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Author Topic:   Stumpers for PZ Myers
Percy
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Posts: 18430
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 1 of 36 (618483)
06-02-2011 8:48 PM


A recent blog entry by PZ Myers announced the intent of Scottish IDists to confront him with a series of embarrassing questions (In which creationists make me giddily, joyfully gleeful!). PZ seems not only completely unconcerned but perfectly confident:

PZ Myers writes:

I read them with increasing disbelief: every single one of them was trivial and inane, and do nothing but reveal the ignorance and arrogance of the questioner. Every single one. Every one is built around some bizarre creationist misconception, too.

I read through the questions and don't understand why Myers is so confident. While half the problems they cite are with evolutionary views I didn't even know existed, I suspect Myers might be confident because he understands precisely what's wrong with each question. But to me they look intended not to perplex Myers but to raise doubts among onlookers who don't understand what the heck the questions are about, but can tell they imply something's pretty fishy with evolution.

So here are the questions - is PZ right to be so confident?

When Michael Behe visited the UK, back in November, the Humanist Society of Scotland and the British Center for Science Education wrote up a list of “10 + 1 Questions For Professor Behe” which they subsequently distributed to their ranks of faithful followers. I responded, at the time, fairly thoroughly to the arguments made therein here (to which the BCSE retaliated fairly viciously here).

Since PZ Myers has been invited to visit Glasgow next week (one week from today to be specific), to lecture on the embryological evidence for Darwinism, I took it upon myself to draw up this list of “10 + 1 Questions For Professor Myers”. If you happen to be in the area, and are anticipating attending this event next Monday (which will take place in the Crystal Palace, 36 Jamaica Street, from 7pm), feel free to use the following questions as inspiration for the Q&A session which will follow the talk.

10 + 1 Questions For Professor Myers

1) In light of the Darwinian evolutionary paradigm, can you account for the observation that the eggs of the five classes of vertebrate (i.e. fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) begin markedly different from each other? While the cleavage patterns in four of the five classes show some general similarities, the pattern in mammals is very different. Furthermore, in the gastrulation stage, a fish is very different from an amphibian,while both are starkly different from reptiles, birds and mammals, which are somewhat similar to each other. Doesn’t Darwinism predict a pattern wherein the earliest stages are the most similar and the later stages are the most different?

2) Kalinka et al. (2010) have documented that the developmental hourglass model (which describes the observation that embryogenesis within a phylum diverges most extensively during early and late development, while converging in the middle) holds true even with respect to patterns of gene expression, which has a central role in elaboration of different animal forms. Given that mutations affecting the earliest stages of development are the least likely to be evolutionarily tolerated, would you please explain how you would account for this observation in terms of evolutionary rationale?

3) Could you please explain the sheer lack of congruence between anatomical homology and developmental pathways / precursors? Since such congruence is a prediction of neo-Darwinism,why isn’t it observed? Moreover, not only are there different embryological (i.e. non-homologous) processes and different genetic mechanisms to apparently homologous organs. But there is also the conundrum of homologous genetic mechanisms for analogous (i.e. non-homologous) organs. And then there is also the problem of homologous structures arising from different embryological sources, utterly undermining the evolutionary explanation. Isn’t the most straightforward reading of these facts that the adult organs have not been derived from a common ancestor? Why is it that you are happy to use those instances where embryological development and adult similarities are consistent as evidence of common descent, but set aside those instances where they are not consistent?

4) Could you please explain the near-total absence of evidence for evolutionarily relevant (i.e. stably heritable) large-scale variations in animal form, as required by common descent? “Near-total”, that is, because losses of structure are often possible. But common descent requires the generation of anatomical novelty. Why is it the case that all observed developmental mutations that might lead to macroevolution (besides the loss of an unused structure) are harmful or fatal?

5) Would you please explain why the purported embryological evidence for evolution is not subject to careful cherry picking of data, given that instances can be identified in which, for example, tissues arise during development in the opposite order from which they are presumed to have evolved (e.g. the formation of teeth after the tongue whereas it is thought that the teeth evolved first; and various vertebrate organs such as liver and lung develop embryologically in quite different ways from how it is thought they evolved)?

6) Would you please explain instances of species which possess similar adult forms but different immature forms, which could conform with recapitulation only if the species evolved convergently? Related to this is the observation that similar phylotypic stages and/or adult morphologies may be attained by very different developmental routes. Don’t such observations demonstrate that the view of development being an exclusively divergent process of increased specialisation is false?

7) Would you please elaborate on how a reproductively-capable embryo can evolve by virtue of successive but slight modification while retaining selectable utility at every stage? Paul Nelson discussed the concept of ontogenetic depth in some detail here and here. He also responded to your criticisms of his article, and the somewhat ironic charge of quote-mining, here.

8 ) On your blog, you have defended the central dogmatist (gene-centric) view that an organism’s DNA sequence contains both the necessary and sufficient information needed to actualise an embryo’s final morphology. If your position is so well supported and the position espoused by Jonathan Wells (and others) is so easily refuted, then why do you perpetually misrepresent his views? For example, you state “These experiments emphatically do not demonstrate that DNA does not matter … [Wells'] claim is complete bunk.” Where has Jonathan Wells stated that DNA “does not matter”? Moreover, contrary to your assertions, the phenomenon of genomic equivalence is a substantial challenge to the simplistic “DNA-is-the-whole-show” view espoused by the majority of neo-Darwinists. Cells in the prospective head region of an organism contain the same DNA as cells in the prospective tail region. Yet head cells must turn on different genes from tail cells, and they “know” which genes to turn on because they receive information about their spatial location from outside themselves — and thus, obviously, from outside their DNA. So an essential part of the ontogenetic program cannot be in the organism’s DNA, a fact that conflicts with the DNA-centrism of neo-Darwinism. Some attempts to salvage DNA programs (e.g. Rinn et al.) rely on “target sequences” — molecular zipcodes, if you will — of amino acids that direct proteins to particular locations in the cell. But such “molecular zipcodes” do not create a spatial co-ordinate system, they presuppose it.

9) If, as is often claimed by Darwinists, the pharyngeal pouches and ridges are indeed accurately thought of as vestigial gill slits (thus demonstrating our shared ancestry with fish), then why is it that the ‘gill-slit’ region in humans does not contain even partly developing slits or gills, and has no respiratory function? In fish, these structures are, quite literally, slits that form openings to allow water in and out of the internal gills that remove oxygen from the water. In human embryos, however, the pharyngeal pouches do not appear to be ‘old structures’ which have been reworked into ‘new structures’ (they do not develop into homologous structures such as lungs). Instead, the developmental fate of these locations includes a wide variety of structures which become part of the face, bones associated with the ear, facial expression muscles, the thymus, thyroid, and parathyroid glands (e.g. Manley and Capecchi, 1998).

10) Why do Darwinists continue to use the supposed circuitous route taken by the vas deferens from the testes as an argument for common descent when, in fact, the route is not circuitous at all? The testes develop from a structure called the genital ridge (the same structure from which the ovaries develop in females, which is in close proximity to where the kidneys develop). The gubernaculum testis serves as a cord which connects the testes to the scrotum. As the fetus grows, the gubernaculum testis does not, and so the testis is pulled downward, eventually through the body wall and into the scrotum. The lengthening vas deferens simply follows. And, moreover, before the vas deferens joins the urethra, there needs to be a place where the seminal vesicle can add its contents.

And finally, the extra credit:

11) How many peer-reviewed papers have you published since setting up your blog, Pharyngula? We think the number’s zero, but it would be nice to get confirmation of this.

--Percy

Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Add the "Myers" to topic title.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 10 by Chuck77, posted 06-07-2011 3:05 AM Percy has acknowledged this reply
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AdminSlev
Member (Idle past 2781 days)
Posts: 113
Joined: 03-28-2010


Message 2 of 36 (618485)
06-03-2011 12:57 PM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Stumpers for PZ Myers thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Panda
Member (Idle past 1853 days)
Posts: 2688
From: UK
Joined: 10-04-2010


Message 3 of 36 (618531)
06-03-2011 6:54 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
06-02-2011 8:48 PM


quote:
3) Could you please explain the sheer lack of congruence between anatomical homology and developmental pathways / precursors? Since such congruence is a prediction of neo-Darwinism,why isn’t it observed? Moreover, not only are there different embryological (i.e. non-homologous) processes and different genetic mechanisms to apparently homologous organs. But there is also the conundrum of homologous genetic mechanisms for analogous (i.e. non-homologous) organs. And then there is also the problem of homologous structures arising from different embryological sources, utterly undermining the evolutionary explanation. Isn’t the most straightforward reading of these facts that the adult organs have not been derived from a common ancestor? Why is it that you are happy to use those instances where embryological development and adult similarities are consistent as evidence of common descent, but set aside those instances where they are not consistent?

I would be very surprised if this question (for example) was asked during a verbal debate.
Unless you were at a biology conference, I doubt that 90% of people could understand the question - and I would expect the 90% wouldn't understand the answer either.

What I would be wary of is if they translate the answer question into layman's terms.
Unless you can reply in similar terms, then the audience will only 'understand' the question and not understand the answer.
This could then mean that Myers loses 'by default'.

Will his audience really be that educated in biology?
(I know that I am having trouble understanding some of the questions - and they are written down. If they were read out to me, I would probably need them repeated.)

Edited by Panda, : wrong word

Edited by Panda, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16094
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 4 of 36 (618555)
06-03-2011 11:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
06-02-2011 8:48 PM


So here are the questions - is PZ right to be so confident?

I should think it would be fairly easy to score a rhetorical victory; the creationists will have enough problems trying to find someone who can pronounce all the long words; knowing the science would be beyond them. So an obvious tactic would be to ask them to elaborate on any given point; for example, to ask them in what way the cleavage pattern of mammals differs from that of reptiles. And then ... "So you can't think of a single difference between them? But you were just telling us how very different they were were."

But I'm sure that there are many ways to mock someone who is prepared to read in public a statement claiming that gills are homologous to lungs, and that "all observed developmental mutations that might lead to macroevolution (besides the loss of an unused structure) are harmful or fatal".


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Bolder-dash
Member (Idle past 1771 days)
Posts: 983
From: China
Joined: 11-14-2009


Message 5 of 36 (618599)
06-04-2011 7:20 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by Dr Adequate
06-03-2011 11:51 PM


Great idea A. I like your well thought out strategical ploy of classic misdirection. Of placing the creationists on guard with a quick faint and jab. And I give you an evolutionary merit badge extra credit for your sly insertion of the word cleavage, to appeal to the more puerile senses and really distract.

And the old reliable evolutionary armament of mockery as a tool of bludgeoning didn't slip past your razor sharpened academic mind. You know your stuff A, you have really studied the game plan well.

But I was just thinking, maybe something else Myers might try to really throw off the spears aimed at him. He could try answering the question.

Oh Christ no, what am I thinking. Forgive me I am such an amateur at this game of intellectual obfuscation. Mock, just mock. Its simple, its not time consuming, and evolutionists just eat that *** up.

You are still the King, A.


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Replies to this message:
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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16094
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 6 of 36 (618600)
06-04-2011 7:37 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Bolder-dash
06-04-2011 7:20 AM


If you had read the OP, you might look like less of a fool right now. I commend it to your attention.

Edited by Dr Adequate, : No reason given.


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Admin
Director
Posts: 12596
From: EvC Forum
Joined: 06-14-2002
Member Rating: 2.8


Message 7 of 36 (618602)
06-04-2011 7:49 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Bolder-dash
06-04-2011 7:20 AM


Bolder-dash Suspended 4 Weeks
Hi Bolder-dash,

Your history tells us that this is just the beginning of extended excursions into Forum Guidelines violations. The goal of EvC Forum is constructive discussion, hopefully you'll be more in tune with that goal when we see you next month.


--Percy
EvC Forum Director

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Panda
Member (Idle past 1853 days)
Posts: 2688
From: UK
Joined: 10-04-2010


Message 8 of 36 (618603)
06-04-2011 7:52 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Bolder-dash
06-04-2011 7:20 AM


{removed by Panda}

Edited by Panda, : Decided to play nice.


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Taq
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Posts: 7774
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 9 of 36 (618867)
06-06-2011 6:25 PM


Although my knowledge of embryonic development is quite poor, this type of question has always struck me as a very weak one:

quote:
2) Kalinka et al. (2010) have documented that the developmental hourglass model (which describes the observation that embryogenesis within a phylum diverges most extensively during early and late development, while converging in the middle) holds true even with respect to patterns of gene expression, which has a central role in elaboration of different animal forms. Given that mutations affecting the earliest stages of development are the least likely to be evolutionarily tolerated, would you please explain how you would account for this observation in terms of evolutionary rationale?

If they are not well tolerated, then how is it that these mutations DO EXIST in very healthy species? It would seem to me that they refute themselves on this one. It reminds me of the creationist who argued that according to the 2LoT there had to be a massive input of energy into the Earth in order for evolution to occur, all the while ignoring a rather obvious and massive nuclear furnace in the sky.


  
Chuck77
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 36 (618912)
06-07-2011 3:05 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
06-02-2011 8:48 PM


Confident?
From Percy: "I read through the questions and don't understand why Myers is so confident. While half the problems they cite are with evolutionary views I didn't even know existed, I suspect Myers might be confident because he understands precisely what's wrong with each question. But to me they look intended not to perplex Myers but to raise doubts among onlookers who don't understand what the heck the questions are about, but can tell they imply something's pretty fishy with evolution.

So here are the questions - is PZ right to be so confident?"

Well, anyone can be confident and NOT answer a single one of them. The REAL question is, did he CONFIDENTLY answer them?


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Chuck77
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 36 (618913)
06-07-2011 3:12 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Chuck77
06-07-2011 3:05 AM


Re: Confident?
Anyway Percy, I agree with you. They do seem pretty out there and complex and just because someone may not be able to answer them doesn't disprove evolution,IMO. Just like if we Christians cannot answer a question someone proposes us from the Bible it doesn't disprove God (to us) if we cannot give an adequate answer.
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Percy
Member
Posts: 18430
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 12 of 36 (618946)
06-07-2011 8:16 AM


Just a short note to let people know I haven't abandoned my own thread. I said that many of the questions concerned evolutionary views I didn't even know existed, so I will need a block of time to look things up before I can begin responding. Weekdays don't often have free blocks of time, so maybe this weekend.

--Percy


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Dr Adequate
Member
Posts: 16094
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 13 of 36 (618959)
06-07-2011 8:50 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by Percy
06-07-2011 8:16 AM


Well his lecture has just taken place, and I gathered that it's his intention to publish the answers after his lecture. Just keep your eye on Pharyngula.
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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 14 of 36 (619704)
06-11-2011 11:16 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
06-02-2011 8:48 PM


Talk video available
I am currently listening to the video of PZ's talk at Glascow.

It is well worth listening to.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=115DdMmp2Bw&hd=1


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Replies to this message:
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Percy
Member
Posts: 18430
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 2.7


Message 15 of 36 (619710)
06-11-2011 1:01 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by nwr
06-11-2011 11:16 AM


Re: Talk video available
Thanks for posting this. So maybe I don't need to research those questions. What I orginally found confusing was that the questions were criticizing evolution for views I didn't even know it had, this first question, for example:

1) In light of the Darwinian evolutionary paradigm, can you account for the observation that the eggs of the five classes of vertebrate (i.e. fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) begin markedly different from each other? While the cleavage patterns in four of the five classes show some general similarities, the pattern in mammals is very different. Furthermore, in the gastrulation stage, a fish is very different from an amphibian,while both are starkly different from reptiles, birds and mammals, which are somewhat similar to each other. Doesn’t Darwinism predict a pattern wherein the earliest stages are the most similar and the later stages are the most different?

From Myers talk I now know that they are confounding the gastrulation and pharyngular stages, and also assigning to Darwinism a Haeckelian view it does not hold. The Haeckelian part isn't news to me, but all the unfamiliar details about fetal development that were included in the question left me thinking that it must be about an evolutionary position I was unfamiliar with.

It's probably worth being clear about one thing, in case any creationists are reading this thread. While biological research tells us that post-pharyngular stages become increasingly different, this isn't a prediction of the theory of evolution. Probably there are a variety of ways that fetal development could proceed that would be compatible with evolution.

I would like to see Myers answer the bonus question about his recent work. I did do a quick check of his publications, and it does seem to be true that he's published very little recently. I frequently criticize Behe for his lack of publication in the technical literature, so to be fair I would have to criticize Myers too if he shares this quality with Behe. Of course, I'm already fairly critical of Myers. I enjoy to death reading Pharyngula because it's just God-awful fun the way he rakes creationists over the coals, but I'd like to see much more of what little he did in this talk, which is to be specific about how creationists are wrong instead of just ridiculing them. Without the substance I don't think he's really helping, he's just serving as a lightning rod for creationist criticism about how emotional and substanceless evolutionists are.

--Percy


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