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Author Topic:   Opponents of Evolution Adopting a New Strategy
Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 136 of 177 (470809)
06-12-2008 7:41 PM
Reply to: Message 132 by Straggler
06-12-2008 6:26 PM


Re: Definition of Weakness
Straggler writes:

Firstly I think you should stick to the areas that evolutionary theory actually claims to have the best scientific explanation for.

I have found a list where these folks have proposed that they want textbooks to include additional information related to these areas where they feel that science is weak. In other words, they want the students to know that scientists do not have all the answers. Now you seem to be telling me that I should focus my discussion on areas where there are no questions. Do you not see a little contradiction in that line of thought?

Abiogenesis is recognised as an area of much research and little conclusion. Is this a weakness? Not in scientific terms where ignorance is infintely preferable to unsubstantiated falsehood (if any text books suggest abiogenesis is proven fact then I would agree that they should revoke this assertion).

I think that this is all that the “strengths and weaknesses” people are suggesting. They want students to know that abiogenesis is not a proven fact. However, look at the responses to my initial post. Those on this forum could have just as easily approached the subject as you have. They could have said there are many unanswered questions and it should not be taught as a fact. However, what they did is attempt to refute every unanswered question that the weakness people wanted students to be made aware of. This gives you an idea of the sentiment. There are those who want to teach this as fact. I have a college biology textbook in front of me that teaches abiogensis as a fact in the first chapter of this book. To find out that there are questions that are unanswered you have to dig into the rest of the book.

In the remainder of this thread stick to areas of established evolutionary theory and explain why they are, or on the basis of evidence may be, wrong.

Do you not feel I need to respond to those people who have already replied to me?

It is my view that, like any scientific theory, there are weaknesses in the detail of evolutionary theory. That is why research into these subjects exists!!

I think we agree.

However unlike most scientific theories any criticism of any aspect of evolutionary theory is pounced upon as a plus for the inherently undemonstrable and non-scientific conclusions of creationism. Conclusions that have no physical validity. Conclusions that explain everything and nothing. Conclusions that make no predictions and which are inherently scientifically untestable. Conclusions that exist as a result of philosophical bias alone.

These people explicitly say they are not promoting intelligent design or creationism. I know that you do not trust them. I know you think this is only an excuse to get creationism into the science classroom. However, students need to be taught when science has become well established and when it is in the developmental phase. You can make students aware of unanswered questions, and different alternatives without giving supernatural explanations.

Because of this the usual high regard for dissent that is encouraged in science is much more strongly resisted in the field of evolutionary biology.

That is probably why they dislike the word weakness so much. It really does not matter what word is used if students are taught that there are areas where science does not have all of the answers.

In my limited, non-expert and very probably wrong, view the creationist position is potentially holding back advancement in the field of evolutionary biology by suppressing constructive skepticism and healthy debate.

I really do not believe that. I think that creationists and ID people are holding other scientists accountable when they attempt to make assumptions that may be way out of line.

All theories have weaknesses. The weakness of the creationist argument is however the cause of possible and potential weaknesses in evolutionary theory not being explored to the extent that they would be in less contentious areas of science.

How are creationists keeping science from progressing? Are you talking about stem cell research, the use of human embryos, or some other controversial moral type issues that are opposed by creationists?

It was my plan to deal with the weaknesses in order. As soon as I get through the origin of life weaknesses then I will go on to the fossil record weaknesses. I will attempt to move it forward as quickly as I can. However, I believe it would be unfair not to deal with the complete list if possible.

I have done what I was asked to do. I have come up with a list put forth by these people. There have been responses to this list. I was then confronted with the question of what is the definition of a weakness. I have provided a definition. I am now going to respond to those people regarding the origin of life weaknesses that have been presented. All we have to do to stop the debate in that area and move on to the fossil record is for those people to take the same position that you have. That the theories related to the origin of life have many unanswered questions, and it should not be taught as a scientific fact. Students should be made aware of these unanswered questions.


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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BeagleBob
Member (Idle past 3752 days)
Posts: 81
Joined: 11-21-2007


Message 137 of 177 (470812)
06-12-2008 7:52 PM
Reply to: Message 136 by Wumpini
06-12-2008 7:41 PM


Re: Definition of Weakness
quote:
I have found a list where these folks have proposed that they want textbooks to include additional information related to these areas where they feel that science is weak. In other words, they want the students to know that scientists do not have all the answers. Now you seem to be telling me that I should focus my discussion on areas where there are no questions. Do you not see a little contradiction in that line of thought?

Kids should be taught that no authority at all has all the answers. However, this paradigm should be used to correct our educational system as a whole. Singling out evolution as a topic of contention in this matter is too narrow a perspective.

Incidentally, I would agree that genuine criticism on a field as a whole should focus on its more centralized themes. After all, we don't judge Christianity as a whole by looking at kooks like Fred Phelps or by erroneous theology like what stemmed from St. Aquinas.

This really a problem with the Discovery Institute and the ICR. They level criticism at ideas that are peripheral to the central theme and think that this would defeat evolution as a whole.

You can't cut down a tree by trimming a few leaves. You have to get at its roots.

Whoops, I gotta get back to the lab. I'll try looking over the rest of your post later.


This message is a reply to:
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Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5377
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 138 of 177 (470813)
06-12-2008 7:52 PM
Reply to: Message 136 by Wumpini
06-12-2008 7:41 PM


Re: Definition of Weakness
I think that this is all that the “strengths and weaknesses” people are suggesting.

I don't think so. If that were the case, they would just occasionally bring up subjects like the non-detection of gravity waves and gravitons to date. This gravity "theory" has a rather big weakness there, seeing as we can't find how it works. The "teach the controversy" crowd does, I'll grant, seem to be less than fond of dark matter and dark energy - but you don't see them wanting to rewrite physics textbooks - only biology ones.


"The wretched world lies now under the tyranny of foolishness; things are believed by Christians of such absurdity as no one ever could aforetime induce the heathen to believe." - Agobard of Lyons, ca. 830 AD
This message is a reply to:
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Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 139 of 177 (470814)
06-12-2008 8:22 PM
Reply to: Message 99 by Ichneumon
06-11-2008 4:15 PM


Re: New and Improved List - Maybe
Ichneumon writes:

This appears to be using the term "Evolution Theories" quite loosely, as it contains a lengthy session on "origin of life", which is not actually a part of evolutionary biology, nor does any alleged problem/flaw/weakness in any origin of life hypothesis have any impact on evolutionary biology, for reasons which others have given. By the same token, the science of meteorology is not impacted at all even if the hypotheses concerning the origin of the atmosphere shift.

They generally do not teach the science of meteorology in a high school biology class, or include that area of science in biology textbooks. See msg 95.

I have examined literally hundreds of "probability" arguments from anti-evolutionists. Not one stands up to even a brief examination. They fail for many different reasons, but the failure inherent in every origin-of-life calculation is that their models (upon which their attempts at math are built) are ludicrously simplistic, and at most calculate the odds of something happening in the *one* simple way the anti-evolutionist has managed to conceive of, instead of examining the myriad ways something could conceivably happen.

And I think you would agree that all of those ways would be highly improbable.

Also, by saying "any specific amino acid sequence", this item makes clear that it's making another common mistake of anti-evolution probability calculations -- the (grossly false) assumption that only ONE specific amino acid sequence would do, and that all other sequences would be a "failure".

See msg 95.

Under what conditions, pray tell? Yet again, the anti-evolutionists presume to be able to model the totality of every conceivable (and inconceivable) scenario. Good luck with that one!

What conditions do you propose were in existence at this time when you believe these amino acid chains were formed?

As others have pointed out, there's actually more progress on this point than the author of this list lets on.
But even if there wasn't, the appropriate response is, "so what?" As long as no one claims that this question has been resolved -- and they don't -- the fact that it's an open question is hardly an "origin of life weakness". So further work is needed (and is being done). So? No one claimed that abiogenesis was a solved issue.

I believe that many of you are being turned away by the word weakness. Think of it like a criminal case. You can have a strong case or a weak case depending upon unanswered questions and the interpretation of evidence. The more unanswered questions that you have with a case, then the weaker your case would be.

"We don't know" is an acceptable statement.

I think we agree. That is what needs to be taught to students in high school biology textbooks. How did life originate on earth? We don’t know, but scientists are examining different possibilities. If they want to examine those possibilities then that is fine. But, examine them with intellectual skeptism.

What *is* known, however, is that there is abundant evidence that life bootstrapped from humbler molecular beginnings, even if we're not yet clear on how every step along the way occurred. There's nothing wrong with presenting students with the (somewhat sketchy) picture of what we *do* know about life's beginnings, as long as they're also told of what fuzzy parts still need to be filled in -- and from all the textbooks I've seen, this is done.

I think we are in agreement then. If there are unanswered questions then give the students the entire picture. I guess that some think this is not happening. I do not know myself. It has been a long time since I was in a high school biology class. Most science teachers in the area of the country that I am from still do not teach any evolutionary theory, much less abiogenesis.

Incorrect. There are a number of processes that bias the mixture in one direction or another. Also, even with a 50/50 mix being "produced naturally", this leaves out the possibility of scenarios where one chirality is preferentially selected, or the biogenesis of a chiral product is generated from an initially non-chiral beginning.

I have researched this some, but I am not going to debate the issue here. Once again if everything is taught then I do not believe there is any problem.

Wumpini writes:

Photo dissociation of water vapor has been a source of oxygen since the Earth formed, and there is substantial geologic evidence that a significant amount of oxygen existed in the atmosphere prior to the advent of photosynthesis.

Ichneumon writes:

No, actually, no there isn't. Quite the contrary, in fact.

It seems to me that there is a lot of dispute in the scientific world as to actually what the atmosphere consisted of at the time that life was proposed to have originated. This opinion seems to have changed significantly in the past, and is continuing to change. We know that there was significant oxygen on the earth at that time bound up in the water and the rocks. There is also significant speculation that the atmosphere was actually oxidizing rather than reducing. There seems to be a lot of resistance to teaching this as an unknown.

But since early life began in anaerobic conditions, this is no problem at all, much less one that requires! an! exclamation! point!

Is that an unanswered question or a scientific fact?

Wumpini writes:

There is no known natural source of the information that is present in all life systems. Random processes are never known to produce information.

Ichneumon writes:

My degree is in information science. This claim is just flat wrong. Absolutely nothing in information science in particular, or science as a whole in general, supports this poppycock. It's just an article of faith among the creationists. There's no support for it, and in fact there are numerous counterexamples.

Could you provide some of these numerous examples?

It is getting late here. I will attempt to reply to the rest of your post later.

Edited by Wumpini, : No reason given.


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
 Message 141 by NosyNed, posted 06-12-2008 9:57 PM Wumpini has responded
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Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 140 of 177 (470816)
06-12-2008 8:35 PM
Reply to: Message 134 by NosyNed
06-12-2008 7:13 PM


Re: Origin of Life Issues
NosyNed writes:

How things are grouped for teaching purposes doesn't mean that the basic science is as deeply intertangled.
Of course, there is sometimes some chemistry taught at well. A bit of understanding of the chemistry of the genetics is helpful too.
The entirety of evolutionary theory and the evolutionary history of life on earth can be taught without either the origin issue or the chemistry underlying it all. However, it doesn't hurt to surround the teaching of biology with other things.

From the textbooks that I have examined, the origin of life does not seem to be separated from evolutionary biology. I am not sure that a high school student is going to understand that the chemical evolution related to abiogenesis, and the evolution of life after that process are entirely distinct. I am not sure if science even understands that yet. When did it progress from a chemical to a biological type of evolution? Can science draw the line? I am not sure that they can.

Please show how God-did-it as an explanation of the origin of life makes any difference whatsoever to evolutionary biology.

This thread has nothing to do with God-did-it.

The evidence consists of showing that oxygen formed compounds don't show up until something over 2 billion years after the origin of the planet and that older rocks have compounds that don't last in an oxygen rich atmosphere.

One source: http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB035_1.html

There is however some reason to be unsure of this:
http://www.geotimes.org/nov06/NN_EarlyAtmosphere.html

There may have been free oxygen around 1 billion years early (but there may not have been either).

That is my point exactly. There may have been, and there may not have been. If that is the case, then that is what we need to teach. I have been doing a lot of study about the primitive atmosphere and the implications of that atmosphere on different theories. It may prove to be an interesting topic for a different thread.

In addition, todays atmospheric oxygen is in a dynamic balance with chemistry (rock weathering etc>) that tends to remove it. You need plants to supply what we have.

There are a lot of factors that need to be considered including chemical weathering and photosynthesis, among others.

As these are clarified over time it means that a reducing atmosphere environment for the origin of life time may have to be reconsidered. In which case, the way in which life formed may have to be reconsidered.

Just how will this bring God into the equation? And, again, exactly what effect would that have on the biological evolution model.

As I said, I have been doing a lot of study on the primitive atmosphere so I am aware of some of the different research.

You keep bringing up God. This has nothing to do with God. It has everything to do with teaching whether something is a scientific fact, or a hypothesis with many unanswered questions. I agree that abiogenesis and the biological “Theory of Evolution” are not dependent upon one another. I began this discussion with abiogenesis for two reasons. First, it was included on the website on the list of weaknesses for the “strengths and weaknesses” people. Second, it is included in high school biology textbooks, and taught in high school biology classes.

I think that we are in agreement that abiogenesis should be taught in a way that students do not get the impression that scientists know more than they actually do.

All you have here is a possible, maybe, might be bit of an issue about the chemistry of the early atmosphere. How much time do you want to spend on this in class?

If the atmosphere was oxidizing the issue could be significant. I guess how much time you spend on it in class would depend upon how much time you spend on the hypothesis of abiogeneis. If you are going to propose that certain chemical reactions took place that led to life, then I believe you should inform the students of the type of atmosphere that would be necessary for those reactions to take place. In other words, teach the students about the weakness of the hypothesis.

If you are going to teach that the origin of life is an area of science with many unanswered questions, and different hypothesis have been suggested for this process, and then you do not go into any of the details. Then, I do not think you have to discuss any of these things we are calling weaknesses. If you teach the strengths then teach the weaknesses (unanswered questions).

In the few biology texts I've seen the idea that origin of life questions are still partially speculative is stated. What more do you want? What difference, exactly, does it make?

Obviously, it makes a difference to some folks, or we would not be having this discussion.

In a well taught science class the students should be made aware that we don't know everything. If the religious zealots want to use that as an argument for their god then they are simply using a GOTG (god-of-the-gaps) argument. Please refer to theologians and to history for why that is a very bad idea.

There you go again bringing up God. We are talking about science not God.

I agree that students should be made aware that we do not know everything. I think we are both in agreement that the origin of life is a very speculative area of science that should be taught in that fashion.

Therefore, if it is agreeable with you, I will move on to your other comments regarding the fossil record. (Probably tomorrow because it is past midnight here).


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
This message is a reply to:
 Message 134 by NosyNed, posted 06-12-2008 7:13 PM NosyNed has not yet responded

  
NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8838
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 141 of 177 (470827)
06-12-2008 9:57 PM
Reply to: Message 139 by Wumpini
06-12-2008 8:22 PM


Biology Texts
I think we agree. That is what needs to be taught to students in high school biology textbooks. How did life originate on earth? We don’t know, but scientists are examining different possibilities. If they want to examine those possibilities then that is fine. But, examine them with intellectual skeptism.

I haven't seen my biology texts recently but the couple I have seen do exactly this.

You still haven't answered the question of why this makes a difference to evolutionary biology?

We know that text books vary in quality enormously. Maybe some time wasted dealing with zealots could be used to improve them. The kind of nonsense actually (not what they state) meant by these guys only wastes time. This we have seen by the lists produced so far.

And I think you would agree that all of those ways would be highly improbable.

The point is that there is no way to actually calculate the probability. The answer to this is "unknown" and the fake calculations presented don't change that.

I believe that many of you are being turned away by the word weakness. Think of it like a criminal case. You can have a strong case or a weak case depending upon unanswered questions and the interpretation of evidence. The more unanswered questions that you have with a case, then the weaker your case would be.

But the more answered questions you have the stronger your case. The case for evolutionary biology is very, very strong indeed.

Could you provide some of these numerous examples?

To be able to give you this you have to supply the definition of information you are using. It has to be an operational definition (google it).


This message is a reply to:
 Message 139 by Wumpini, posted 06-12-2008 8:22 PM Wumpini has responded

Replies to this message:
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randman 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2974 days)
Posts: 6367
Joined: 05-26-2005


Message 142 of 177 (470837)
06-12-2008 10:35 PM
Reply to: Message 141 by NosyNed
06-12-2008 9:57 PM


Re: Biology Texts
Naturally this would have fit in just fine as a side comment in a longer message addressing the topic, but needless to say, this is off-topic. Please don't respond. --Admin

The case for evolutionary biology is very, very strong indeed.

Really? Is that why it takes using the courts to prevent criticism of it?

Edited by Admin, : Add moderator comment.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Admin
Director
Posts: 12579
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 3.1


Message 143 of 177 (470839)
06-12-2008 10:42 PM
Reply to: Message 142 by randman
06-12-2008 10:35 PM


Re: Biology Texts
Are you even trying?


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

This message is a reply to:
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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 773 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 144 of 177 (470857)
06-13-2008 1:46 AM
Reply to: Message 126 by randman
06-12-2008 1:39 AM


Re: I'd like to see what percy says first....
randman writes:

Uh huh.....so outlawing ideas as illegal seems fine with you, eh?

I apologize for making that snide side comment: my pride wouldn't let me let your stab at court rulings slip under the radar. I wish you had paid more attention to the other part of my post, and it seems that my extra comment detracted from that.

This is what I would like to see your comments about:

I would like you to provide something for S&W that is different from what you've provided for ID. You seem to be seeing the "weaknesses" in ToE as the same stuff ID has already brought up. I have utterly failed to find any merit in the stuff ID was saying (and I looked hard, trust me). It upsets me to hear that S&W is just the next alias for the same, tired old stuff: I was legitimately hoping that there was something new.


Darwin loves you.
This message is a reply to:
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Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 145 of 177 (470897)
06-13-2008 10:15 AM
Reply to: Message 141 by NosyNed
06-12-2008 9:57 PM


Should we move on to the fossil record?
Nosy Ned writes:

You still haven't answered the question of why this makes a difference to evolutionary biology?

Who made the decision that we were talking only about evolutionary biology? We are discussing what is to be included in biology textbooks. I have presented a list with four areas of weaknesses or unanswered questions that a group of people are suggesting should be presented to students in biology textbooks so that they will have a better understanding of the current state of knowledge that is present in these areas of science. The first area we have been discussing is the proposed chemical evolution that resulted in the origin of life. The next three areas will all deal with the biological evolution of existing life forms.

We know that text books vary in quality enormously. Maybe some time wasted dealing with zealots could be used to improve them. The kind of nonsense actually (not what they state) meant by these guys only wastes time. This we have seen by the lists produced so far.

Actually, you and others on this website have proven to me that there is a need for these people (zealots as you call them) to speak up. If there are teachers in the classroom that have a desire to give one sided views of these scientific theories such as I have seen given on this website then the only way we can be sure that students are presented with the entire picture is to make certain that biology textbooks present these theories clearly and fairly.

You and others on this website are helping the case for these “weaknesses” people by proclaiming that science has answers where they do not, and by proclaiming that alternative theories are “contrary to fact” when the evidence supports those alternative theories also. Sometimes the evidence could support the alternative theory better than the one presently accepted by the scientific community.

I agree with you that textbooks need to be improved. It is not a waste of time to engage in discussion in an attempt to achieve that goal. The well rounded education of our children could depend upon this exchange of ideas. If someone holds an alternative scientific view that is also supported by the evidence then that should not be considered nonsense. In the end, that may turn out to be the correct understanding.

But the more answered questions you have the stronger your case. The case for evolutionary biology is very, very strong indeed.

We have not begun our discussion of evolutionary biology. Our discussion to this point of the current list has been limited to abiogenesis. We can see that there are many unanswered questions in that field of science. I believe we will find many unanswered questions in the field of biological evolution also. The strength of a case does not rest solely upon how many questions are answered. Many times only a few unanswered questions can weaken a case substantially.

To be able to give you this you have to supply the definition of information you are using. It has to be an operational definition (google it).

It is my opinion that rather than getting into a detailed debate about what constitutes information at this time, it would be more beneficial to move on to the fossil evidence. In msg 95, I have given a short explanation of what is possibly meant by information. If we want to discuss that topic further it may be beneficial to start a new thread.

I think that we are in agreement that the field of abiogenesis is an area of science where there are many unanswered questions. I also believe that we are in agreement that students should be made aware of the “strengths and weaknesses” of these various hypotheses. Since we cannot insure that the classroom instruction would include the full picture, we need to be sure that both sides are presented in the biology textbook.

If we are in agreement, and you are ready to move forward, then I will begin to respond to the three fossil record weaknesses that were listed. There are seventeen items on this list of weaknesses (unanswered questions), and I do not want to attempt to debate all of them simultaneously. I feel it is better to deal with them in four smaller groups.

Edited by Wumpini, : No reason given.


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
This message is a reply to:
 Message 141 by NosyNed, posted 06-12-2008 9:57 PM NosyNed has responded

Replies to this message:
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Fosdick 
Suspended Member (Idle past 3575 days)
Posts: 1793
From: Upper Slobovia
Joined: 12-11-2006


Message 146 of 177 (470903)
06-13-2008 11:16 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
06-05-2008 1:28 PM


Weaknesses of the Discover Institute
Percy writes:

From today's New York Times: Opponents of Evolution Adopting a New Strategy.


From the linked article:

quote:
Already, legislators in a half-dozen states — Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — have tried to require that classrooms be open to “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according to a petition from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent design movement.

I have had a brief and bitter association with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute. It is a sham of the highest order, and it has NOTHING to do with "discovery," unless one needs to discover why Christians can't see over the wall of true believership. When it speaks of "weaknesses" in Darwinian evo theory, the DI prefers miracles over facts to get at "the truth," and it wants those miracles advertised in biology text books. The one fellow I tried to reason with over there was out to change biology textbooks because "they don't reflect the recent discoveries of inconsistencies in the fossil record." I pointed out to him that the Bible doesn't reflect recent discoveries in the archeological record, so why isn't he out to correct its "weaknesses," too. He said, "The Holy Bible is the word of God and there are no weaknesses in it."

We left it there. And I was left with the familiar reminder that you can't reason with people who have chosen to put themselves in a faith-based prison for the sake of their religious motives.

—HM


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 147 of 177 (470915)
06-13-2008 12:16 PM
Reply to: Message 136 by Wumpini
06-12-2008 7:41 PM


Re: Definition of Weakness
You can make students aware of unanswered questions, and different alternatives without giving supernatural explanations.

Of course you can in theory but in practise there is little doubt that the creationist lobby will push for the opposite at the slightest opportunity to do so.

I really do not believe that. I think that creationists and ID people are holding other scientists accountable when they attempt to make assumptions that may be way out of line.

I have to disagree. Objective wholly empirical evidence based conclusions are not what the creation and ID people are aiming for. They have a very definite alternative agenda. Your conclusion seems a little naive regarding this point.

How are creationists keeping science from progressing? Are you talking about stem cell research, the use of human embryos, or some other controversial moral type issues that are opposed by creationists?

Nothing so specific. I just meant that by leaping on every unanswered question as a reason to inject mysticism into the science classroom they make scientists defensive and thus effectively stifle debate even where debate might be warranted or conducive to progress. This is my view. I am not sure how widely shared it is by those in the front line of the debate however.

That the theories related to the origin of life have many unanswered questions, and it should not be taught as a scientific fact. Students should be made aware of these unanswered questions.

I agree. How are we to inspire the next generation of scientists if not by exposing them to the great and interesting questions that remain to be answered? Is anyone claiming that we should tell students that we have a fully devloped and tested theory of abiogenesis? I shall have to go back and read previous posts in more detail. But lets also tell students what we do actually know about this area and the reasoning we have for ongoing research.

Do you not feel I need to respond to those people who have already replied to me?

Yes you should respond. I personally would separate origins of life from development of life as a subject area. On the basis that we have a well formed and tested theory for one but not the other if nothing else. However who am I to dictae what should and should not be discussed if you want to cover all areas and others are willing to do so.

I think your general approach is much more reasoned than many many creationists. I do however also think your arguments will ultimately be exposed as wrong. Evolution (abiogenesis apart ;)) is about as solid a scientific theory as you could hope to find. Others better qualified than I seem keen to demonstrate this so lets see what happens.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 136 by Wumpini, posted 06-12-2008 7:41 PM Wumpini has responded

Replies to this message:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8838
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 148 of 177 (470943)
06-13-2008 2:25 PM
Reply to: Message 145 by Wumpini
06-13-2008 10:15 AM


Re: Should we move on to the fossil record?
I think that we are in agreement that the field of abiogenesis is an area of science where there are many unanswered questions. I also believe that we are in agreement that students should be made aware of the “strengths and weaknesses” of these various hypotheses. Since we cannot insure that the classroom instruction would include the full picture, we need to be sure that both sides are presented in the biology textbook.

If we are in agreement, and you are ready to move forward, then I will begin to respond to the three fossil record weaknesses that were listed. There are seventeen items on this list of weaknesses (unanswered questions), and I do not want to attempt to debate all of them simultaneously. I feel it is better to deal with them in four smaller groups.

I agree.

At most we should spend a couple of pages in a high school level text on abiogenesis and at most an hour of class time. This should consist of a quick list of what is known and an emphasis on how difficult it is to dig into what actually happened nearly 4 billion years ago. At the end the students should be impressed with just how much is known and that this is not at the theory level yet. It is, instead, rather speculative based on what we do know. The answer they should be able to give on a test is "We don't know."

I agree about small groups as a better way to proceed.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 145 by Wumpini, posted 06-13-2008 10:15 AM Wumpini has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 149 by Wumpini, posted 06-13-2008 5:59 PM NosyNed has not yet responded

Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 149 of 177 (470981)
06-13-2008 5:59 PM
Reply to: Message 148 by NosyNed
06-13-2008 2:25 PM


The Cambrian Explosion
My time is at a premium today, so I am going to limit this post to the Cambrian explosion. I believe there will be enough detail to keep us occupied for a while. It also may be that this is another area that would definitely need a separate thread to discuss adequately.

Let us remember that the point of this thread is to make a determination as to whether there is merit to these statements made by the “weaknesses” folks that may require additional information to be included in high school biology textbooks.

The first weakness that is listed in the fossil record is:

quote:
The Cambrian explosion quickly produced all of the basically different body structures, and some of these have since become extinct. This is very different from the evolutionary tree of life, which suggests a slow and gradual increase in body structures.

This quote can be found at Message 78 or This link

Based upon my research, this is a statement of fact supported by the fossil record. Let us look at the responses by some on this forum.


NosyNed writes:

"Quickly" is not defined in this quote. Some decades ago the Cambrian was named an "explosion" when the time period appeared to be aout 10 million years (quickly by geologic standards but not "quickly" by most others). We now have fossil evidence stretching back about 40 million years. Plenty of time.

The question is not simply how quickly this explosion took place, but whether the appearances of all of these different multi-cellular body structures at this one point in “geological time” accurately depicts the traditional “tree of life” that is presented in high school biology textbooks. That is what these "weaknesses" people are saying. The fossil evidence is not sufficiently explained by the traditional “tree of life.”

Let us first look at your concept of time though. This appears to be where you are getting your number. It would really help me if you guys would provide more sources to where you get your information.

quote:
Then, apparently very suddenly, starting at the beginning of the Tommotian Age (~530 Ma), almost all of the animal phyla known today appear in the fossil reocrd in rapid succession.

quote:
This abrupt appearance of a diverse and highly derived fauna in the brief Tommotian and Atdabanian Ages of the Early Cambrian is widely known as the 'Cambrian Explosion.'

quote:
A span of 40 million years embraces the appearance of the first small, simple shells that may have been secreted by metazoans and the subsequent exuberant diversity of Chengjiang and the Burgess Shale. This is not so short a time for an evolutionary ‘explosion.’ However, the proliferation of animals with well-differentiated hard parts characteristic of specific metazoan phyla was largely restricted to the last 15 million years of this interval" (Thomas et al. 2000, p. 1239).

http://www.peripatus.gen.nz/Paleontology/CamExp.html

This article uses the words “abrupt appearance” and “very suddenly” so I think the term "quickly" would accurately represent what has taken place in this period called the Cambrian explosion. We also see that even though there is some fossil evidence spanning over 40 million years, the phyla we are talking about is restricted to a much shorter period of 15 million years. I would also question how they came up with these dates. One article comments on how difficult it is to work out the chronology of this time period.

quote:
Difficulty of dating the Cambrian

It has been difficult to work out the chronology of the early Cambrian. … Therefore dates or descriptions of sequences of events should be regarded with caution until better data become available.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambrian_explosion#Difficulty_of_dating_the_Cambrian

Another study indicates that the time period of the explosion could have been as short as 1 million years.

quote:
The researchers say their dates for the start of the explosion appear to be accurate to within less than a million years either way. But in combination with other researchers' dates for the conclusion, the dates allow for the possibility that it may have been longer or shorter than five million years. Dr. Bowring said that it could conceivably have been as short as 1 million or as long as 12 million years.

Link to Article

Another source indicates that the period lasted no more than 5 million years, and I saw that number repeatedly during my research. Therefore, a time period of 1 million to 5 million years would probably be acceptable for this sudden appearance. The maximum period of time would not be conceivably greater than 12 million years. In any case, it happened "quickly" and "suddenly" just as the statement indicates when looked at from the standpoint of geological time.


NosyNed writes:

In fact, this also hides the fact of just what "exploded" over this time frame. We did not get from nothing to birds, crabs, monkeys and octopuses in this time; we got from wormy things to buggy things and wormy things with legs.

Ichneumon writes:

...for a sufficiently loose definition of "basic body structures". As another person correctly points out, this is the case only if you consider "a worm with a stiffened nerve cord running along its body" to be the same "basic body structure" as, say, an eagle, and "a worm with an unstiffened nerve cord" to be the same "basic body plan" as, say, a butterfly.

Creationists tend to vastly overstate the "basic body plan" issue.

The statement does not hide anything. It is much more scientifically accurate than these critical statements. Do we really want our children to understand the complexity of multi-cellular life? Do wormy things and buggy things give a good description of what we are talking about? It seems to me that some are discounting the importance of the extensive breadth of the fossil record that came into being at this time because they do not want others to question any theory that has been accepted by the scientific community.

The “weaknesses” people said:

quote:
produced all of the basically different body structures

And, the critics say that we got from wormy things to buggy things and then to wormy things with legs. Do you not see why these people want this information in the textbooks? This is a big deal to many people! They want to make sure that we understand what we are seeing in the fossil record. They are concerned that the facts of the fossil record will not be taught in the classroom. Your comments confirm that there are those who do not want to teach the scientific facts regarding the fossil record related to the Cambrian explosion. First, you maximize the dates and now you minimize the change. Let us look at what scientists say about this explosion.

The quote above tells us what exploded:

quote:
Then, apparently very suddenly, starting at the beginning of the Tommotian Age (~530 Ma), almost all of the animal phyla known today appear in the fossil record in rapid succession.

Almost all of the animal phyla known today appear in the fossil record in “rapid succession.”

What do we mean by phyla?

quote:
Phyla represent the largest generally accepted groupings of animals and other living things with certain evolutionary traits, although the phyla themselves may sometimes be grouped into superphyla (e.g. Ecdysozoa with eight phyla, including arthropods and roundworms; and Deuterostomia with the echinoderms, chordates, hemichordates and xenoturbellae). Informally, phyla can be thought of as grouping animals based on general body plan;[1] this is morphological grouping. Thus despite the seemingly different external appearances of organisms, they are classified into phyla based on their internal organizations.

Phyla is a grouping of animals based on a general body plan. Once again the statement made by the “weaknesses” people is correct. During this period, basically all of the different body structures that are in existence today quickly came into the fossil record. That is the evidence that we have available to support the “theory of evolution” during this period of history. The question that we asked above is does this agree to the “tree of life” that is being used in biology textbooks to diagram the “theory of evolution.”

What does the fossil record show?

Here are some different diagrams. Let us see which one agrees to the fossil record during the Cambrian explosion.


WHAT THE FOSSIL RECORD DOES NOT SHOW!

quote:
Phyletic gradualism

Through the continuously gradual transformation of species this model predicts that the increasing diversity of the lower taxa should precede the disparity of the higher taxa.


quote:
Punctuated Equilibrium

Under this model evolutionary change is confined to shorter time spans and small isolated populations in order to account for the lack of transitional forms among the lower taxa. Lower taxon-level punctuations, however, require numerous transitional steps to produce the disparity of the higher taxa. This model also predicts that the increasing diversity of the lower taxa should precede the disparity of the higher taxa.


The fact of the matter is that the fossil record does not support either the theory of “phyletic gradualism” or the theory of “punctuated equilibrium” during the period of the Cambrian explosion. It seems that all of these different phyla came into being without the common ancestor that we see in the traditional “tree of life.” This seems to be another significant unanswered question. How did this great disparity of life come into existence without any significant fossil evidence that supports the traditional “theory of evolution.”

So what does the fossil record support?


WHAT THE FOSSIL RECORD DOES SHOW!

quote:
The Fossil Evidence: Disparity precedes diversity.

"We may acknowledge a central and surprising fact of life's history - marked decrease in disparity followed by an outstanding increase in diversity within the few surviving designs." -- Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life, 1989, p. 49.



quote:
The origin of the phyla: the fossil evidence

Contrary to both Darwinian gradualism and punctuated equilibria theory, the vast majority of phyla appear abruptly with low species diversity. The disparity of the higher taxa precedes the diversity of the lower taxa.


The fossil record shows that at the Cambrian explosion almost all of the phyla known today came into existence. Since that time some of these phyla have become extinct. This is in direct contrast to the traditional “tree of life” that is placed in biology textbooks to explain the “Theory of Evolution.” I believe that we need to teach high school students what the fossil record actually shows. We need them to understand that there could be alternative theories to explain this disparity of life that came into existence. This could lead to much work in this area to discover new scientific truths.

Let us look at a contrast between the fossil record and Darwinian theory.


CONTRAST BETWEEN DARWINIAN THEORY AND THE FOSSIL RECORD.

quote:
Darwinian Theory vs. the Fossil Record

Darwinian theory attempts to explain the common ancestry of all species through the gradual transformation of major body plans. This theory is in opposition to the fossil evidence and the pervasive patterns of natural history.

An estimated 50 to 100 phyla appear explosively at the base of the Cambrian. Fossil evidence suggesting their common ancestry is not found in Precambrian rocks. A General Theory of Macrostasis is needed to explain the fossil data and the stability of the higher taxa.


All of these images along with the text can be found at this link:

Evolution Images


These “weaknesses” folks are not asking anything to be put into the biology textbooks other than the truth. The fossil evidence supports their original statement. The fossil record of the Cambrian explosion does not seem to support the traditional “tree of life.” It is a fact that almost all of the phyla that exist today suddenly appeared into the fossil record over 500 million years ago. The real question is “what does this mean?” Science attempts to answer these questions from a naturalistic view. We need to help our children to understand the truth found in the fossil record. If we want science to move forward we must keep our minds open to alternative theories that can be used to explain the evidence if existing theories do not seem to be adequate in that regard.

Here is a quote from Darwin:

quote:
In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on their embryological relations, their geographical distribution, geological succession, and such other facts, might come to the conclusion that each species had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other species. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which most justly excites our admiration. (Darwin, 1859, p. 3).

Darwin, C. R. 1859. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray. 1st edition, 1st issue. The Origin of Species online book


We need to be careful that we are being led by the evidence, and not by the theory.

For now I am going to limit myself to this discussion about the Cambrian explosion. I feel there is enough detail in this post that I would muddy the waters if I moved on to the next point. I will be traveling again tomorrow so please allow me time to respond.

Edited by Wumpini, : Add link to article

Edited by Wumpini, : Add and fix link for Darwin quote - Origin of Species

Edited by Wumpini, : Add link


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
This message is a reply to:
 Message 148 by NosyNed, posted 06-13-2008 2:25 PM NosyNed has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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Wumpini
Member (Idle past 3839 days)
Posts: 229
From: Ghana West Africa
Joined: 04-23-2008


Message 150 of 177 (470989)
06-13-2008 7:47 PM
Reply to: Message 147 by Straggler
06-13-2008 12:16 PM


Moving into the fossil record
Hi Straggler,

Straggler writes:

I have to disagree. Objective wholly empirical evidence based conclusions are not what the creation and ID people are aiming for. They have a very definite alternative agenda. Your conclusion seems a little naive regarding this point.

I think your conclusion may be a little narrow minded. What you need to realize is that most of the world that believes in God and creation are not affiliated with one of these groups. It seems the major focus of this website is upon a small group of scientists who are attempting (in your opinion) to introduce religion into the scientific method. Most of the people I know do not have those motives. I do not have that motive. We would like to reconcile science to our personal beliefs, but we have no desire to turn science into something other than a search for naturalistic truths.

I would like scientists to carefully examine the evidence and interpret it correctly. I am not sure that is consistently taking place. I can definitely see that objectiveness seems to have been sacrificed on both sides because of this controversy.

I agree. How are we to inspire the next generation of scientists if not by exposing them to the great and interesting questions that remain to be answered? Is anyone claiming that we should tell students that we have a fully devloped and tested theory of abiogenesis? I shall have to go back and read previous posts in more detail. But lets also tell students what we do actually know about this area and the reasoning we have for ongoing research.

The purpose for my participation in this thread is not to develop a list of “weaknesses” that should be included in biology textbooks. My purpose is to help people open their eyes and understand the fact that scientists do not have all the answers in these fields of science, and that is the way it should be taught. There are many unanswered questions where children could devote the rest of their lives searching for these answers. However, that is not going to happen if we do not spark their interest in high school by allowing them to understand that there are alternatives to the theories and hypotheses that have been proposed.

I think your general approach is much more reasoned than many many creationists. I do however also think your arguments will ultimately be exposed as wrong. Evolution (abiogenesis apart) is about as solid a scientific theory as you could hope to find. Others better qualified than I seem keen to demonstrate this so lets see what happens.

I have attempted to move the discussion from abiogenesis into evolutionary biology (Message 149), so I guess we will see.

It is a win, win situation for me. I am only interested in the facts, and the truth.


"There is one thing even more vital to science than intelligent methods; and that is, the sincere desire to find out the truth, whatever it may be." - Charles Sanders Pierce
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 Message 147 by Straggler, posted 06-13-2008 12:16 PM Straggler has not yet responded

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