Evolution Videos and More

| 42 Comments

Today I received this e-mail:

In spite of the (lack of) punctuation in the first line, the links led me to several excellent, convincing, and professional-looking videos with titles like “Evolution is REAL Science #1.” A few more clicks, and I found the home page of the producer, Jeremy Mohn, as well as his blog.

Mr. Mohn describes himself as a “lone” Kansas biology teacher standing up to powerful anti-science interests. As far as I can see, he is doing a good job.

Mr. Mohn is “also a religious believer who accepts evolution as one of God’s creations,” and he refers you to his personal Web page, An Evolving Creation. I was, shall we say, less impressed with that effort and especially unimpressed with the hackneyed argument that God limits himself, herself, or itself so that we can gain experience on our own. I mostly skimmed his essay, but I was somewhat taken aback by the bizarre translation of Psalm 135:13 (not to mention Genesis 1:1), and I cannot fathom how that verse tells us that God is “outside of time,” whatever that means.

My unsolicited advice: Mr. Mohn should not quit his biology job, and you should watch his videos and send the links to anyone who will pay attention to them.

42 Comments

Thanks, Matt, for the kind words.

Don’t worry, I’m not planning on quitting my day job as a Biology teacher. Hopefully, my personal theological musings won’t deter anyone from considering the evidence for evolution that is presented in my videos.

Also, I must mention that I am no longer a “lone” Kansas biology teacher. For the last two years, I’ve been standing up for REAL science with my co-blogger Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a Kansas physics teacher.

Finally, that “bizarre translation” of the Bible is from The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language.” Technically, it’s not a translation. It’s an attempt to paraphrase the original languages of the Bible in a way that connects with modern readers. I chose to use it for my essay because it blended better with my own writing style.

Jeremy and Cheryl are awesome and fight the good fight against IDCreationism being taught in our schools. We need more like them.

I really like your videos. Really interesting science made understandable for everyone. And the presentation is quite good too. Must have cost you a lot of time and effort. Outstanding work.

Jeremy Mohn said:

Also, I must mention that I am no longer a “lone” Kansas biology teacher. For the last two years, I’ve been standing up for REAL science with my co-blogger Cheryl Shepherd-Adams, a Kansas physics teacher.

I appreciate Teacher Mohn and Teacher Sheperd-Adams for taking the time and effort to explain the real science behind evolution. May your tribe increase!

As for your personal theological views, Sir, you have the right to have them. And you are taking effort to keep your personal views separate from the science and education part of your calling. That must be commended by all science supporters.

Further your personal theological views will attest, if such a corroboration is really needed, that NOT all people who accept evolution are crazy atheist Darwin worshipers. Thank you. You both made me think the tide is turning after all.

If Cheryl Shepherd-Adams is connected with this effort, then I’m all for it.

I’ll add my accolades to the work of Jeremy and Cheryl, both of whom in various ways have been engaged in defending the teaching of evolution and fighting the creationists in Kansas for a long time. I recommend that people bookmark their blog and check in once in a while. You won’t find long and contentious comment threads, but you will find good resources on a regular basis.

I am gratified to know that Mr. Mohn won’t quit his day job and also that his tribe has increased by a factor of 2. I also agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Sanders that he has a right to his theological views, and I would add that we will never prevail over creationism without the support of theistic evolutionists.

Mr. Mohn, however, has penned an essay and posted it on the Web; it is therefore fair game for criticism. The essay is a quote-mining of the Bible and, as I noted, of a very strange translation. Indeed, Mr. Mohn avers that it is not a translation at all. If that is so, then it is an inappropriate document to use as a proof text. Additionally, Mr. Mohn claims that God must leave no empirical evidence of his existence in order to grant us free will, and thereby makes his own claims untestable.

I am more impressed by those who simply profess their faith and (unlike various “scientific” creationists and ID creationists) do not make spurious efforts to support it. None of this discussion in any way detracts from the splendid work by Mr. Mohn and now Ms. Shepherd-Adams, or at least it should not.

Matt Young said:

Additionally, Mr. Mohn claims that God must leave no empirical evidence of his existence in order to grant us free will, and thereby makes his own claims untestable.

Yep, that’s the nature of theological arguments. Since they normally involve a supernatural being, they are inherently untestable.

Hopefully, you understand that my essay is not an attempt to provide a scientific argument in support of my faith. In fact, I prefaced it with the disclaimer that these were “theological reflections relating to my personal understanding of evolution.”

Watched the first video. I’ve always wondered why the fused chromosome was presented as a flagship case for human / chimpanzee common ancestry. As presented, it seems equally compatible with

1) Humans and chimps created separately by god - each with 48 chromosomes (the old, “same designer, similar design” logic) 2) At some point after the creation event, the fusion even occurred in the human population.

Now, I’m not saying that’s what *did* happen - but is there any aspect of the chromosome fusion evidence which incompatible with that explanation?

Well, the problem with 1) is that any conceivable happenstance is “compatible” with the idea of “Created separately by God,” even some that would be inexplicable for evolution. So it’s not really a rebuttal. 2) Isn’t really a prediction made by Creation, but it is one that was made by evolution theory prior to the studies that set the record straight about what happened (a competing hypothesis was that the chromosomes of chimps and gorillas fissioned to give them a higher chromosome count). So basically, evolution allows us to predict what we’d find while Creationism cannot. That’s a victory for evolution and a strike for anti-evolution. Scientific ideas are lent credibility by confirming predictions based on them.

Kevin, following up on Wheels comment for the most part the entire “debate” comes down to that same kind of issue. Most Christian theologians as far as I am aware posit an omnipotent diety. So literally God could have done it which ever way he chose and all accounts are equally consistent or inconsistent. Instead what we have is an attempt by people to apply the veneer of scientific authority to their religious beliefs, which doesn’t work because all accounts are equally consistent logically with a God who can do whatever.

Echoing Jeremy’s thanks for the shout-out. And blushing.

May I proudly announce that I have been a subscriber to his YouTube channel since he started posting his excellent videos?

Kevin said: Now, I’m not saying that’s what *did* happen - but is there any aspect of the chromosome fusion evidence which incompatible with that explanation?

Kevin, just look at the double standards you have. For the Creation side, it is enough if they can come up with a vaguely plausible “could-have-been, might-have-been” scenario.

On the other hand the scientists have to prove the evolutionary explanations for the observations beyond all unreasonable doubt.

For comparison let me suggest a vaguely plausible scenario. Lord Krishna very clearly assured Arjuna that

For the protection of the Good, and also for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the firm establishment of [righteousness], I am born from age to age. Gita 4-8

Thus it is possible Lord Vishnu appeared as Jesus in Judea.

Now, I’m not saying that’s what *did* happen - but is there any aspect of birth of Jesus which is incompatible with that explanation, Krishna and Christ are one and the same?

Kevin said: … but is there any aspect of the chromosome fusion evidence which incompatible with that explanation?

NONE WHATSOEVER! Any more than there is evidence that is incompatible with the theory that humans were created with the chromosome fusion in place (JUST to confuse us).

Or the theory that before humans discovered chromosomes, chromosomes didn’t actually exist.

Or, for that matter, that the entire Universe didn’t exist before last Thursday, and that all our memories of the past are fabrications.

Kevin said:

Watched the first video. I’ve always wondered why the fused chromosome was presented as a flagship case for human / chimpanzee common ancestry.

In my video, I present chromosome #2 as an example of how the concept of common ancestry led to a specific prediction that was tested and definitively confirmed. It’s not an argument against any other possible explanation, just an argument in favor of the utility of evolutionary theory.

Watched the first video. I’ve always wondered why the fused chromosome was presented as a flagship case for human / chimpanzee common ancestry…

The important thing about chromosome two is that it could have been that elusive bit of actual evidence for intelligent design.

If it could be demonstrated that our chromosomes were so dramatically different than those of other primates that no explanation other than gene fiddling could be at work, it would be prima facia evidence for IDC.

Evolution makes the prediciton that this was not the case. Evolution predicted that when we someday got to the point where we could examine the genetic material itself, the actual genes would turn out to be the same, and there would be some mundane “bookkeeping” reason for the different chromosome count.

If this prediction had not been verified - if it had turned out that there really was something exceptionally unique about chromosome number two - that would have been the genetic equivalent of finding a rabbit in the Burgess shales - an even that would have cast serious doubt on common descent.

As it turns out, it’s no more mysterious than finding two phonebooks stuck together in a busy kitchen.

Jeremy Mohn Wrote:

It’s not an argument against any other possible explanation, just an argument in favor of the utility of evolutionary theory.

Exactly. And those who think that lineages with fused and unfused versions arose from independent origin-of-life events are free to argue in favor of that without basing it on any arguments against evolution. Yet these days most of them refuse to even speculate on when those two “blessed events” might have occurred.

steveroni wrote:

“The important thing about chromosome two is that it could have been that elusive bit of actual evidence for intelligent design.”

Exactly. That’s why the ID crowd spent so much money purchasing automated sequencers and cloning that region of the chromosome. They were absolutely convinced that their theory was correct and they were determined to test it’s predictions. For once, they actually wanted to do real science instead of just paying lip service.

Wait…what? Oh. never mind.

ravilyn.sanders said:

Further your personal theological views will attest, if such a corroboration is really needed, that NOT all people who accept evolution are crazy atheist Darwin worshipers.

They’re WORSE … they’re … they’re … THEISTIC EVOLUTIONISTS! YAAARGH!

I keep thinking of a conversation: “So … you say I can’t believe in God and evolution at the same time?”

“Right. You can’t.”

“OK.” Pause. “Well, can I believe in God and also believe that circus clowns are actually aliens from another dimension? Is that OK?”

Not that I would expect an answer of course. I liked the comment somebody made the other day that ID was actually a front to oppose TEs. That’s maybe pinning down fuzz a bit too heavily, but it’s certainly a serious part of the ID agenda.

Jeremy Mohn said: In my video, I present chromosome #2 as an example of how the concept of common ancestry led to a specific prediction that was tested and definitively confirmed. It’s not an argument against any other possible explanation, just an argument in favor of the utility of evolutionary theory.

I think this is a very good point. Jeremy is relaying a historical example of a successful prediction, while Kevin is making a postdiction. Now, postdictions can be useful too, but they are not the same thing, and we shouldn’t confuse them.

As Stevaroni, Ravilyn, Wile, Frank J. and DS all pointed out, ID makes no actual predictions, and the “not incompatible with” standard is not so much a prediction as it is an exercise in setting the bar so low that your idea is safe from reality. “Not incompatible with” lets in all sorts of explanations - Last Thursdayism, Jesus as Krishna, etc…

Wily writes…

I keep thinking of a conversation: “So … you say I can’t believe in God and evolution at the same time?”

That’s going to come as a shock to the Vatican, which runs an entire science office (Pontificia Academia Scientiarum) to reconcile issues like this.

On behalf over a billion believers, those wild-eyed zealots over there in Rome take the hysterical position that “Catholic doctrine accepts the possibility that God’s creation occurred in a way consistent with evolution … The soul did not evolve, but was infused into man and woman directly by God. “

stevaroni said: That’s going to come as a shock to the Vatican, which runs an entire science office (Pontificia Academia Scientiarum) to reconcile issues like this.

But dem are Catholics. Agents of the Debbil. I know because Jack Chick tole me so.

I am probably in a minority, but I think a retrodiction is every bit as good as a prediction - after all, Newton retrodicted Kepler’s ellipses, relativity retrodicted the precession of the perihelion of Mercury, and there are probably more, but I am tired today. But ID creationism does not really retrodict anything; it only predicts that we will never figure out how, say, certain flagella evolved. That is not a proper prediction. A proper prediction would have to show that we could not figure it out, because it was designed, not that we never will.

Ideally it would also show when it was designed, how, by whom, and why.

Good luck with that.

Evolution retrodicted that a nested hierarchy classification scheme would be useful.

Henry

Ravilyn.Sanders said: On the other hand the scientists have to prove the evolutionary explanations for the observations beyond all unreasonable doubt.

This is one of my issues with science education. Science does not determine absolute truth, even though it is easier to teach it that way. Don’t know if that was what you actually meant, but it appears that way. Researchers aren’t in the business of proving anything beyond a reasonable doubt. They produce the best hypothesis they can, and more than one good hypothesis can coexist. There is always some uncertainty, though the degree varies with how well established a concept is. Evolution, and the mechanisms that generation it, is very well established, but there are still questions that need work, and new information tomorrow could throw everything out the window.

Yeah, the overall concepts are considered to be supported beyond reasonable doubt, due to some overall patterns in things.

The individual details however are another matter, and conclusions do sometimes change as data comes in.

Though I doubt that everything would get thrown out the window even if new data were to put limits on the scope of the current theory. (i.e., “falsification” is not an all or nothing prospect.)

Henry

Mike said: This is one of my issues with science education. Science does not determine absolute truth, even though it is easier to teach it that way. Don’t know if that was what you actually meant, but it appears that way.

Well, I was pointing out to Kevin the double standards he is holding, on one hand Creationism has to meet a bar as low as “something non incompatible with observations”. On the other hand, I allege, Kevin demands science prove everything. Not merely prove, but prove beyond any doubt, even unreasonable doubt.

I am not demanding, nor promising that science will prove everything.

Jeremy Mohn said:

Hopefully, my personal theological musings won’t deter anyone from considering the evidence for evolution that is presented in my videos.

So far only watched one video - the first one examining the genetic similarities between chimps, apes and humans. I haven’t even noticed any theological stuff.

Good stuff, though a bit on the dry side. However, I’ve just subscribed to your channel.

Are you familiar with other youtubers like AronRa and Thunderfoot? (Thunderfoot’s name came up as a related channel when I subscribed to you.)

I’ve got a youtube channel myself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acvGCmSqJkM

ravilyn.sanders said: Kevin demands science prove everything. Not merely prove, but prove beyond any doubt, even unreasonable doubt.

Oh. Well that’s quite different. Never mind.

OT - is this new or is CNN just late in publishing this story…

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/scienc[…]l/index.html

Kevin,

What about the similarities between humans and chimps that don’t make any sense from a design point of view. You know, like the broken vitamin C gene in humans and the shared SINE insertions between humans and chimps? Were those a prediction of ID? Are those compatible with ID? Why do all of these independent data sets show that chimps are the proper sister group to humans? Any alternative theory must explain all of the evidence better than the theory of evolution. That’s why the chromosomal banding patterns and the chromosomal fusion data are so convinving, these data are in agreement with all other data sets.

Just so everyone knows, I am not the same Kevin who posted earlier. I am an evolution supporter and advocate in Texas. Not sure who the other “kevin” is.….

Good for you Jeremy and welcome to the club. I believe Ken Miller had noted this as a recent discovery when he testified on behalf of the plaintiffs at the 2005 Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial. And I endorse the sentiments of other frequent PT posters here, like Matt Young, for one, Stacy, and ravilyn.sanders. May your video “tribe” increase tenfold. We need a lot more teachers like you and Cheryl Shepherd - Adams.

May I suggest too that you contact Ken Miller, to see whether he could post your videos at his website, http://www.millerandlevine.com. You can tell him I had suggested it:

Jeremy Mohn said:

Kevin said:

Watched the first video. I’ve always wondered why the fused chromosome was presented as a flagship case for human / chimpanzee common ancestry.

In my video, I present chromosome #2 as an example of how the concept of common ancestry led to a specific prediction that was tested and definitively confirmed. It’s not an argument against any other possible explanation, just an argument in favor of the utility of evolutionary theory.

Kevin F said:

OT - is this new or is CNN just late in publishing this story…

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/scienc[…]l/index.html

This could just be a branch that developed like this, couldn’t it? Not necessarily in the germ line to later pterodactyls. Cool, though.

The PT thread “The Truth Hurts” is about a “don’t call me a creationist” IDer who has learned the ID tap dance quite well. If you listen to only his “kind” (including his YEC and OEC cheerleaders) you will conclude that people like Jeremy Mohn do not exist. But there he is, a “Darwinist” with “Critically analyze all theories” and “Teach the actual controversies” front and center on his blog.

Mike said: Researchers aren’t in the business of proving anything beyond a reasonable doubt. They produce the best hypothesis they can, and more than one good hypothesis can coexist.

Moreover, the same researcher working in the same field my utilize different hypotheses to solve different problems…even if those hypotheses partially conflict. Example: for some problems nuclear physicists and chemists use the fermi liquid drop model of the nucleus…for others, the nuclear shell model. It depends on the problem.

I think you’re absolutely right about the mistaken focus on truth. IMO what we, as scientists, don’t stress enough is that the value of a scientific hypothesis or theory to science depends more on its practical utility than it does on any expected philosophical truth value. ID has no scientific value not because its truth claim is unsupported or likely to be wrong, but because it is useless.

Henry J. said: Though I doubt that everything would get thrown out the window even if new data were to put limits on the scope of the current theory.

It would be remarkably unscientific if it was thrown out. QM did not throw out NM. Relativity did not throw out standard laws of motion, either. The ideal gas law was not thrown out when we figured out the size and electromagnetic properties of gas molecules.

What happens is that the old equations continue to be used in - as you say - the domains where they continue to work well. A useful approximation often remains useful long after better approximations are found.

This of course is extremely bad news for creationists. Because it means that if aliens landed tomorrow and told us “yeah, we faked all of earth history,” evolution would still be taught because until the aliens give us some better model, evolution would remain the most useful theory we have for understanding and predicting changes in disease, changes in various ecologies, etc… In terms of teaching it, we would probably shift to saying that it is the best available theory for describing life as it interacts now, without heavy interference. But we’d still teach it.

Jeremy Mohn said:

Kevin said:

Watched the first video. I’ve always wondered why the fused chromosome was presented as a flagship case for human / chimpanzee common ancestry.

In my video, I present chromosome #2 as an example of how the concept of common ancestry led to a specific prediction that was tested and definitively confirmed. It’s not an argument against any other possible explanation, just an argument in favor of the utility of evolutionary theory.

Indeed you did, and I apologize; my post clearly implied that you’d presented the chromosome fusion event as evidence for common ancestry / against creationism. It did not - it was a strong demonstration of how the theory of common descent yielded a clear-cut prediction that was ultimately born out by the evidence.

It serves very well as an example of how evolution is science, whereas the model involving a independent creation of the human and chimpanzee species would in no way lead to a prediction of a fusion event, given 23 vs 24 chromosomes.

So, I apologize for the misplaced implication - and, may I add, “well done” on cleanly making this case accessible to the layperson.

Anyway, your video had simply brought to mind the numerous times I’d seen the fusion event presented *not* as a demonstration that evolution is better science, but instead as evidence favoring common ancestry over separate creation. I’ve even seen it cited as a “favorite” individual piece of evidence in this context - this T-shirt directly expemplifies what I was actually trying to address:

http://www.zazzle.com/evolution_chr[…]047472739974

In *that* context, the fused chromosome always seemed to me to be a weak point - the astounding similarity between chimp and human DNA had already backed fully the creationist camp into the ad-hoc “same designer, similar design” corner. What I was trying (and apparently failing miserably) to express in my initial comment was that the chromosome fusion event does little to further weaken the creationist’s case from that ad-hoc stance. Going biblical here, it’s plausible that 1) God create apes and man with 24 chromosomes and 2) Noah was born with 23 chromosomes; And from that alone, the creationist can competely explain every aspect of the fused chromosome in humans.

In stark contrast, I feel the existence and identical placement of ERV insertions *do* stand as evidence which utterly blows the “same designer, similar design” explanation out of the water. With those, you need a God placing viral DNA into Adam and chimps at identical locations; or an astronomical combination of coincidental germ-line viral insertions that make the odds of 10^-127 look like chump-change.

Anyway, I’ll restate the question built into my original comment in a more concrete fashion: “Is there any artifact of the fused chromosome event which is incompatible with the idea that it may have happened in the human lineage within the past 4,000 years?”.

Ravilyn.Sanders said:

Kevin said: Now, I’m not saying that’s what *did* happen - but is there any aspect of the chromosome fusion evidence which incompatible with that explanation?

Kevin, just look at the double standards you have. For the Creation side, it is enough if they can come up with a vaguely plausible “could-have-been, might-have-been” scenario.

On the other hand the scientists have to prove the evolutionary explanations for the observations beyond all unreasonable doubt.

For comparison let me suggest a vaguely plausible scenario. Lord Krishna very clearly assured Arjuna that

For the protection of the Good, and also for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the firm establishment of [righteousness], I am born from age to age. Gita 4-8

Thus it is possible Lord Vishnu appeared as Jesus in Judea.

Now, I’m not saying that’s what *did* happen - but is there any aspect of birth of Jesus which is incompatible with that explanation, Krishna and Christ are one and the same?

Sorry for the confusion it has caused. If you re-read, you’ll see that I was merely questioning whether the fused chromosome in humans - with great focus on the embedded telomeres - was really the best, or even a very good, piece of evidence for the common descent model / against the special creation model.

Kevin K wrote:

“Is there any artifact of the fused chromosome event which is incompatible with the idea that it may have happened in the human lineage within the past 4,000 years?”.

Yes, of course. If it had happened in the last 4,000 years it could not possibly have spread to all extant humans since then. That hypothesis would predict that there should still be a polymorphism in human populations.

Of course, one could speculate that if all modern humans are descended from a very few individuals within the past 4,000 years that there migh be no polymorphism remaining due to drift. However, that hypothesis has been conclusively falsified by many different data sets already, so it isn’t really a serious consideration. To paraphrase George Carlin: There was no global flood, not one, never was.

The only way the fused human chromosomes can be considered support for special creation is if God is no good dirty rotten liar. Someow I don’t think that’s the answer most creationists are looking for.

“…I was merely questioning whether the fused chromosome in humans - with great focus on the embedded telomeres - was really the best, or even a very good, piece of evidence for the common descent model / against the special creation model.”

As I stated previously, I personally believe that shared SINE insertions are the very best evidence for common descent. When you combine that data with all of the other data sets, the conclusion is inescapable. Common descent is true, no design, no creator, no intelligence required. If you don’t want to believe it, fine, but I have yet to see any creationist anywhere come up with a better explanation for this evidence. It blows the common design argument right out of the water.

Kevin K. said:

Anyway, I’ll restate the question built into my original comment in a more concrete fashion: “Is there any artifact of the fused chromosome event which is incompatible with the idea that it may have happened in the human lineage within the past 4,000 years?”.

Well, as can be seen in this diagram of the fusion point, there are a significant number of mutations that have accumulated in the telomere and pre-telomeric sequences at the interstitial fusion site.

One would have to propose an extremely high mutation rate for this portion of the human genome in order for these changes to have occurred within the past 4,000 years.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 13, 2009 12:00 PM.

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