Luskin’s Hopeless Monster

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I’m checking in from the airport on the way back from Evolution 2013. For me, highlights of the meeting included presenting my BioGeoBEARS R package and some Ph.D. results at the Ernst Mayr Symposium, hearing about all the cool things going at NIMBioS, anticipating and thus having a seat in the room while observing the Felsenstein Effect, and meeting Jerry Coyne in person for the first time, and having a friendly conversation rather than an argument. (What will our respective readers think of us? We have reputations to uphold!)

Part of the reason for harmony was that Jerry recently blogged such nice things about my review of the half-baked ID book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Other folks, however, have not been so positive. Rather than actually defending Meyer’s book from my quite specific criticisms, the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin is now pretty much claiming – and the various ID fans out there are blindly, uncritically repeating – that I haven’t read the book, that I wrote most of my review before the book came out, and that I made up quotes of Meyer.

Well, here’s the reality. I did not have an advance copy or pre-write a review or anything. I got the book around lunchtime last Tuesday when it came out. I read it during lunch, then again for snippets of the afternoon (we computational biologists often have bits of downtime while we wait for programs to run), and then most of the rest of it that night and the next morning. The book was not impressive, and I resolved to not bother with a review, and to work on stuff I should be doing. However, when I got into work on Wednesday, I started seeing the fawning, so-innocent-of-the-problems-and-the-science-it-was-almost-cute positive reviews of the book coming out from ID creationists, and I realized that the best way to stop getting distracted would be to bang out a review. I spent most of Wednesday on it and put the review up that night. I felt quite guilty, really, putting even that much time into it, considering everything else I should be doing, but like I said, it was much easier to focus afterwards.

For people who find this all surprising, what can I say? You must be slow readers. More seriously, folks, it’s not like this is my first rodeo. It might help to remember that I spent 3 years at NCSE researching the ID movement and basically crawling inside their heads, and then 6 years in graduate school studying, and TAing, and publishing phylogenetics. Unlike most scientists, I am deeply familiar with the ID arguments, their weird vague question-begging definitions of crucial terms and premises in their argument (“information”, “fundamentally new” whatevers, etc.), and so I don’t have to spend a lot of time mentally unravelling the multiple levels of confusion and misunderstanding and wishful thinking that are going on whenever Meyer rehashes some oft-used, previously refuted ID talking point. I can focus on what little is new and unique to the book in question – in the case of Meyer’s book, this is basically the stuff about the Cambrian and phylogenetics.

(Plus I’ve been keeping up on the Cambrian literature for years – e.g. my “Down with Phyla!” posts are crucial reading if you did not understand what I was talking about in the Meyer review. Heck, I personally know Charles Marshall of Marshall (2006) and Jim Valentine of Valentine (2004) and Erwin and Valentine (2013) – they are professors in my department! – and I read all of these references when they came out.

For what it’s worth, I should say briefly that Erwin and Valentine (2013), while a capable review of the topic of the Cambrian Explosion, has some significant weaknesses in the realm of phylogenetics and taxonomy. The authors work hard to include up-to-date phylogenetic thinking and terminology, and do quite well compared to their previous works, but the book nevertheless still carries a lot of stage #2, Linnaean, ranked-taxonomy thinking within it. This makes sense considering that Valentine was trained in the 1960s and Erwin, I believe, in the 1980s, and that both are in invertebrate paleontology, which for various reasons has hung on to ranks-based analysis longer than most other subfields. However, it causes various internal contradictions in their work. But I digress.)

As for the claim of fake quotes, in all cases, Luskin is just sloppily misreading. It is quite clear from context when I am actually quoting Meyer, and when I am using scare quotes to highlight a term or concept that I think is problematic and/or mistaken, or using a paraphrase marked with quotes (or sometimes dashes, although-this-gets-unwieldy-quite-quickly) to efficiently summarize a difficult-to-describe position. There are a lot of weird and obscure positions in play at the intersection of the Cambrian, systematics, and ID creationism, so sometimes this is necessary, at least when, as now, I don’t have time to spend paragraphs explaining all the basics from scratch.

Other stuff

In addition to trying to discredit my review through well-poisoning based on information-free speculation about my reading and writing practices, Luskin tries a few substantive arguments. These don’t go well, and just further demonstrate just how throughly Luskin and Meyer are misunderstanding the basic terminology and concepts and evidence necessary to even have a meaningful discussion of the Cambrian. (I say Luskin and Meyer, since Luskin says he was Meyer’s research assistant on the book.)

To wit:

Matzke does attempt to address the first problem posed by the Cambrian explosion. He does so by claiming that methods of phylogenetic reconstruction can establish the existence of Precambrian ancestral and intermediate forms – an unfolding of animal complexity that the fossil record does not document.

Well, no. I claimed that phylogenetic methods can establish, and have established, the existence of Cambrian intermediate forms, which are collateral ancestors of various prominent living phyla. The case is clearest with the most common and most-fossilized Cambrian phylum, the arthropods, but there is a fair bit of similar evidence for other major phyla. (Some phyla, primarily soft-bodied worms, have few fossils anyway, and there of course intermediate fossils are scare, although even if we had them they would be difficult-to-identify worms.) All of the leading authorities (Valentine, Erwin, Conway Morris, Briggs, Budd, etc.) would agree with me. More precisely, I agree with them, and they have all said in print what I just said. Furthermore, they would all agree that this is extremely important evidence for understanding the origin of “phyla”, evidence which cannot be ignored. But Meyer/Luskin ignore it, instead occupying themselves with hunting around in the Precambrian.

Similarly, Valentine, Erwin, Conway Morris, Briggs, Budd, etc., would all agree that it is utterly impossible to have a sensible discussion of the Cambrian Explosion while ignoring the 30-million year sequence of surface-crawling worms, then burrowing worms, then armored worms, then small shellies, THEN identifiable relatives of phyla, most of which are (not coincidentally) stem groups rather than members of the crown phyla, and which have characters suites transitional between the major crown phyla. These are fatal, catastrophic omissions Meyer’s book, which is allegedly supposed to be a serious commentary on the Cambrian Explosion. The only way forward for the IDists is to forthrightly admit the error to the books’ readership. From there, they could perhaps try to maintain their argument by arguing that the 30-million-year worms-shellies-stem-groups sequence is irrelevant, and that the stem group fossils with transitional morphologies are irrelevant or have been misinterpreted by the experts or something. But they haven’t got a chance in heck of convincing anyone serious as long as they pretend to their readers that these data don’t exist.

Luskin also says:

Though he accuses Meyer of being ignorant of these phylogenetic methods and studies, he seems unaware that Meyer explains and critiques attempts to reconstruct phylogenetic trees based upon the comparisons of anatomical and genetic characters in his fifth and sixth chapters.

Now who’s not reading? I explicitly devoted a section of my review to Meyer’s discussion of phylogenetic conflict, and made a list of points that any professional, serious discussion of phylogenetic conflict would have to address, which Meyer did not address. (Luskin later contradicts himself and refers to my critique of Meyer’s claims about phylogenetic conflict, but he mostly just asserts Meyer’s book is correct. I suspect Luskin did a lot of the quote-mining for the phylogenetic conflict section. Earth to Luskin: do some statistics to back up your assertions, or you and Meyer aren’t worth listening to on the topic of phylogenetic conflict.)

Things get worse with Luskin’s discussion of “phylum” lobopods and Anomalocaris as an “arthropod”.

In the first quote, from page 53, we see that Meyer called Anomalocaris “either arthropods or creatures closely related to them,” showing his awareness that there is ambiguity and debate over whether Anomalocaris belongs directly within arthropods, or was a close relative. Matzke never quotes Meyer’s statement on this point, which is consistent both with what Matzke says about anomalocaridids, and with the relevant scientific literature. Instead, Matzke seems unfamiliar with what Meyer actually wrote.

In the second quote, from page 60, Meyer suggests that Anomalocaris may in fact be an arthropod. Would it be a “basic error” to make that claim? Not at all, because many leading authorities on the Cambrian explosion have suggested precisely the same thing –that Anomalocaris is an arthropod.

This just further demonstrates the epic-level misunderstandings that Luskin and Meyer have when it comes to phylogenetics, systematics, and the Cambrian. You cannot even discuss this question without specifying what various authorities mean by “arthropod”, which Meyer never does. The most common meaning of “arthropod” today is “crown group arthropod”. This is what is used by e.g. Erwin and Valentine 2013, as well as all the other authorities I cited. On this definition, Anomalocaris is clearly outside of arthropods. Now, some scientists, usually those slightly less hip with phylogenetic systematics, use the term “arthropod” to refer to anything in the crown or on the arthropod stem. On this definition, Anomalocaris is an “arthropod”, but all of these people would also agree that Anomalocaris is not in the arthropod crown group.

This is the crucial point – you cannot just say “Anomalocaris is an arthropod”, flat-out, without specifying what you mean by “arthropod” and what the authorities you are citing mean. It’s clear enough to experts, usually, what various scientists at various times mean (for example, I know Thomas Cavalier-Smith is an old-school evolutionary systematist, but Luskin, who cites him, doesn’t), but in any book for a general audience, this must be specified. Erwin & Valentine do it capably, what the heck is Meyer & Luskin’s problem?

We can see Luskin’s misunderstanding further when he quotes Paterson et al. (2011):

These fossils also provide compelling evidence for the arthropod affinities of anomalocaridids, [and] push the origin of compound eyes deeper down the arthropod stem lineage.

“Arthropod affinities” and “arthropod stem lineage” do not mean “Anomalocaris=arthropod” – they mean Anomalocaris is on the arthropod stem! Which is a common finding, well-understood to everyone in the field.

Luskin comments further:

The paper firmly places anomalocaridids as stem-group arthropods, very close to the crown-group arthropods, and has some weighty co-authors, including John R. Paterson of the University of New England in Australia, Diego C. García-Bellido of the Instituto de Geociencias in Spain, Michael S. Y. Lee of South Australian Museum and the University of Adelaide, Glenn A. Brock of Macquarie University, James B. Jago of the University of South Australia, and Gregory D. Edgecombe of the Natural History Museum in London. In covering this paper, Discover Magazine stated: “Paterson also argues that the eyes confirm that Anomalocaris was an early arthropod, for this is the only group with compound eyes.”

Another way to say “The paper firmly places anomalocaridids as stem-group arthropods” is to say “The paper firmly places anomalocaridids outside of crown-group arthropods, i.e. outside of what most people, and all general readers, are thinking of when you say ‘arthropod’.” What this paper actually does, phylogenetically, is provide some characters (compound eyes) that strengthen the evidence for Anomalocaris being on the arthropod stem, rather than the onychophoran stem, or on the onychophoran-arthropod LCA stem, both of which are somewhat possible placements. The reporter misinterprets this as the simple statement “Anomalocaris was an early arthropod”, which is exactly the mistaken statement that Meyer makes and which Luskin did not correct as “research assistant”.

Likewise Benjamin Waggoner (then of UC Berkeley, now at the University of Central Arkansas) writes in the journal Systematic Biology that “the anomalocarids and their relatives (Anomalopoda) fall out very close to the base of the traditional Arthropoda and should be included within it.” A 2006 paper in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica likewise refers to the “anomalocaridid arthropods.” The leading authorities Charles R. Marshall and James W. Valentine note in a 2010 article in the journal Evolution, titled “The importance of preadapted genomes in the origin of the animal bodyplans and the Cambrian explosion,” that “Anomalocaris most likely lies in the diagnosable stem group of the Euarthropoda (but in the crown group of Panarthropoda).”

Waggoner also says in his paper that Anomalocaris falls outside of “Euarthropoda”, which is another term for crown-group arthropods defined by living taxa. For reasons that are unclear to me, Waggoner defines a larger “Arthropoda” that is supposed to be a crown group, but which is defined to include extinct forms outside of the clade of the living taxa. This is not the usual definition of “crown”, because crowns are supposed to be at the top of the tree, i.e. the present. Waggoner seems to be trying to say Anomalocarids go back to the Ediacaran, and thereby say the arthropods go back to the Ediacaran, and thereby connect the origin of arthropods to Spriggina and other Ediacaran forms. As far as I know none of these suggestions are widely accepted.

Regarding the Marshall and Valentine quote, again, “stem group of the Euarthropoda”, means outside of the crown group, i.e. outside what most people think of when you say “arthropod”. “[I]n the crown group of Panarthropoda”, however, provides no support at all for calling Anomalocaris an arthropod, because Panarthropoda is the crown clade made up of three phyla, namely arthropods plus tardigrades plus onychophorans!

The point of all of this is that you can’t just say “arthropod” when discussing Anomalocaris. You have to specify crown or stem, or some similar qualification, unless it is already clear within the discussion which you mean (which is the case in some expert discussions, but certainly not in the case of Meyer and his readers). All of the experts Luskin cites know Anomalocaris‘s probable stem-group status, and they usually specify this qualification in some fashion. The only one that doesn’t is the Discover reporter, which just confirms my point – it’s an amateur mistake, unfit for a serious discussion of the Cambrian.

(An aside: read the next sentence of Marshall & Valentine 2009:

For example, Anomalocaris most likely lies in the diagnosable stem group of the Euarthropoda (but in the crown group of Panarthropoda). In fact, it appears that most fossil taxa in the Cambrian belong to diagnosable stem groups. (bold added)

Why in the world should it be that the animal fossils observed in the Cambrian – the ones furthest back in time – also just happen to tend to be cladistically basal on the cladograms? Evolutionists know why – but ID/creationists don’t even know about this evidence, or at least don’t dare tell their innocent readership about it.)

Luskin digs deeper:

Meyer doesn’t try to enter into the debate over whether Anomalocaris is a “stem group” or “crown group” arthropod, or a member of euarthropoda, or panarthropoda.

Oh god. These are not all either-or questions. “[E]uarthropoda” EQUALS “crown group” arthropod”, and “[E]uarthropoda”/”crown group” arthropod” AND “stem group” arthropods are ALL within panarthropoda. Anomalocaris is a member of panarthropoda no matter how you slice it, and there isn’t actually a “debate” slicing it anyway, since I think there is no analysis that places Anomalocaris clearly within euarthropoda (/crown-group arthropoda as defined by living taxa).

And, anyway, again, one cannot even enter a serious discussion of the origin of Cambrian taxa without having some statement about what taxonomy and relationships are being proposed as the basis for discussion. Pretending to punt on this (actually, Luskin and Meyer think that basically everything is specially created, as far as I can tell) just further discredits the idea that Meyer is engaging in serious scientific scholarship.

Since Meyer states that anomalocaridids are “either arthropods or creatures closely related to them,”

This statement is word salad, because Luskin has been arguing that saying “Anomalocaris is an arthropod” is correct because authorities say it’s on the arthropod stem. On Luskin’s current definition of what Meyer meant by “arthropod”, Luskin is therefore saying “anomalocaridids are either closely related to arthropods or closely related to arthropods.”

But, of course Matzke doesn’t accuse Nature, Budd, Jensen, or the authors of any of these other papers of committing a “basic error” for calling Anomalocaris an “arthropod.”

That’s because they don’t. They usually say “stem arthropod.” Which is correct.

About Lobopodia

Luskin writes,

And what about Matzke’s other accusation of an alleged error – his claim that Lobopodia isn’t a phylum? [italics original]

Um, phylum names don’t get italicized. Only genus/species names. And, anyway, I didn’t claim that Lobopodia isn’t a phylum – I don’t know what the formal, objective definition of a “phylum” is, and neither does anyone else, including those who still rely on the concept; the term only has meaning as a matter of convenience and convention. What I claimed was that you can’t write a responsible book about the origin of bodyplans/phyla without mentioning that lobopods, whether a phylum or not, are a paraphyletic grade containing taxa intermediate between, and ancestral to, crown arthropods, crown onychophorans, and crown tardigrades. Here is what I said:

A related problem is Meyer’s treatment (mostly non-treatment) of “Lobopodia”, which he treats as a distinct phylum and includes in his phylum count. Meyer never spends a word on an actual critical discussion of what “Lobopodia” is supposed to mean - the term appears in a few picture captions, in the titles of some of his references, and in a quote of Simon Conway Morris. Whatever the method of naming the various scientists who use the term “Lobopodia” - Linnaean ranks, rank-free, etc. - as far as I know every authority would agree that lobopods are a paraphyletic grab-bag on the stems of the crown-group phyla Arthropoda and Onychophora (and perhaps also on the stem below their common ancestor). In other words, the arthropod and velvet-worm phyla evolved from lobopods, and lobopods contain a whole series of transitional forms showing the basics of how this happened! How anyone could write a book on the origin of Cambrian animals, without mentioning Cambrian Explosion 101 findings like this, is mystifying.

Erwin and Valentine and everyone else discusses this. Why doesn’t Meyer? Either he doesn’t want readers to know about these transitional fossils, or he doesn’t know about them. Either way, it’s shockingly bad, and invalidates the book as being a competent piece of scholarship.

So, Meyer and Luskin can call lobopods a phylum if they want, but if they do, they have to mention to readers that it is morphologically in-between 3 other phyla (thus all phyla aren’t morphologically disconnected, the lobopod phylum contains 3 other phyla which makes you wonder what “phylum” is supposed to mean, etc. But this would have all kinds of subversive implications for their thesis, which I suspect is why they are either conceptually blind to it, or just left it out so as not to concern their innocent, unskeptical readership.

Interestingly, though, Luskin’s defense of phylum Lobopodia makes things worse for his position anyway. He cites the Supplemental Material of Erwin et al. (2009), which contains a big table of phyla – the same table appears as a supplement to Erwin and Valentine 2013. Luskin screen captures the table showing the listing of lobopodia as a phylum. But Luskin missed the other mention of lobopods in that table. Together, they are (shorn of formatting, sorry):

unranked stem Cambrian lobopods Luolishania Cam 3 e.g. Chen & Zhou 1997 (132)

Lobopodia Cam 3 class stem Microdictyon Cam 3 Hinz 1987; 15995; Kouchinsky et al. 2011 (8) Hadranax Cam 3 Budd and Peel 1998; 546 gilled lobopods Kerygmachela Cam 3 Budd 1993; 30407

So, which is it? Are lobopods an unranked stem, or a phylum? Or two phyla with the same name? (Plus the three nested inside, I suppose?) I suspect what we are seeing here is the older Linnaean taxonomy (my stage #1-2) and the newer, phylogenetic, rank-free taxonomy (stage #3) crashing into each other in the same data table, with the person compiling the table (“Prepared by Sarah Tweedt”, according to p. 343, Erwin & Valentine 2013) either making a mistake, or, more likely, just reflecting the contradictions in scientific literature caused by having phylogenetic and non-phylogenetic taxonomic systems both in play. (This is more evidence for why Erwin & Valentine’s continued reliance on Linnaean taxonomy (although they are somewhat apologetic about it in their text) is problematic, by the way.)

Finally, Luskin shows a screen capture of a chapter heading from a 2004 book, with chapter 14 entitled “Phylum Lobopodia” (http://www.evolutionnews.org/phylumlobopodia.jpg ) But, right there in the first paragraph, we see yet more evidence why it is so problematic to refer to this “phylum” without mentioning its paraphyly:

The Recent species, members of Onychophora…

In other words, phylum Onychophora nests within phylum Lobopodia. This should not happen, if the phylum rank is supposed to be some indicator of morphological distinctness and bodyplan uniqueness.

Random other points

Luskin says,

Page 419 of Darwin’s Doubt has a very nice discussion of stem groups and crown groups

No it doesn’t. First, this is hidden in an endnote, when it has to be front and center in any modern discussion (as it is in e.g. the works by Marshall, Erwin, and Valentine), and, second, Meyer gets the definition of “crown group” wrong, as I pointed out in my original post.

Luskin says,

Nonetheless, Matzke makes bizarre charges like this:

I think that if you plunked those fossils down in front of an ID advocate without any prior knowledge except the general notion of taxonomic ranks, the ID advocate would place most of them in a single family of invertebrates, despite the fact that phylogenetic classification puts some of them inside the arthropod phylum and some of them outside of it.

Luskin doesn’t say why my charge is bizarre, though. Here’s a challenge for Casey: explain why it’s bizarre. Please provide definitions of “family” and “phylum” and then explain why those fossils in the figure oh-so-clearly would fit in distinct phyla if someone didn’t know their phylogenetic relationships.

But Matzke seems unaware that Meyer has a lengthy 450+ word endnote on page 432 where he not only writes about long branch attractions, but addresses why that idea and many other ad hoc explanations fail to account for conflicts among phylogenetic trees.

No one ever says “long branch attractions” – is that some sort of new inter-tree romance or something? Anyway, in that endnote, Meyer only briefly discusses (1) horizontal gene transfer, then admitting it’s basically irrelevant when it comes to animals; (2) long-branch attraction, but incompetently failing to mention that there are several known solutions to long-branch attraction, such as adding more taxa to make branches shorter, and using more accurate sequence substitution models in likelihood and Bayesian approaches; and (3) incomplete lineage sorting (Meyer, strangely, when listing causes of incongruence, writes this item in the list: “coalescent (e.g. incomplete lineage sorting)”. Within the field, scientists only ever write “the coalescent” or “coalescence”; this makes me think Meyer doesn’t know what these are.) Meyer lists a few other sources of incongruence, like contamination, but without any discussion at all. Meyer says that these processes are related to convergence, which is false. Luskin claims that these explanations are ad hoc, which is also false. For example, how is contamination related to convergence, or how is it ad hoc? Sometimes the worm you are studying recently ate a worm from another clade, and your DNA sequencer gets a mix of DNA from both. It is easy to see how this could cause phylogenetic conflict – that is just life, it is regular science. It is perfectly checkable and fixable through methods just as resequencing a number of specimens, and starving the specimens before you sequence them. Similarly, long-branch attraction is not ad hoc, it is a direct mathematical result of using parsimony on branches that are long enough where the parsimony assumption (minimum number of changes) is wrong. The effect can be easily produced with simulation (as shown by one of my advisor’s and grand-advisor’s more famous papers, actually). Incomplete lineage sorting is also not convergence or ad hoc, it is a direct, unavoidable result of population genetic processes (drift) in the context of short speciation times. All of these processes are well-studied, well-understood, can be tested for, and thus it is just silly to ignorantly claim, without any study or due diligence whatsoever, that these explanations are just made up to cover up phylogenetic conflict. This kind of thinking is no better than 9-11 truther conspiracy thinking, sans knowledge of building engineering and similar necessary background.

Alright, my plane has finally arrived. My basic counterarguments against Meyer’s book (and, I guess, Luskin’s research assistance) are, if anything, strengthened by this analysis of Luskin’s rebuttal. In many cases, he still doesn’t understand the mistakes he is making.

Same rules as the other thread, and don’t expect my active participation, I have real science to work on once I’m back in the office.

119 Comments

(actually, Luskin and Meyer think that basically everything is specially created, as far as I can tell)

I’d like to hear comments on this. Is the book really hinting at independent origins of “kinds”? (“Everything”, I assume, doesn’t mean “every individual”, but something like every population, species, or other collective.)

Thanks, Nick. Answers relayed back to questioners.

This should initiate a few more drive-by accusations from some of the IDiots.

TomS said:

(actually, Luskin and Meyer think that basically everything is specially created, as far as I can tell)

I’d like to hear comments on this. Is the book really hinting at independent origins of “kinds”? (“Everything”, I assume, doesn’t mean “every individual”, but something like every population, species, or other collective.)

I’m preaching to the (unfortunately very small) choir here, but you know the drill. Anytime any career anti-evolution propaganda peddler, or famous follower (e.g. politician), “hints” that some undefined “kinds” might be independently created (or designed), it means one of two things. Either they really believe that nonsense, or they know it’s nonsense, but that is overruled by their need to throw a bone to Biblical literalists, and fool some fence-sitters along the way. Unfortunately they fool most critics too, who almost never even mention the possibility of the second case.

I look at it this way. If any DI person really thinks that “kinds” were created independently from nonliving matter, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by directly and publicly challenging the one DI person who has taken a clear, consistent (over ~20 years) position on common descent, Michael Behe. Or at least “expelling” him from the DI. The rest certainly are more politically correct when it comes to common descent (knowing that most people care much more about the “monkey” thing than about mutations, selection and “information”). And Behe himself threw them a bone once years ago, stating that some DI people - unnamed of course - who seem to deny common descent are “more familiar with the relevant science” than he was.

Instead of “assuming” what they believe, we need to repeatedly ask them, in no uncertain terms, whether they think the evidence supports individual origin-of-life events - as opposed to in-vivo “saltation,” which is equally consistent with their claim of “RM + NS can’t do it,” and the simpler of the two formal alternatives. We also need to ask for exactly which “kinds”, and when those blessed events occurred. For that, the best hints so far are “Cambrian phyla” (bad news for all Biblical literalists) and ~530 MY ago (bad news for YECs and some OECs). Finally, for whichever answer they provide, they need to show us how the evidence supports it independently of their alleged “weaknesses” of “Darwinism.” That we don’t expect clear answers is all the more reason to ask, repeatedly, so that it finally sinks in to the public the games they play. The alternative is to keep “assume” what they believe, and get the reaction, even from people who have no problem with evolution of “what’s the harm, let them believe.”

I think that a couple of the brief references made here could use some expanding on - I hope I got these right:

Charles R. Marshall

Explaining the Cambrian “Explosion” of Animals

Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Sciences

volume 34 (2006) pages 355-384

doi: 10.1146/annurev.earth.33.031504.103001

James W. Valentine

On the Origin of Phyla

Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 2004

Douglas H. Erwin and James W. Valentine

The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity

Greenwood Village, Colorado: Roberts and Company, 2013

The most important point here, absent any quibbles about who said exactly what, is that the existence of the various lobopods, all by itself, falsifies Meyer’s claim about a “lawn of phyla” by connecting at least three modern phyla with nice intermediates. And neither Meyer nor Luskin has addressed that at all.

John Harshman said:

The most important point here, absent any quibbles about who said exactly what, is that the existence of the various lobopods, all by itself, falsifies Meyer’s claim about a “lawn of phyla” by connecting at least three modern phyla with nice intermediates. And neither Meyer nor Luskin has addressed that at all.

Exactly. If Meyer can’t explain away lobopods, or the basal status (sharing characteristics of more than one phyla) of Wiwaxia or Halkieria, then Meyer’s book is just more creationist trash, no better than Ray Comfort.

Meyer’s plot of the “phylogenetic lawn” is another hoaxed-up diagram. All the creationists have are drawings that represent their imagination, that they try to pass off as data.

Hey, anybody remember how the IDiots Matzke had been proven to be lying at the previous thread?

Beau Stoddard accused:

Regardless of his science Casey did expose your dishonesty today Nick [in Casey’s rebuttal to Nick’s review]. It’s unfortunate you were in such a hurry to trash the book you made embarrassing errors in your review. You should indeed correct these errors. Many of them aren’t scientific, simply misrepresentations or lack of presenting full content.

Hey ho Beau, where’d ya go? At the previous thread we asked you repeatedly to specify what “dishonesty” lawyer Luskin “exposed”. We asked again and again: what dishonesty of Nick’s, specifically, did Casey expose?

Hey, where’d ya go Beau?

Anguspure accused:

Its much more simple than that Nick; the truth is that you do not tell the truth.

O RLY? Nick does not tell the truth about… what? His age? Hair color? At the previous thread we asked Anguspure repeatedly to specify what, exactly, Nick had lied about.

Hey, Anguspure, where’d ya go? Hello?

Where’d all the brave courageous creationists go?

Anyone? …Anyone?

Perhaps we’re again being visited by Dembski’s students who receive class credit from Dembski for slandering scientists on the internet.

Why, just the other day Klinghitler wrote a post at ENV called “Fear and Trembling” in which he accused Jerry Coyne of being afraid to debate the IDiots on the internet.

You IDiots want a debate? YOU GOT ONE.

But WE set the groundrules. Ground rule #1: The debate will be in OUR forum where comments are freely permitted– not at Klinghitler’s comment-free concentration camp called Evolution News and Views.

Luskin sez: waah, you accused Meyer of calling Anamolocaris an “arthropod.” Waah, that’s not true… I’ll cite some experts who all call Anamolocaris a… “stem group arthropod”!!

In debating, that’s called a defeater. Luskin debunked Meyer’s book for us!

Luskin doesn’t know the difference between “arthropod” and “stem group arthropod.”

If Luskin were a real estate agent, he wouldn’t know the difference between “Beverly Hills” and “Beverly Hills adjacent.”

An excellent summation, Nick, and you did not have to resort to describing the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” - which I have elsewhere - in repudiating Meyer, Luskin and their intellectually-challenged zealous acolytes.

John said:

An excellent summation, Nick, and you did not have to resort to describing the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” - which I have elsewhere - in repudiating Meyer, Luskin and their intellectually-challenged zealous acolytes.

John,

do you have a not-totally-technical link for the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event”, preferably one with a GRAPH representing the increase in disparity or diversity, so we may compare it to Meyer’s fake graph?

diogeneslamp0 said:

Hey, anybody remember how the IDiots Matzke had been proven to be lying at the previous thread?

Beau Stoddard accused:

Regardless of his science Casey did expose your dishonesty today Nick [in Casey’s rebuttal to Nick’s review]. It’s unfortunate you were in such a hurry to trash the book you made embarrassing errors in your review. You should indeed correct these errors. Many of them aren’t scientific, simply misrepresentations or lack of presenting full content.

Hey ho Beau, where’d ya go? At the previous thread we asked you repeatedly to specify what “dishonesty” lawyer Luskin “exposed”. We asked again and again: what dishonesty of Nick’s, specifically, did Casey expose?

Hey, where’d ya go Beau?

Anguspure accused:

Its much more simple than that Nick; the truth is that you do not tell the truth.

O RLY? Nick does not tell the truth about… what? His age? Hair color? At the previous thread we asked Anguspure repeatedly to specify what, exactly, Nick had lied about.

Hey, Anguspure, where’d ya go? Hello?

Where’d all the brave courageous creationists go?

Anyone? …Anyone?

Perhaps we’re again being visited by Dembski’s students who receive class credit from Dembski for slandering scientists on the internet.

Why, just the other day Klinghitler wrote a post at ENV called “Fear and Trembling” in which he accused Jerry Coyne of being afraid to debate the IDiots on the internet.

You IDiots want a debate? YOU GOT ONE.

But WE set the groundrules. Ground rule #1: The debate will be in OUR forum where comments are freely permitted– not at Klinghitler’s comment-free concentration camp called Evolution News and Views.

I am in full agreement with your observations, Diogenes. I am sure those who aren’t IDiot lurkers are in agreement too.

diogeneslamp0 said:

John said:

An excellent summation, Nick, and you did not have to resort to describing the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” - which I have elsewhere - in repudiating Meyer, Luskin and their intellectually-challenged zealous acolytes.

John,

do you have a not-totally-technical link for the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event”, preferably one with a GRAPH representing the increase in disparity or diversity, so we may compare it to Meyer’s fake graph?

No, I don’t but if you dig up Jack Sepkoski’s “evolutionary faunas” paper - in which he recognized three great marine evolutionary faunas - and he was using higher taxonomic level data (families and maybe orders) - when it was published in Paleobiology back in 1980, you’ll se a very pronounced “hump” for the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” that shows it is substantially larger than the “Cambrian Explosion” that Meyer, Luskin et al. have been whining and moaning about. Not only Nick has pointed out how “slow” the “Cambrian Explosion” was, but, several years ago, Donald Prothero in his book “Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters” suggested that we think of the “Cambrian Explosion” as the “Cambrian Slow-Fuse” since the diversification occupied an interval of time nearly 60 million years old, so it wasn’t as “rapid and instantaneous” as Meyer, Luskin et al. have insisted.

Homoplasy at the DNA level is widespread, and can make it difficult to separate closely spaced branches of evolutionary trees. However, this challenge can be circumvented by using rare genomic changes as characters (insertions, deletions at specific positions) that are very, very unlikely to happen independently in different lineages.

I am inexplicably delighted to see someone use the term question-begging in it’s original sense. I feared I was the only one who remembered the difference between raising a question and begging a question.

Pelosi commenting on Meyer’s book:

“Who cares?”

John Harshman said:

The most important point here, absent any quibbles about who said exactly what, is that the existence of the various lobopods, all by itself, falsifies Meyer’s claim about a “lawn of phyla” by connecting at least three modern phyla with nice intermediates. And neither Meyer nor Luskin has addressed that at all.

This would be my only negative criticism to Nick’s second post: focusing on the minituae may be exactly what Casey wants to do. “I didn’t say well, I said good!” can be a rhetorical strategy to distract from the overall failure of an argument. Spending time showing that they actually did say ‘well’ just plays into the distraction.

eric said:

John Harshman said:

The most important point here, absent any quibbles about who said exactly what, is that the existence of the various lobopods, all by itself, falsifies Meyer’s claim about a “lawn of phyla” by connecting at least three modern phyla with nice intermediates. And neither Meyer nor Luskin has addressed that at all.

This would be my only negative criticism to Nick’s second post: focusing on the minituae may be exactly what Casey wants to do. “I didn’t say well, I said good!” can be a rhetorical strategy to distract from the overall failure of an argument. Spending time showing that they actually did say ‘well’ just plays into the distraction.

It’s still kinda funny that Luskin makes mistakes like this:

Meyer doesn’t try to enter into the debate over whether Anomalocaris is a “stem group” or “crown group” arthropod, or a member of euarthropoda, or panarthropoda.

Here is what Nick just told us.

It might help to remember that I spent 3 years at NCSE researching the ID movement and basically crawling inside their heads, and then 6 years in graduate school studying, and TAing, and publishing phylogenetics. Unlike most scientists, I am deeply familiar with the ID arguments, their weird vague question-begging definitions of crucial terms and premises in their argument (“information”, “fundamentally new” whatevers, etc.), and so I don’t have to spend a lot of time mentally unravelling the multiple levels of confusion and misunderstanding and wishful thinking that are going on whenever Meyer rehashes some oft-used, previously refuted ID talking point. I can focus on what little is new and unique to the book in question – in the case of Meyer’s book, this is basically the stuff about the Cambrian and phylogenetics.

Nick will be happy to know that we old geezers can recognize knowledge and competence when we see it. I never doubted Nick.

This really makes me feel good. It is nice to see a competent younger generation coming along that will keep fighting for sanity in our science education programs.

If there are any lurkers from the younger generation of scientists watching this, please follow Nick’s example.

Thanks Nick!

Mike Elzinga said:

Here is what Nick just told us.

It might help to remember that I spent 3 years at NCSE researching the ID movement and basically crawling inside their heads, and then 6 years in graduate school studying, and TAing, and publishing phylogenetics. Unlike most scientists, I am deeply familiar with the ID arguments, their weird vague question-begging definitions of crucial terms and premises in their argument (“information”, “fundamentally new” whatevers, etc.), and so I don’t have to spend a lot of time mentally unravelling the multiple levels of confusion and misunderstanding and wishful thinking that are going on whenever Meyer rehashes some oft-used, previously refuted ID talking point. I can focus on what little is new and unique to the book in question – in the case of Meyer’s book, this is basically the stuff about the Cambrian and phylogenetics.

Nick will be happy to know that we old geezers can recognize knowledge and competence when we see it. I never doubted Nick.

This really makes me feel good. It is nice to see a competent younger generation coming along that will keep fighting for sanity in our science education programs.

If there are any lurkers from the younger generation of scientists watching this, please follow Nick’s example.

Thanks Nick!

I strongly echo your sentiment, Mike!

I can only watch the debate and am doing my best to read all that’s being said; except I don’t see no reason to buy the book. But I am impressed by the formidable job Nick is doing, down to producing 7 pages 3386 words 17966 characters 50 paragraphs 260 lines (w/o quotes), including links, during an airport interlude.

I read the stuff, but am no better than Luskin wrt “whether Anomalocaris is a “stem group” or “crown group” arthropod, or a member of euarthropoda, or panarthropoda.”

But I believe I might learn if I needed to.

Nick wrote:

…Luskin says he was Meyer’s research assistant on the book.

Meyer says so, too, in the Acknowledgements: “Casey Luskin, Discovery research coordinator, has repeatedly gone above and beyond the call of duty in his commitment to, and skillful work on, this book.”

diogeneslamp0 Wrote:

then Meyer’s book is just more creationist trash, no better than Ray Comfort.

Probably far worse, if I understand correctly that Comfort more clearly states his position on which “kinds” arose independently, and does not try to fool such a big “tent” of an audience.

Rolf said:

I can only watch the debate and am doing my best to read all that’s being said; except I don’t see no reason to buy the book. But I am impressed by the formidable job Nick is doing, down to producing 7 pages 3386 words 17966 characters 50 paragraphs 260 lines (w/o quotes), including links, during an airport interlude.

I read the stuff, but am no better than Luskin wrt “whether Anomalocaris is a “stem group” or “crown group” arthropod, or a member of euarthropoda, or panarthropoda.”

But I believe I might learn if I needed to.

Yeah, but you’re a normal person who’s not going to pretend to vast knowledge he doesn’t have. The creationists assert they’re smarter than the world’s scientists and pretend to have encyclopedic knowledge of paleontology, information theory, etc. And they never admit they’re wrong.

As for Meyer’s fake graph of Cambrian phyla appearing all at once, it’s apparently copied, with no significant changes, from something he wrote in 2001 with Young Earther Paul Nelson and Chinese IDer Paul Chien. The 2001 version is reproduced at Darwinism Refuted.

The Cambrian Age is a geological period estimated to have lasted some 65 million years, approximately between 570 to 505 million years ago. But the period of the abrupt appearance of major animal groups fit in an even shorter phase of the Cambrian, often referred to as the “Cambrian explosion.” Stephen C. Meyer, P. A. Nelson, and Paul Chien, in a 2001 article based on a detailed literature survey, dated 2001, note that the “Cambrian explosion occurred within an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time, lasting no more than 5 million years.”56

Before then, there is no trace in the fossil record of anything apart from single-celled creatures and a few very primitive multicellular ones. All animal phyla emerged completely formed and all at once, in the very short period of time represented by the Cambrian explosion. (Five million years is a very short time in geological terms!)

The fossils found in Cambrian rocks belong to very different creatures, such as snails, trilobites, sponges, jellyfish, starfish, shellfish, etc. Most of the creatures in this layer have complex systems and advanced structures, such as eyes, gills, and circulatory systems, exactly the same as those in modern specimens…

As Phillip Johnson has revealed, far from its being the case that phyla came about by stages, in reality they all came into being at once

As we can see, in the Precambrian Age there were three different phyla consisting of single-cell creatures. But in the Cambrian Age, some 60 to 100 different animal phyla emerged all of a sudden.

…One of the creatures which suddenly emerged in the Cambrian Age was Hallucigenia, seen at top left. And as with many other Cambrian fossils, like the one at the right it has spines or a hard shell to protect it from attack by enemies. The question that evolutionists cannot answer is, “How could they have come by such an effective defense system at a time when there were no predators around?” The lack of predators at the time makes it impossible to explain the matter in terms of natural selection.

[Darwinism Refuted.]

The boldface above is bullshit. No predators in the Cambrian! Idiots.

Cambrian explosion full of fully formed starfish and snails!

The X axis of Meyer’s graph is shown as “morphological distance.” All the vertical lines are straight up, meaning no morphological changes nor increase in disparity in ~525 million years. Hoax.

No change in the vertical line for arthropods when insects or arachnids appear.

No change in the vertical line for vertebrates when jawed fishes, tetrapods, dinosaurs, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, birds, mammals, giraffes, bats, whales etc. appear.

Scientific fraud.

So YEC Paul Nelson helped write a book that even he doesn’t believe? Such integrity!

Nelson once explained his position on the age of the Cambrian Explosion by saying that he didn’t have to “believe” Nietzsche’s philosophical points to debate the merits of them pro or con. Nelson looks upon science as “debate points” that one can argue pro or con without any “belief” or acceptance one way of the other.

But, like Lenny’s pizza boy, Nelson doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him because he’s not responsible for anything or accountable to anyone. Again, regarding anything Nelson might have to say on any subject, Pelosi says it best: “Who cares?”

Karen S. said:

So YEC Paul Nelson helped write a book that even he doesn’t believe? Such integrity!

That’s the “Big Tent” for ya!

Let’s just explore a few of the things wrong with that.

The Cambrian Age is a geological period estimated to have lasted some 65 million years, approximately between 570 to 505 million years ago.

Even this little detail is wrong; it should be 542 to 488. They clearly are using sources that were out of date even in 2001.

But the period of the abrupt appearance of major animal groups fit in an even shorter phase of the Cambrian, often referred to as the “Cambrian explosion.” Stephen C. Meyer, P. A. Nelson, and Paul Chien, in a 2001 article based on a detailed literature survey, dated 2001, note that the “Cambrian explosion occurred within an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time, lasting no more than 5 million years.”56

This may be true, depending on what you mean by the explosion. We might suppose it to begin with the base of the Atdabanian with the first appearance of trilobites and end with the Chengjiang fauna, at which point many of the major groups are present. Since the Chengjiang closely resembles the Middle Cambrian Burgess, we may suppose the explosion to at least have tapered off by then. One problem is that the base of the Atdabanian isn’t well dated. But it’s certainly reasonable to suppose that the period in question isn’t much more than 5 million years.

Before then, there is no trace in the fossil record of anything apart from single-celled creatures and a few very primitive multicellular ones. All animal phyla emerged completely formed and all at once, in the very short period of time represented by the Cambrian explosion. (Five million years is a very short time in geological terms!)

But here the errors are major and come in profusion. There is considerable trace of multicellular animals before the Atdabanian. Even if we dismiss the Ediacaran fauna – and it’s not clear whether it contains any primitive bilaterians – there is the gradual increase in variety and complexity of trace fossils through the Late Vendian and Early Cambrian and the somewhat later – but still pre-Atdabanian – diversification of the small shelly fauna. And of course all animal phyla didn’t emerge in the explosion, so far as we can tell from the fossil record; fully half the animal phyla have no fossil record to speak of, and we know that bryozoans only came along in the Ordovician. As for “fully formed”, that’s one of the main subjects of Nick’s review. Stem groups, anyone? And hey, what about plants? The major plant groups trickle in from the Silurian to the Cretaceous.

The fossils found in Cambrian rocks belong to very different creatures, such as snails, trilobites, sponges, jellyfish, starfish, shellfish, etc. Most of the creatures in this layer have complex systems and advanced structures, such as eyes, gills, and circulatory systems, exactly the same as those in modern specimens…

Snails and shellfish both? Interesting. Cnidarians (“jellyfish” in their terminology) are known from the Ediacaran, as are sponge spicules. The earliest asteroids (“starfish”) are Ordovician. Certainly the animals of the Cambrian explosion are exactly like modern specimens if you make your criteria vague enough, as in “some have eyes, some have gills, and some have circulatory systems”. But is that at all meaningful?

As Phillip Johnson has revealed, far from its being the case that phyla came about by stages, in reality they all came into being at once…

How did Philip Johnson reveal this? Was it in a set of golden tablets? In fact we know that the earliest known fossils unambiguously belonging to perhaps 15 of the modern phyla, or their stem groups, are known from the Atdabanian. We know that many soft-bodied phyla are missing. Were they perhaps created later, assuming we take the record literally? Or should we admit that there may be taphonomic artifacts, i.e. an incomplete record? In either case, the claim of “sudden appearance all at once” becomes untenable.

As we can see, in the Precambrian Age there were three different phyla consisting of single-cell creatures. But in the Cambrian Age, some 60 to 100 different animal phyla emerged all of a sudden.

What are these three single-celled phyla? I can’t figure it; I either count way too many or not enough. And what about the multicellular Ediacarans? Nor can I figure out what the 60 to 100 animal phyla emerging all of a sudden might be. I count 35 or so phyla, only around half of which are known from any time in the Cambrian.

…One of the creatures which suddenly emerged in the Cambrian Age was Hallucigenia, seen at top left. And as with many other Cambrian fossils, like the one at the right it has spines or a hard shell to protect it from attack by enemies. The question that evolutionists cannot answer is, “How could they have come by such an effective defense system at a time when there were no predators around?” The lack of predators at the time makes it impossible to explain the matter in terms of natural selection.

And yet I bet they also talk about Anomalocaris; go figure. Well, at least they apparently have managed (unlike, apparently, Meyer) to put Hallucigenia right side up. [Darwinism Refuted.]

Truly astonishing.

John Harshman said:

Let’s just explore a few of the things wrong with that.

The Cambrian Age is a geological period estimated to have lasted some 65 million years, approximately between 570 to 505 million years ago.

Even this little detail is wrong; it should be 542 to 488. They clearly are using sources that were out of date even in 2001.

But the period of the abrupt appearance of major animal groups fit in an even shorter phase of the Cambrian, often referred to as the “Cambrian explosion.” Stephen C. Meyer, P. A. Nelson, and Paul Chien, in a 2001 article based on a detailed literature survey, dated 2001, note that the “Cambrian explosion occurred within an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time, lasting no more than 5 million years.”56

This may be true, depending on what you mean by the explosion. We might suppose it to begin with the base of the Atdabanian with the first appearance of trilobites and end with the Chengjiang fauna, at which point many of the major groups are present. Since the Chengjiang closely resembles the Middle Cambrian Burgess, we may suppose the explosion to at least have tapered off by then. One problem is that the base of the Atdabanian isn’t well dated. But it’s certainly reasonable to suppose that the period in question isn’t much more than 5 million years.

Before then, there is no trace in the fossil record of anything apart from single-celled creatures and a few very primitive multicellular ones. All animal phyla emerged completely formed and all at once, in the very short period of time represented by the Cambrian explosion. (Five million years is a very short time in geological terms!)

But here the errors are major and come in profusion. There is considerable trace of multicellular animals before the Atdabanian. Even if we dismiss the Ediacaran fauna – and it’s not clear whether it contains any primitive bilaterians – there is the gradual increase in variety and complexity of trace fossils through the Late Vendian and Early Cambrian and the somewhat later – but still pre-Atdabanian – diversification of the small shelly fauna. And of course all animal phyla didn’t emerge in the explosion, so far as we can tell from the fossil record; fully half the animal phyla have no fossil record to speak of, and we know that bryozoans only came along in the Ordovician. As for “fully formed”, that’s one of the main subjects of Nick’s review. Stem groups, anyone? And hey, what about plants? The major plant groups trickle in from the Silurian to the Cretaceous.

The fossils found in Cambrian rocks belong to very different creatures, such as snails, trilobites, sponges, jellyfish, starfish, shellfish, etc. Most of the creatures in this layer have complex systems and advanced structures, such as eyes, gills, and circulatory systems, exactly the same as those in modern specimens…

Snails and shellfish both? Interesting. Cnidarians (“jellyfish” in their terminology) are known from the Ediacaran, as are sponge spicules. The earliest asteroids (“starfish”) are Ordovician. Certainly the animals of the Cambrian explosion are exactly like modern specimens if you make your criteria vague enough, as in “some have eyes, some have gills, and some have circulatory systems”. But is that at all meaningful?

As Phillip Johnson has revealed, far from its being the case that phyla came about by stages, in reality they all came into being at once…

How did Philip Johnson reveal this? Was it in a set of golden tablets? In fact we know that the earliest known fossils unambiguously belonging to perhaps 15 of the modern phyla, or their stem groups, are known from the Atdabanian. We know that many soft-bodied phyla are missing. Were they perhaps created later, assuming we take the record literally? Or should we admit that there may be taphonomic artifacts, i.e. an incomplete record? In either case, the claim of “sudden appearance all at once” becomes untenable.

As we can see, in the Precambrian Age there were three different phyla consisting of single-cell creatures. But in the Cambrian Age, some 60 to 100 different animal phyla emerged all of a sudden.

What are these three single-celled phyla? I can’t figure it; I either count way too many or not enough. And what about the multicellular Ediacarans? Nor can I figure out what the 60 to 100 animal phyla emerging all of a sudden might be. I count 35 or so phyla, only around half of which are known from any time in the Cambrian.

…One of the creatures which suddenly emerged in the Cambrian Age was Hallucigenia, seen at top left. And as with many other Cambrian fossils, like the one at the right it has spines or a hard shell to protect it from attack by enemies. The question that evolutionists cannot answer is, “How could they have come by such an effective defense system at a time when there were no predators around?” The lack of predators at the time makes it impossible to explain the matter in terms of natural selection.

And yet I bet they also talk about Anomalocaris; go figure. Well, at least they apparently have managed (unlike, apparently, Meyer) to put Hallucigenia right side up. [Darwinism Refuted.]

Truly astonishing.

Indeed, it’s truly astonishing BS from Meyer. Moreover there is no mention of the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event which had substantially higher taxonomic diversification rates than during the “Cambrian Explosion”.

Fifteen phyla [in the Atdabanian]? Really? Do you have a reference for that? I’d love a reference.

Based on my (limited, amateur) knowledge I figured it was like three to maybe seven phyla, with the ambiguity being due to all those trace fossils of worms.

I didn’t make any actual count. But let’s see: Arthropoda, Cnidaria, Porifera, Chordata, Annelida, Echinodermata, Onychophora, Priapulida, Mollusca, Brachiopoda, and possibly Nematomorpha, Ctenophora, Phoronida, and Chaetognatha. (Some of those are stem-members only.) Add any extinct lineages you would consider phyla.

But I’d argue that there’s really good evidence of bilaterians in the pre-Cambrian. To start with Kimberella, it’s hard to imagine it’s not bilaterian. If you were served Kimberella at a sushi bar, you would dunk it in soy sauce and wasabi and swallow it without a thought.

Then there’s Ausia fenestrata, a chordate sensu lato.

I’m willing to admit that Spriggina is not an ancestor of trilobites or arthropods, because of its glide symmetry and its obvious similarity to other rangeomorphs.

However, based on the very same logic, one has to admit that Parvancorina looks just like an ancestor of trilobites. See some comparisons of Parvancorina and trilobites here. Parvancorina Minchami has faint lines indicating body segmentation like a trilobite. It looks like the early Cambrian arthropod Primicaris larvaformis from the Chengjiang biota, which likewise resembles a larval form of a Cambrian trilobite. The same logic that excludes Spriggina as an ancestor would have to regard Parvancorina as a real possibility.

I’m willing to say that Spriggina isn’t a stem arthropod and even say that Arkarua maybe isn’t a stem echinoderm. But there are other possible ancestors in the Ediacaran.

I don’t believe the case is clear on any of these. Preservation just isn’t good enough. However, there is good evidence in the form of trace fossils.

I am correct insofar as the public is concerned. If the public saw dramatic increases in taxonomic diversity occurring faster during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) and compared that with the relatively slow diversification rate during the “Cambrian Explosion”, then, I hope, they would understand how much the DI is making a “molehill” out of nothing.

Then neither you nor the public understands the difference between diversity and disparity.

John Harshman said:

Fifteen phyla [in the Atdabanian]? Really? Do you have a reference for that? I’d love a reference.

Based on my (limited, amateur) knowledge I figured it was like three to maybe seven phyla, with the ambiguity being due to all those trace fossils of worms.

I didn’t make any actual count. But let’s see: Arthropoda, Cnidaria, Porifera, Chordata, Annelida, Echinodermata, Onychophora, Priapulida, Mollusca, Brachiopoda, and possibly Nematomorpha, Ctenophora, Phoronida, and Chaetognatha. (Some of those are stem-members only.) Add any extinct lineages you would consider phyla.

The Cambrian Ctenophora are, last I checked, considered stem-members, though, they do bear a resemblance to the Beroids. Stromatoveris is a stalked organism that resembles an Ediacaran rangeomorph, but, is considered, by the presence of cilia, to be closest to the ancestral ctenophore. And yes, stem-group molluscs are very well represented throughout the Early Cambrian.

But I’d argue that there’s really good evidence of bilaterians in the pre-Cambrian. To start with Kimberella, it’s hard to imagine it’s not bilaterian. If you were served Kimberella at a sushi bar, you would dunk it in soy sauce and wasabi and swallow it without a thought.

Then there’s Ausia fenestrata, a chordate sensu lato.

I’m willing to admit that Spriggina is not an ancestor of trilobites or arthropods, because of its glide symmetry and its obvious similarity to other rangeomorphs.

However, based on the very same logic, one has to admit that Parvancorina looks just like an ancestor of trilobites. See some comparisons of Parvancorina and trilobites here. Parvancorina Minchami has faint lines indicating body segmentation like a trilobite. It looks like the early Cambrian arthropod Primicaris larvaformis from the Chengjiang biota, which likewise resembles a larval form of a Cambrian trilobite. The same logic that excludes Spriggina as an ancestor would have to regard Parvancorina as a real possibility.

I’m willing to say that Spriggina isn’t a stem arthropod and even say that Arkarua maybe isn’t a stem echinoderm. But there are other possible ancestors in the Ediacaran.

I don’t believe the case is clear on any of these. Preservation just isn’t good enough. However, there is good evidence in the form of trace fossils.

It’s specifically because of newer, better preserved fossils (primarily from the shores of the White Sea) that Spriggina is thought to be more closely related to Ediacarans like Dickinsonia and Yorgia, and is no longer thought to be an arthropod.

Kimberella is undoubtedly a stem-mollusc, as it has a mantle, a precursor to a shell, and a radula. Numerous specimens from the White Sea have been fossilized together with feeding traces, showing that, in life, the critter methodically grazed certain portions of the algal/bacterial biofilms, then doublebacked on its own tracks in order to deliberately avoid crawling over already-grazed surfaces.

As for Arkarua, the only evidence to suggest that it is an echinoderm is its fivefold symmetry, which gives it a strong, but probably superficial resemblance to the Edrioasteroids (a class of seat cushion-like filterfeeders related to the sea lilies). Otherwise, most experts strongly doubt Arkarua‘s proposed echinoderm affinities because its fossils lack traces of stereom plates (which are a far more important diagnostic of echinoderm affinity).

And yes, stem-group molluscs are very well represented throughout the Early Cambrian.

Well, we aren’t talking about the entire Early Cambrian, just the Atdabanian. And those are mostly crown-group mollusks.

John Harshman said:

And yes, stem-group molluscs are very well represented throughout the Early Cambrian.

Well, we aren’t talking about the entire Early Cambrian, just the Atdabanian. And those are mostly crown-group mollusks.

The earliest, for-certain crown-group mollusk from the Early Cambrian would be the ur-bivalve, Pojetaia, of the Tommotian.

The status of most of the other early Cambrian mollusks, i.e., the Helcionelloida, is in flux: some people think they’re gastropods, other people aren’t convinced, and still others think they’re precursors to the gastropods. For certain, the first really-for-sure gastropods, like Chippewaella, and Strepsodiscus appear during the Late Cambrian, long after the Cambrian Explosion.

maybe of interest: Novel Scenarios of Early Animal Evolution—Is It Time to Rewrite Textbooks? http://icb.oxfordjournals.org/conte[…].ict008.full

apokryltaros said: The earliest, for-certain crown-group mollusk from the Early Cambrian would be the ur-bivalve, Pojetaia, of the Tommotian.

The status of most of the other early Cambrian mollusks, i.e., the Helcionelloida, is in flux: some people think they’re gastropods, other people aren’t convinced, and still others think they’re precursors to the gastropods. For certain, the first really-for-sure gastropods, like Chippewaella, and Strepsodiscus appear during the Late Cambrian, long after the Cambrian Explosion.

Stem-gastropods are crown group mollusks. Rostroconchs are probably crown group mollusks. Any fossil descended from the common ancestor of cephalopods, bivalves, gastropods, solenogastres, chitons, monoplacophorans, and the two other classes whose names currently escape me are crown group mollusks.

Hi Nick,

If by “9/11 Truther” you mean someone who thinks there should be a new, independent investigation of 9/11, then one can be a competent Truther without sufficient knowledge of engineering. One only needs to know that an incomplete investigation was carried out the first time, such as not replicating the molten yellow metal pouring from the South Tower; not replicating the eutectically melted steel found by FEMA; not testing the dust for explosive residues; not explaining how WTC7 fell a free fall acceleration for almost two and a half seconds; and not releasing the computer data for NIST’s computer animation of WTC7’s collapse.

John Harshman said:

I am correct insofar as the public is concerned. If the public saw dramatic increases in taxonomic diversity occurring faster during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) and compared that with the relatively slow diversification rate during the “Cambrian Explosion”, then, I hope, they would understand how much the DI is making a “molehill” out of nothing.

Then neither you nor the public understands the difference between diversity and disparity.

You got to be kidding me. In lieu of disparity, I would refer to evolution of bauplane; that is evolution of different morphologies. The point the DI is trying to make is that you have an “explosion” in new taxa that occurs during the “Cambrian Explosion”; that point is nonsensical when you compare and contrast what occurred during the “Cambrian Explosion” with the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” (GOBE). The pace of diversification is substantially faster during the GOBE than it is during the “Cambrian Explosion”.

apokryltaros said:

John said:

John Harshman said:

John said:

Do they have a decipherable point? I think not, and I know you and I would be in full agreement with regards to that. My point in bringing up the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) is merely to underscore what Nick Matzke - and earlier, Donald Prothero, among others - have pointed out with regards to the relatively slow diversification rate during the “Cambrian Explosion” in comparison with the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event and other substantial taxonomic diversification events. For Meyer and Luskin and their ilk to contend that the “Cambrian Explosion” can be explained only via the “lens” of Intelligent Design, then surely their Intelligent Designer must have had his hands full when executing the GOBE.

They don’t have a point, but I think your point is mistaken too. You are confusing disparity with diversity. Sepkoski’s databases were explicitly intended to be proxies for counts of species, i.e. measures of diversity. Meyer et al. are talking about disparity (whether they know it or not; hard to tell). These are two quite different quantities, and one says little or nothing about the other.

I am correct insofar as the public is concerned. If the public saw dramatic increases in taxonomic diversity occurring faster during the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event (GOBE) and compared that with the relatively slow diversification rate during the “Cambrian Explosion”, then, I hope, they would understand how much the DI is making a “molehill” out of nothing.

The Discovery Institute is, more or less, sticking their fingers into the ears of the public while shrieking singsong “Lalalala, Can’t hear you!” and has, tragically, made immense progress with this tactic.

It is imperative that the public be informed about the various Early Paleozoic diversification events in easy to digest form, as well as to inform the public about how Intelligent Design Theory is not only not science in any meaningful form, but also anti-science religious propaganda that serves no purpose beyond making people Hate Science For Jesus in order to further Jesusify America.

I agree with you wholeheartedly here. If John Harshman wants to play semantic games - and I do not disagree with him that there is a difference between looking at taxonomic diversity vs. disparity (evolution of new body plans, or bauplane) - that would confuse the general public, then our cause isn’t served, when we are trying to indicate to them that the “Cambrian Explosion” wasn’t as dramatic an “explosion” as the DI contends.

W. H. Heydt said:

Robert Byers said:

W. H. Heydt said:

Robert Byers said: Its all guessing about connections not demonstrated by evidence.

There’s an old joke that a “theory” is a “guess with a college education.”

If you had one, you might get the humor in that.

Its a good joke because it makes a good point that people would agree with to some extent. Its a scepticism that many ‘theories” don’t have have credible evidence behind them to justify being true theories. A scientific theory raises the bar or standard in investigation and evidence before conclusions can be demanded to be well supported. I do see evolution fails this. I see it especially fails as a biological scientific theory because its great claims to evidence, like the fossil subject of the thread here, are noy based on pure biological investigation. They are only conclusions based on USING biological data points(fossils etc) for drawing the conclusions of descent and process. Without the geology being true the biology conclusions not only wouldn’t be true but would be useless. They say nothing about the conclusions drawn from them. Its ALL geological assumptions doing the work. There is no biology research behinf evolutionary biology in main points. I ask HOW is fossils related to biological conclusions of descent and process?? Its been a strange lingering logical flaw in the subject as I see it.

Point. Completely. Missed. Which is what I expected.

The point is, Sir, that you lack both knowledge and education to understand the subject matter in question. On top of that you have been MIS-educated to have a lot of false ideas, erroneous understanding, and inability to understand the science involved, the evidence that is available, and ways putting two together.

It is your continual willful ignorance and simple pig-headed insistance in repeating the same old errors and falsehoods repeatedly after being shown why those ideas are false that get people annoyed with you.

I would suggest that reading some decent books on these subjects (many have been suggested) and actually learning what and why mainstream science says would help, but I fear that you are, at this point, not able to learn and would reject anything that does not conform to your current–unsupported–beliefs.

I understand my subjects. Yet this is not about subjects but about methodology in what I said. I am confident I make a good case here. Case in point is the thread. Conclusions about biological descent and so process are defended against criticisms of the this descent and process with EVERYBODY not actually doing any biological scientific investigation in regards to these sequences of fossils. Rather they draw biological conclusions from observations of biological data points (fossils) that eNTIRELY only work if thev geological assumptions are accurate. without the geology the biology not only does not work but is impossible to draw these conclusions. Therefore no biology is actually being done. Just drawing lines between dots. draw but don’t persuade oneself one is doing biological research and backing up a biological theory or even hypothesis. Where is biological investigation being done with slabs of rock imprinted with creatures in a moment of time.??

eric said:

Robert Byers said: like the fossil subject of the thread here, are noy [sic] based on pure biological investigation. They are only conclusions based on USING biological data points(fossils etc) for drawing the conclusions of descent and process.

You say that like its a bad thing, but drawing general inferences from limited data is pretty much the whole point and process of science.

I ask HOW is fossils related to biological conclusions of descent and process??

The fossil record shows incremental change over time. That’s descent with modification. Mutation + natural selection provides a mechanism for how that descent with modification can occur.

Now, if you have an empirically testable alternative mechanism, feel free to go out, test it, and show us the results. Pick up a shovel and go digging for that 50 million year old alien genetics lab. But no scientist is obligated to give even a moment of their time to your idle speculation until after you come up with some empirical evidence that confirms a testable alternative mechanism.

Thats my point. The fossil record does not show biological evidence for descent through time. Instead this descent “myth” is concluded by arranging and connecting fossils in sequences in sediment based on geological claims of segregated depositions covering long periods of time. They are not biologically discovering descent. They are instead connecting biological data points (fossils) with no relevance to biological evidence except gelogy sequence and morphological differences. Of coarse the lack of morphological morphing in the fossil record called for a desperate reinterpretation called punctuated equilibrium. Another line of reasoning unrelated to biological scientific investigation.

Well, it’s clear that Mr. Byers has no understanding of geology either.

Robert Byers said:

W. H. Heydt said:

Robert Byers said:

W. H. Heydt said:

Robert Byers said: Its all guessing about connections not demonstrated by evidence.

There’s an old joke that a “theory” is a “guess with a college education.”

If you had one, you might get the humor in that.

Its a good joke because it makes a good point that people would agree with to some extent. Its a scepticism that many ‘theories” don’t have have credible evidence behind them to justify being true theories. A scientific theory raises the bar or standard in investigation and evidence before conclusions can be demanded to be well supported. I do see evolution fails this. I see it especially fails as a biological scientific theory because its great claims to evidence, like the fossil subject of the thread here, are noy based on pure biological investigation. They are only conclusions based on USING biological data points(fossils etc) for drawing the conclusions of descent and process. Without the geology being true the biology conclusions not only wouldn’t be true but would be useless. They say nothing about the conclusions drawn from them. Its ALL geological assumptions doing the work. There is no biology research behinf evolutionary biology in main points. I ask HOW is fossils related to biological conclusions of descent and process?? Its been a strange lingering logical flaw in the subject as I see it.

Point. Completely. Missed. Which is what I expected.

The point is, Sir, that you lack both knowledge and education to understand the subject matter in question. On top of that you have been MIS-educated to have a lot of false ideas, erroneous understanding, and inability to understand the science involved, the evidence that is available, and ways putting two together.

It is your continual willful ignorance and simple pig-headed insistance in repeating the same old errors and falsehoods repeatedly after being shown why those ideas are false that get people annoyed with you.

I would suggest that reading some decent books on these subjects (many have been suggested) and actually learning what and why mainstream science says would help, but I fear that you are, at this point, not able to learn and would reject anything that does not conform to your current–unsupported–beliefs.

I understand my subjects. Yet this is not about subjects but about methodology in what I said. I am confident I make a good case here.

LOL!!!! A good case for what?? Your insanity!?!

John said:

You got to be kidding me. In lieu of disparity, I would refer to evolution of bauplane; that is evolution of different morphologies. The point the DI is trying to make is that you have an “explosion” in new taxa that occurs during the “Cambrian Explosion”; that point is nonsensical when you compare and contrast what occurred during the “Cambrian Explosion” with the “Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event” (GOBE). The pace of diversification is substantially faster during the GOBE than it is during the “Cambrian Explosion”.

I’m not kidding you. In your post just above, you slide back and forth between diversity and disparity without seeming to notice that there’s a difference. The DI is talking about the origin of phyla, proxy for disparity; the Ordovician event is talking about the origins of families and genera, proxy for species counts, i.e. diversity. These are not the same thing, and one is irrelevant to the other. The “pace of diversification”, i.e. speciation rate, is not relevant to the Cambrian explosion.

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmg[…].php/id/1232

I happened across this 2004 blog post by Luskin and the figures look remarkably similar.

ogremk5 said:

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmg[…].php/id/1232

I happened across this 2004 blog post by Luskin and the figures look remarkably similar.

Not surprising at all, considering Luskin’s job is to verbally defecate on scientific breakthroughs and progress, and not/never adapt to/understand/communicate them.

ogremk5 said:

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmg[…].php/id/1232

I happened across this 2004 blog post by Luskin and the figures look remarkably similar.

Thanks. Luskin’s 2004 fake plot is identical to his 2003 fake plot.

However, his 2004 fake plot is cited to a source, unlike his 2003 version, which has no citation! He cites the source of his data as, of all people: Niles Eldredge, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, pg. 65-66, (1982). Luskin’s 2003 version has no citation for its plot and makes no mention of Eldredge anywhere.

Does anybody have Eldredge’s Monkey Business? Does it really have such a plot on p. 65-66? If Eldredge does have such a plot, then we can’t blame Luskin, we must blame Eldredge (although we can blame Luskin for using 22-year-old data in 2004, and Meyer for copying it in 2013.

But if Eldredge’s Monkey Business does not have such a plot, then Luskin is guilty of scientific fraud for making up fake data or citing a source that has no such data.

Get a gander at the logical incoherence of this bit of Luskin:

Luskin wrote:

Meyer doesn’t try to enter into the debate over whether Anomalocaris is a “stem group” or “crown group” arthropod, or a member of euarthropoda, or panarthropoda.

So if Stephen Meyer has no idea what “arthropod” means, how can he and Luskin assert that there are no fossils ancestral to arthropods? Which is the claim endlessly repeated at ENV and Uncommon Descent.

Both Luskin and Meyer stated explicitly that there are NO ancestral forms to any phyla including arthropods, but they don’t know or won’t say what arthropods look like, so they have no idea, no hypothesis, what an ancestor to arthropods must look like.

It’s the old creationist gambit: “I don’t know what ‘intermediate fossil’ means and I can’t define it and I don’t know what an ‘intermediate fossil’ would look like, but I do know that every fossil ever discovered does not look like the thing I can’t define whose appearance I don’t know and can’t imagine.”

Compare this to Jonathan Wells denying transitional fossils, when he was asked directly “how intermediate fossils are to be identified in the fossil record”:

Jonathan Wells wrote:

I’m not sure I can adequately specify “how intermediate fossils are to be identified in the fossil record,”

OK, fuck off then. You can’t define what they should look like, so don’t write anything on the topic beyond “I dunno”. Oh wait, creationist Wells has to keep talking:

I’m not sure I can adequately specify “how intermediate fossils are to be identified in the fossil record,” though Archaeopteryx would be a very poor candidate in any case,

Oh, Jesus. Here we go again. You don’t know what it is but you know Archaeopteryx and everything else is not the thing you can’t define. Proceed…

since it lacks both the anatomical features and the stratigraphic (i.e. chronological) position to satisfy even those people who are determined to find intermediates between reptiles and birds.

[James Downard vs. Jonathan Wells]

Oh. So you don’t know what “transitional fossil” means or how it’s defined, but you know Archaeopteryx and everthing else isn’t it.

More help with diversity vs. disparity, please.

My interpretation of http://www.indiana.edu/%7Eg404/Lect[…]isparity.pdf is that diversity refers to differences between species or lineages, while disparity refers to differences of morphology (i.e. structure).

Is this correct?

Diversity is just another word for the number of species. Disparity is a word for morphological (or other) variety. It’s often measured by some index of hypervolume filled in some kind of morphospace. Birds are more diverse than mammals but have less disparity.

Well, disparity is better defined as the mean distance in the morphospace. This means that hypervolume filled divided by the number of species is a measure of disparity - the raw hypervolume is only a decent proxxy if diversity doesn´t change significantly.

Ciampaglio, C. N., Kemp, M., and McShea, D. W., 2001, Detecting changes in morphospace occupation patterns in the fossil record: characterization and analysis of measures of disparity.: Paleobiology 27:4, 695-715.

is probably the paper to go to for this.

There are various proposed measures of disparity. It seems an odd measure, though, if an increase in diversity automatically results in a decrease in disparity. I think volume encompassed (rather than filled) is a better measure of what we’re trying to get at.

I like the normalization, mainly because a constant disparity becomes a decent null model in this case. An increase in diversity only leads to a decrease in disparity if the hypervolume doesn´t grow.

That doesn’t sound like normalization to me. According to the measure you stated (average distance), an increase in diversity with constant hypervolume results in a decrease in disparity.

That doesn’t sound like normalization to me. According to the measure you stated (average distance), an increase in diversity with constant hypervolume results in a decrease in disparity.

Indeed. Basically what disparity using the pairwise distance metric measures is how densely the hypervolume is filled. Dividing the hypervolume by standing diversity gives you the mean volume a species has to itself. In both cases you are looking at the question: If I picked two species from the biota with uniform probability, how much will they differ morphologically.

And that’s a question worthy of an answer. But I wouldn’t call it disparity.

diogeneslamp0 said:

Luskin’s 2004 fake plot is identical to his 2003 fake plot.

However, his 2004 fake plot is cited to a source, unlike his 2003 version, which has no citation! He cites the source of his data as, of all people: Niles Eldredge, The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism, pg. 65-66, (1982). Luskin’s 2003 version has no citation for its plot and makes no mention of Eldredge anywhere.

Does anybody have Eldredge’s Monkey Business? Does it really have such a plot on p. 65-66?

For the record, I just bought a copy of Eldredge’s Monkey Business off the internet, because it was not at any library within hundreds of miles of my home. Examining pages 65-66, I find that of course there is no plot, no table, not data, nothing there on which Luskin might have based his fake “Cambrian phyla” plot of 2004, so it’s scientific fraud on Luskin’s part.

For future references, here’s the only relevant passage from the Eldredge book. In other places, Casey Luskin has cited the sentence “In fact, the higher up the Linnaean hierarchy you look, the fewer transitional forms there seem to be”, so Luskin probably based his fraudulent plot on that sentence. But the very next sentence after that describes living onychophorans [Peripatus] as transitions between annelids and arthropods, so if Casey’s plot of the appearance of phyla were really based on Eldredge p.65-66 as he cited, his plot ought to have show the phyla of annelids and arthropods as branching off from onychophorans. It ought to branch, but instead it’s just a pitchfork of vertical lines.

Niles Edlredge wrote:

The Synthesis and the Fossil Record

Darwin and his evolution-minded successors in the paleontological ranks preferred to explain these gaps away: they blamed the incompleteness of the fossil record of the events of earth history. According to this explanation, the lack of abundant (creationists say “any”) examples of smoothly gradational change between ancestors and descendents in the fossil record merely bears witness to the gaps in the quality of the rock record. Not entirely so, said [George Gaylord] Simpson, to his everlasting credit.

Simpson thought the fossil record had a great deal to say about how evolution occurred– its pace and style, its “tempo and mode.”… And since gaps there certainly are, they must at least in part be a product of the evolutionary process if they were not merely the artifacts of a poor geologic record.

It is the gaps in the fossil record which, perhaps more than any other facet of the natural world, are dearly beloved by creationists. As we shall see when we take up the creationist position, there are all sorts of gaps; absence of gradationally intermediate “transitional” forms between species, but also between larger groups–between, say, families of carnivores, or the orders of mammals. In fact, the higher up the Linnaean hierarchy you look, the fewer transitional forms there seem to be. For example, Peripatus, a lobe-legged, wormlike creature [an Onychophoran/velvet worm] that haunts rotting logs in the Southern Hemisphere, appears intermediate in many respects between two of the major phyla on earth today– the segmented worms [annelids] and the arthropods. But few other phyla have such intermediates with other phyla, and when we scan the fossil record for them we find some, but little, help. Extinction has surely weeded out many of the intermediate species, but on the other hand, the fossil record is not exactly teeming with their remains.

[George Gaylord] Simpson knew this, but preferred a view of evolution consistent with the emerging principles of genetic change [neo-Darwinian synthesis] over the alternative proposed by German paleontologist Otto Schindewolf. Schindewolf interpreted the gaps in the fossil record as evidence of the sudden appearance of new groups of animals and plants. Not a creationist, Schindewolf believed all forms of life to be interrelated, but felt that the fossil record implied a saltational mode– literally, sudden jumps from one basic type (called a Bauplan, or fundamental architectural design– conceptually if tangentially related to creationists’ “basic kinds”). Simpson and his peers scoffed at such an idea, and rightly so, as there was little evidence emerging from genetics laboratories at how such sudden leaps could occur… Schindewolf’s views were at odds with nearly all that was known of genetics in the 1930s. His saltational explanation of the gaps was impressive– but wrong, as far as Simpson was concerned.

Simpson thought that most of the fossil record supported Darwin’s view. There was plenty of evidence, he felt, to show that ninety percent of evolution consisted of the gradual transition from one species to the next through time.

[Niles Edlredge, Monkey Business, p. 65-66]

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