concept of how big the difference really is in terms of new habitat that has suddenly opened up.

After 40 million generations ( about 20,000 years at this rate - a pittance in the geological timescale ) you’d have something 1000 times as different.

And so on, and so on.

the problem here, henry isn’t that the numbers aren’t big enough to do the work, it’s that your imagination isn’t big enough to understand the implications of really huge numbers.

:-)

I really like your analogy.

And it also illustrates just how determined the ID/creationist mind is to distort the science in order to retain sectarian dogma.

You can just see them screaming, covering their eyes, and plugging their ears to avoid any deadly encounters with evidence.

Isn’t the lack of ability to utilize citrate one of the defining characteristics of E. coli in the first place? As in, one of the features that helps you differentiate it from similar but different species of bacteria?

Wheels said:

Isn’t the lack of ability to utilize citrate one of the defining characteristics of E. coli in the first place? As in, one of the features that helps you differentiate it from similar but different species of bacteria?

I wonder if this works with cats.

We had a cat that loved fruit, such as oranges, grapefruit, apples, etc.; but it didn’t care much for tuna. It would eat cat food.

It lived to a ripe old age of about 15 years.

We had a cat that loved fruit, such as oranges, grapefruit, apples, etc.

Wow! Both of ours recoil in terror whenever they try to mooch food from my wife and I and it inadvertently turns out to be fruit.

Dan said:

henry said:

I can’t tell about Dr. Carson’s view on the nylon bug, Lenski’s e-coli experiments, or homonid fossils, but I wouldn’t be surprised that he rejected these as any evidence. After 40,000 generations of e-coli, you still have e-coli. That wouldn’t change after 40 million or 40 billion or 40 trillion generations. They are still e-coli.

Can you at least write the name correctly? It’s E. coli. If you really want to be correct it should be italicized: E. coli. But it’s not e-coli any more than its h-sapiens.

I stand corrected. Thanks.

Dave Luckett said:

Dr Carson deserves my unqualified respect, and has it. He is a particularly distinguished neurosurgeon, and by all accounts a fine human being.

But he is not a geneticist, nor a molecular biologist, nor a physicist, nor a biochemist, nor a paleontologist. His many peer-reviewed publications are, rightly, significant contributions to his field, outside of which he is a layman. A well-informed layman, and an intelligent one, certainly, but still a layman. He is entitled to his opinion, as are we all, but it is no more than opinion.

I know of no peer-reviewed publication in which he produces evidence challenging the Theory of Evolution, or rebuts the evidence for it. I very much doubt that he would be able to, notwithstanding his eminence in his field. His remarks on the subject were given informally, and consist essentially of saying that no evidence for the theory satisfies him, although he unreasonably hyperbolises this to the point of saying that there is no evidence.

He is wrong. There is evidence. At least five main heads converge on the Theory of Evolution: perfect nesting of living things; genetics; biochemistry and molecular biology; the fossil record; and actual observation of speciation in the laboratory and the field. This evidence has been presented in enormous detail and depth in peer-reviewed journals, specifically so that it can be verified and tested exhaustively. It is powerful. It is compelling. It is consistent.

If Dr Carson, or anyone, thinks that they can challenge that evidence, then let them. Dr Carson, for all his eminence, has not done it. I’m sure he would like to add a Nobel Prize to his various other honours. Striking a fatal blow against the Theory of Evolution would be the best way to win one. But he hasn’t done it yet.

This is an interesting comment regarding Dr. Gould’s book.

Evolutionary Arrogance by Henry Morris, Ph.D.

In his gigantic magnum opus, Dr. Gould provides a valuable historical review of the development of evolutionary theory, including the many conflicts among the evolutionists themselves, but in his 1433 pages neglected to provide a single proof of macroevolution. The same was true of the esteemed Ernst Mayr who, in his own recent textbook9 could cite no such proof. Yet he had the gall to make the pronouncement that “every knowing person agrees that man is descended from the apes.”10

References 2.Ernst Mayr, What Evolution Is (New York: Basic Books, 2001), p. xiii.

6.Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press, 2002), p. 984. 9.Ernst Mayr, op cit. 10.Ernst Mayr, “Interview,” Omni (March/April 1988), p. 46, emphasis supplied.

Dave Luckett said:

Dr Carson deserves my unqualified respect, and has it. He is a particularly distinguished neurosurgeon, and by all accounts a fine human being.

But he is not a geneticist, nor a molecular biologist, nor a physicist, nor a biochemist, nor a paleontologist.

and henry replied:

This is an interesting comment regarding Dr. Gould’s book.

Evolutionary Arrogance by Henry Morris, Ph.D.

In his gigantic magnum opus, Dr. Gould provides a valuable historical review of the development of evolutionary theory, including the many conflicts among the evolutionists themselves, but in his 1433 pages neglected to provide a single proof of macroevolution.

Would that be Henry Morris, Ph.D., Hydraulic engineering(1950)? Strange how you try to address a challenge to the relevance of a neurosurgeon’s opinions on evolution by quoting an Hydraulic Engineer.

And Henry, only one single proof of anything is required, by definition. But science does not deal in proof, but in the most likely explanation of evidence. Faced with the mountains of evidence that scientific investigation has provided about the history of life, a rational person is left with only two possibilities:

A)Life slowly developed over billions of years, either unguided or guided in unknown ways by an unknown intelligence.

B)Life was created by an unknown intelligence at some unknown time in the past with billions of years of perfectly faked history.

Science can never establish which. However, for me personally, Option B requires such a huge level of deceit from said Intelligence that I would not trust a word It said, let alone what It was reported to have said, about what It expected me to do to keep It happy.

“No true goats paying attention” fallacy.

Baaaaaaaaaaaa!

DS said:

Henry wrote:

“7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”

Yea, so how did that work out for him? Was he successful? Doesn’t seem like very intelligent design to me. Let’s see, man, who I created, is so wicked I must destroy him. I know, why don’t I wipe out the birds as well. Yea, that’s it, man is wicked so I’ll wipe out the birds. Perfect.

What about the dinosaurs, did they build their own ark? If so, did Noah sink them? Is that what happened to the dinosaurs? Enquiring minds want to know.

Dinosaur Ranks Shrink as Species Numbers Dwindle by Brian Thomas, M.S.*

Creation scientists, working from the premise that certain features of many created kinds are able to undergo variation between generations, have estimated that there may have been only 60 or fewer dinosaur kinds, totaling up to 120 individuals (male and female) on Noah’s Ark.6 The few dinosaur kinds that were able to grow to enormous sizes were likely taken on board as juveniles, and considering that most dinosaurs were not much larger than turkeys, it is certainly feasible that Noah boarded dinosaur passengers.

The existence of dinosaurs presents no problem for the Genesis account of the Flood, and having too many named species does not translate into too many animals for the massive barge that Noah’s family built.7

References

6. Were Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark? Creation Ministries International. Posted on creation.com July 26, 2000, accessed October 12, 2009. 7. “If, as the preponderance of evidence shows, the created kind was equivalent to the family (at least in the case of mammals and birds), then there were only about 2,000 animals on the Ark.” Woodmorappe, J. 1996. Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study. Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research, 7.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on October 13, 2009.

I read that, and now I’ve got the stupid all over me. I swear, if this goes on, we’re going to need to increase the units. It’s like computing, for pete’s sake. We started in kilobits, now we’re into gigabites. But henry’s last post (oh, how I wish it would sound!) is calibrated in terastupids.

Dave Luckett said:

I read that, and now I’ve got the stupid all over me. I swear, if this goes on, we’re going to need to increase the units. It’s like computing, for pete’s sake. We started in kilobits, now we’re into gigabites. But henry’s last post (oh, how I wish it would sound!) is calibrated in terastupids.

henry is a teramoron. I mean, honestly, we’ve pointed out to the twit that anything written by any of the malicious morons at the ICR is nothing but bullshit. And now he trots out Ark-dinosaur inanity. I mean, one gets the distinct impression that he has brain damage because one or more of his caretakers had repeatedly tried and failed to smother him with a plastic bag.

Rilke’s Granddaughter said:

The ICR website is mostly composed of lies. This is no different.

henry said:

henry said:

Stanton said:

henry said:

Great imagination. It must be a trait of real scientists.

Yes it is, actually. Unlike in creationists, like yourself, who ridicule people who understand how utterly ridiculous trying to explain how the diversity of life is as according to a literal reading of a book of badly retranslated Bronze Age religious poetry.

Biblical Data Is Historically Testable

The Bible has become a significant source book for secular archaeology, helping to identify such ancient figures as Sargon (Isaiah 20:1); Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:37); Horam of Gazer (Joshua 10:33); Hazar (Joshua 15:27); and the nation of the Hittites (Genesis 15:20). The biblical record, unlike other “scriptures,” is historically set, opening itself up for testing and verification.

Two of the greatest 20th-century archaeologists, William F. Albright and Nelson Glueck, both lauded the Bible (even though they were non-Christian and secular in their training and personal beliefs) as being the single most accurate source document from history. Over and over again, the Bible has been found to be accurate in its places, dates, and records of events. No other “religious” document comes even close.

This is taken from the ICR website.

Did you see Stevaroni’s comment at 651pm?

At least he gave some credit to the historical accuracy of the Bible instead of being trigger happy with the ICR lies gun.

henry, nobody ever said that the Bible is totally wrong in everything. In fact, there’s a lot of good stuff therein. What we are saying (are you listening, henry?) is that it ain’t necessarily so. You got that? If not, what part of it don’t you understand?

Moronhenry said:

Did you see Stevaroni’s comment at 651pm?

At least he gave some credit to the historical accuracy of the Bible instead of being trigger happy with the ICR lies gun.

Except that it has been repeatedly demonstrated that the Institute for Creation Research does indeed lie, especially whenever it talks about evolution, biology, paleontology, geology, or anything remotely scientific. You insist on being blind to the fact that the Institute’s screeds are both grossly inaccurate and intentionally libelous.

Also, Moronhenry, you fail to explain why we should trust the Bible as a scientific authority based on your claims that it is historically accurate.

Dave Luckett said:

henry, nobody ever said that the Bible is totally wrong in everything. In fact, there’s a lot of good stuff therein. What we are saying (are you listening, henry?) is that it ain’t necessarily so. You got that? If not, what part of it don’t you understand?

The part that Moronhenry refuses to understand is the part where we aren’t grovelling in agreement to his allegedly sage-like proclamations.

Dan said:

henry said:

[T]he fossil record shows a massive graveyard in which billions of creatures were buried rapidly, not slowly over millions of years, on a global scale.

Wow! Where is this massive graveyard? If this graveyard is “global”, why haven’t I found evidence of it in all my fossil hunting in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Colorado, California, New Jersey, and Maine?

You must have hunted in the wrong places.

Dave Luckett mentioned in the comment prior to yours that the sediments are hundreds of feet thick, worldwide and have billions and billions of remains of living creatures.

DS said:

Henry,

Check out this web site:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH581.html

It contains a detailed refutation of all of the flood nonsense regarding the Grand Canyon. And by the way, we now understand the geology that created the canyon over millions of years quite well. Science is a wonderful thing, you should try it sometime.

As for your St. Helens calim, this site pretty much puts the lie to that as well:

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/[…]CH581_1.html

Now Henry, how do you think it is that detailed refutations, (complete with references), already exist for every claim you make? Could it be that you are just spouting nonsense spoon fed to you be creationist nut jobs? Could it be that you have swallowed their crap hook line and sinker? Could it be that you have never done any real research for yourself? Could it be that you just trust wahtever these guy throw out without questioning it? Could it be that you have no evidence at all to support any of your claims?

Now Henry, you can ignore all of this evidence if you want. That has been your pattern in the past. However, if you choose to ignore the evidence, the only one you will fool will be yourself. And no one cares what you think.

The talkorigins website lists 10 points.

Each point is countered in the creation wiki website and none of them mentioned GODDIDIT.

henry originally said:

Layer after layer were laid in rapid succession leaving the sedimentary structures intact, which would have been destroyed in a matter of weeks by plant life or animal life. There would be no sedimentary structures in the fossil record if it took millions of years to create it.

So, henry, you now admit that beds of sedimentary rocks are in fact the remains of countless small sea creatures, which means that living things did not “destroy” the sedimentary structures; on the contrary, they built them. You have already stated, correctly, that there are many beds of such sediments.

Now all you have to do is the measurement and the math, and you will find, as the geologists of the early nineteenth century found, that there is no conceivable way that the numbers involved could have been laid down in one year. That would take millions of times more of these lifeforms than exist in any one year on Earth. Further, the multiple even layers cannot be explained by a single catastrophic event, and can only be explained by repeated inundations, but very gradual ones, over enormous spans of time.

As soon as you start using terms like “graveyard”, meaning a specific separate area where the dead are taken and deliberately buried, you introduce misunderstandings. No such “graveyard” exists, but often there are fossilised remains of larger and more spectacular lifeforms within the sedimentary rock layers. These are often specific to a given stratum, another fact that a single-flood model does not explain.

Sorry, henry, but your dog won’t hunt. You can’t introduce a loose, inaccurate and colloquial term into the debate, and then crow because your opponents differ on its meaning. That’s just silly.

Henry wrote:

“The talkorigins website lists 10 points.

Each point is countered in the creation wiki website and none of them mentioned GODDIDIT.”

Each point may be “countered”, but none of the points is refuted and none of the counter arguments contains anything from the scientific literature. Arguing is not evidence. Refusing to believe something is not evidence. Made up crap is not evidence.

The Grand Canyon was formed over millions of years. We understand the hydrology involved. We can date the rock layers and the fossils in the Grand Canyon bit in aboslute and in relative terms. If you can’t understand it or don’t want to believe it, that’s too bad.

Exactly how deep do you think that the Grand Canyon is? Exactly how many different layers are found in it? Exactly where are fossils found in it? Exactly why are there fossils of marine organisms in it? Exactly why are the rock layers and the fossils in the same relative order as everywhere else in the world? Exactly how could hydrologic sorting produce this pattern? Exactly why do the relative and absolute ages agree with each other so precisely? Exacly how were the layers formed and cut through all at once by the magic flood? Exaclty how do you explain the lava layers from the volcanic eruptions that occured later? Exactly why haven’t you published your evidence for everyone to see? Exactly why are your conclusions rejected by the entire scientific community? Exactly why should anyone care what you think?

Here is a hint for you Henry, almost everything on every creationist web site is a lie. That’s why they have web sites, they don’t publish anything in the scoientific literature. That’s why they don’t have any references. That’s why they need to lie to people. The only question Henry is, why did you fall for it?

Oh, and as far as not explicitly saying GODDIDIT, exactly what explanation did they give? Exactly what does “creation” mean? Exactly why did they omit thier main point? You really should ask thyem that.

DS said:

Oh, and as far as not explicitly saying GODDIDIT, exactly what explanation did they give?

They, like typical creationists, alternate between saying “We say that the Bible said so, therefore God said so,” and “Scientists can’t be trusted on anything about science because they’re evil cultists who worship Darwin as the unquestioned messiah of Satan, therefore, we’re right.”

Dave Luckett said:

henry originally said:

Layer after layer were laid in rapid succession leaving the sedimentary structures intact, which would have been destroyed in a matter of weeks by plant life or animal life. There would be no sedimentary structures in the fossil record if it took millions of years to create it.

So, henry, you now admit that beds of sedimentary rocks are in fact the remains of countless small sea creatures, which means that living things did not “destroy” the sedimentary structures; on the contrary, they built them. You have already stated, correctly, that there are many beds of such sediments.

Now all you have to do is the measurement and the math, and you will find, as the geologists of the early nineteenth century found, that there is no conceivable way that the numbers involved could have been laid down in one year. That would take millions of times more of these lifeforms than exist in any one year on Earth. Further, the multiple even layers cannot be explained by a single catastrophic event, and can only be explained by repeated inundations, but very gradual ones, over enormous spans of time.

As soon as you start using terms like “graveyard”, meaning a specific separate area where the dead are taken and deliberately buried, you introduce misunderstandings. No such “graveyard” exists, but often there are fossilised remains of larger and more spectacular lifeforms within the sedimentary rock layers. These are often specific to a given stratum, another fact that a single-flood model does not explain.

Sorry, henry, but your dog won’t hunt. You can’t introduce a loose, inaccurate and colloquial term into the debate, and then crow because your opponents differ on its meaning. That’s just silly.

Wikipedia has an entry on sedimentary structure. It’s about the surface features on the sedimentary rocks, not the contents, such as the fossils. The ripples on the rocks, the directions of the currents, etc. were in the ICR article, but I can’t quote the entire article, due to limitations on this website and the ICR website.

The flood occurred about 1556 years after Creation. What isn’t known is how many creatures were originally created, how fast they reproduced, how long they lived.

Henry,

You are definately making progress. Now all you have to do is stop reading Wikipedia and ICR and start reading the scientific literature. Then maybe you will really learn something. Now if you are unable to read the scientific literature or you are unwilling to do so, then you will never learn anything.

By the way, do you have an answer for any of the eleven questions I asked you?

henry,

You are proposing that the earth’s limestones, which consist mainly of the hard body parts of tiny sea creatures, took a few thousand years to precipitate, compact, undergo the observed processes of uplift, folding, faulting and erosion, and then (in many cases) have other sediments deposited on top of them, often multiple times.

Just for starters, henry, this would take precipitation rates tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of times faster than any known. That, in turn, would require far more living creatures than the Earth’s oceans could possibly support. But that is only the start of the compounded impossibilities that your idea demands.

And all this in order to warp reality enough to fit God into a picayune time frame where He has to perform miracles to order, or else your faith is broken. That’s a pretty fragile faith, henry.

Dave Luckett said:

*snipping summary of henry’s moronic proposal*

And all this {that the earth’s limestone all precipitated over the course of 1500 years before the Flood} in order to warp reality enough to fit God into a picayune time frame where He has to perform miracles to order, or else your faith is broken. That’s a pretty fragile faith, henry.

Such is always the case of people who conflate piety with ignorance and stupidity. You threaten their ignorance and stupidity, you threaten their faith in God.

The flood occurred about 1556 years after Creation.

Wouldn’t that mean that the pyramids would have been made out of limestone that had only existed for a couple of hundred years at that point? Limestone that we know would have been at or very near the surface (where the Egyptians could get to it) and not off being compressed under thousands of feet of other sediments.

And, of course, we know pretty much exactly what un compressed limestone looks like, because we can see it at the Cliffs of Dover.

Pretty, but kind of more suitable for chalkboards than the significantly more structural task of holding up pyramids.

Henry,

If you want a good Wikipedia article on the geology of the Grand Canyon, try this one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geolog[…]_Canyon_area

It describes the layers, the fossils, the volanic eruptions, the excavation by the Colorado River and the dating of the layers. It also has eighty references form the scientific literature. Guess what, it doesn’t agree with your idea of a young earth. Oh well, live and learn. Or you could just keep on denying the real science. No one really cares.

stevaroni said:

Henry whines…

Everybody has a worldview which means everyone has a closed mind in some way.

Yes. My particular unreasonable bias is that ignoring the simple, easily demonstrated laws of nature is stupid.

Pretending that the simple, easily demonstrated laws of nature don’t even exist because of a few pages in some bronze-age book instructing the religious life of nomadic shepherds is moronic.

And trying to use the use the organs of the state to persuade children that the simple, easily demonstrated laws of nature don’t even exist (because frankly, ya gotta get ‘em young, otherwise, if they actually get to reason it out for themselves, they see right through the charade) is downright criminal.

I can imagine that one day someone will turn on the lights in the room and everyone will see that the elephants in the room are just stuffed animals.

Science turned the lights on 300 years ago, Henry. It’s not for nothing that the period before that, when the church controlled the switch, was called the dark ages.

Making the theory of evolution equal to the basic laws of nature is unreasonable.

The Scopes monkey trial of 1925 showed that evolution was on the outside trying to get in.

In 1933, both creation and evolution were taught together.

In 1955, evolution became the dominant worldview.

It looks like for most of the past 300 years, evolution didn’t have much of an impact.

It looks like for most of the past 300 years, evolution didn’t have much of an impact.

Yawn.

There is more to science than evolution, you know, henry. But once again, you choose to address semantics over substance. I’m shocked.

The 300 years is a reference to the time period when people stopped guessing and started measuring. It’s the era of Newton, among others, the beginning of “science” as a concept of it’s own.

(I know people will quibble, but I rather think of the pioneers of Renaissance science more as science hobbyists than hardcore scientists)

Anyhow, it’s illustrative to point out how much progress has been made in the last 100 years as opposed to the 1700 years of relative stagnation before that.

Making the theory of evolution equal to the basic laws of nature is unreasonable.

Why?

Evolution was well understood accepted within the field by the 1870’s, long before electromagnetic radiation, quantum mechanics or semiconductors, yet all those much younger things are more “reasonable” to accept as basic laws of nature to you? based on what criterion?

In 1955, evolution became the dominant worldview.

Among the general populace, perhaps, but among the people working in the field, there hasn’t been serious doubt for 120 years.

And frankly, the general population is pretty poor at evaluating the validity of natural laws anyway. Try asking your neighbor about Maxwell’s equations or Boyle’s laws while your standing in line at the local fast food emporium tomorrow.

Ask him how many times you are likely to have to flip a coin to see 8 heads.

Ask him which has more “specified information”, the New York Times classified section or an 8x10 photo of gravel on the beach.

Hell, henry, what exactly do you know about Maxwell’s equations or Boyle’s laws without a trip to wikipedia? (or conservapedia, whatever)

Henry,

Learned anything about the Grand Canyon yet? Willing to admit you were wrong yet?

As far as the Scopes trial is concerned, that was the last trial lost by the pro-science side. How are you going to spin that as a positive thing for YEC? Now what do you think it was that convinced all of those scientists, including the Christians?

stevaroni said:

It looks like for most of the past 300 years, evolution didn’t have much of an impact.

Yawn.

There is more to science than evolution, you know, henry. But once again, you choose to address semantics over substance. I’m shocked.

The 300 years is a reference to the time period when people stopped guessing and started measuring. It’s the era of Newton, among others, the beginning of “science” as a concept of it’s own.

(I know people will quibble, but I rather think of the pioneers of Renaissance science more as science hobbyists than hardcore scientists)

Anyhow, it’s illustrative to point out how much progress has been made in the last 100 years as opposed to the 1700 years of relative stagnation before that.

Making the theory of evolution equal to the basic laws of nature is unreasonable.

Why?

Evolution was well understood accepted within the field by the 1870’s, long before electromagnetic radiation, quantum mechanics or semiconductors, yet all those much younger things are more “reasonable” to accept as basic laws of nature to you? based on what criterion?

In 1955, evolution became the dominant worldview.

Among the general populace, perhaps, but among the people working in the field, there hasn’t been serious doubt for 120 years.

And frankly, the general population is pretty poor at evaluating the validity of natural laws anyway. Try asking your neighbor about Maxwell’s equations or Boyle’s laws while your standing in line at the local fast food emporium tomorrow.

Ask him how many times you are likely to have to flip a coin to see 8 heads.

Ask him which has more “specified information”, the New York Times classified section or an 8x10 photo of gravel on the beach.

Hell, henry, what exactly do you know about Maxwell’s equations or Boyle’s laws without a trip to wikipedia? (or conservapedia, whatever)

Both Maxwell, the father of Electromagnetic Theory, and Boyle, the father of Modern Chemistry, were Christians and defended the Bible.

These quotes are from ICR’s articles.

Conflicts between science and the Bible, Boyle explained, were either due to a mistake in science or an incorrect interpretation of Scripture. Even when some revelations are thought not only to transcend reason, but to clash with it, it is to be considered whether such doctrines are really repugnant to any absolute catholic rule of reason, or only to something which depends upon the measure of acquired information we enjoy.

Darwin’s Origin of Species was published during Maxwell’s lifetime. Maxwell was not convinced evolution was a viable theory of origins, nor was he afraid to speak on the matter: No theory of evolution can be formed to account for the similarity of molecules, for evolution necessarily implies continuous change, and the molecule is incapable of growth or decay, or generation or destruction.…Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on August 22, 2009 10:47 AM.

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