Why is it okay for militant atheists like Dawkins and Stenger to use the words “simple” and “complex” in describing evolution, and it’s not okay for creationists to simply repeat it/agree with it?
Good God, Marc, you've misunderstood the whole point of this thread. There's nothing wrong with the words "simple" and "complex" when talking about evolution.
What's wrong is creationist definitions of evolution. The example provided by RAZD errs when it says evolution "deals with the suggested mechanisms for the progressive development of more complex life forms from simpler ones."
That's not the correct definition of evolution! It's not wrong because it used the words "simple" and "complex." It's wrong because evolution is not directed toward complexity.
Evolution is a process that produces better adaptation to the environment. The adaptation could be simpler, it could be more complex, evolution doesn't care. Better adaptation is better adaptation, and that's all that matters.
So use the words "simple" and "complex" as much as you like when discussing evolution, just don't use them to misdefine it.
Agreed. I don't know why some people work so hard to obscure their points in torrents of detail. Respondents should take into account their correspondent's level of understanding, and responses should be at roughly the same level of detail.
"Macro evolution is defined by Berekely as the changes above speciation"
Whoever provided this definition misspoke. What they meant to say was that, "Macro evolution is changes above the species level."
Where did you get that definition? A Google search reveals that on the entire Internet it occurs at just one website, and that's here at EvC Forum, and it appears to have originated with you. When I search the Berekely website here's what I find at Definition: What is Macroevolution?:
Macroevolution generally refers to evolution above the species level.
When you quote a site use cut-n-paste. When you type it over from scratch then errors like this can creep in.
Evolution, as it is strictly intepreted in technical terms, deals with the suggested mechanisms...
Guess you probably don't have too much of a problem with this part and it is the second half that you don't quite agree with:
...for the progressive development of more complex lifeforms from simpler ones.
And I agree that in a sense evolution as such does not teach this. However, Is this not the goal of evolution? i.e. that everything that we learn about evolution is used in the explanation of universal common ancestry.
Universal common ancestry is an implication of evolution, and one could reasonably argue that it should be included as part of the definition. Certainly Darwin mentioned it at the end of Origins when he referred to life "having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one."
There are two problems with the definition under discussion. One is the phrase "progressive development" (not part of evolution), and the other is the phrase "complex lifeforms from simpler ones" (also not part of evolution). Since those two phrases are pretty much the whole definition, nothing about it is correct. About all they got right is the implication of change over time.
You ask, "Is this not the goal of evolution?" Just asking the question shows you don't understand what evolution is. Evolution no more has goals than does the Earth have the goal of maintaining a moderately consistent distance from the Sun.
There are probably many ways one could define evolution, here are three:
Evolution is populations evolving adaptations to changing environments.
Evolution is descent with modification filtered by natural selection.
Evolution is changing allele frequencies over time in a population.
These definitions are pretty short. The longer the definition the more comprehensive one can be, and the better one can cover various aspects.
An evolutionist is someone who accepts the theory of evolution as the explanation for life's history and the diversity of life we see today. You do not accept this, so have no fear of being considered an evolutionist.
There are a wide variety of creationist viewpoints: young Earth, old Earth, special creation, ID, and so forth. Some creationists accept a lot of evolutionary ideas (Michael Behe) and some do not (AIG, ICR, CRS). For this reason you can't reasonably define a creationist as someone who believes the opposite of an evolutionist.
I think I understand why Arphy is so hot on this, and Granny Magda has picked up on it, too. Arphy thinks evolutionists are guilty of a deception, a bait and switch. He thinks we're telling people that evolution is just changing allele frequencies over time so that they'll think, "Oh, that's all evolution is? Then I have no problem with it." The deception is that by implication all life is related, and we're hiding that fact. Arphy thinks we're convincing people that evolution is true under false pretenses.
What I don't understand is why evolutionists are so hot on excluding common descent from the definition of evolution. I, personally, prefer to include common descent as additional detail after first providing a very brief definition of evolution, but I'd be perfectly happy with a thoughtful definition that included it.
Word definitions are funny things. They aren't designed, they just happen. Word definitions come from usage, not the other way around. All languages are fluid.
But formal areas of study such as English, history, and science try to escape this ad hoc and fluid approach, preferring to develop formal definitions that are less vulnerable to changing usage. This is the case when biologists define evolution, and it just makes sense to most biologists that common descent not be included in that definition. In many definitions mutation and natural selection aren't mentioned, either.
It is a big mistake to seek consistency between formal and popular definitions, which is what Arphy trying to do. Within biology evolution is a term with a formal definition, while evolutionist is a term that emerged from the very public creation/evolution controversy. One is a formal definition, the other is not. Those expecting consistency between the definitions of these two words are not being reasonable and in any event are bound to be disappointed. Inconsistency in non-formal definitions is the rule, and examples abound in the English language, and I'm sure in all other languages, too, except maybe Esperanto.
The length of the definition has a big influence on what gets included. In this thread we seem to be focusing mostly on single sentence definitions. The first sentence of the Wikipedia article on evolution says:
Wikipedia on evolution writes:
In biology, evolution is change in the inherited traits of a population of organisms through successive generations.
That's a pretty good one sentence definition. But the definition continues for three more sentences. Descent with modification is mentioned in the second sentence, and common descent in the fourth.
Evolution is both a simple concept and a very complex area of study. If you want to capture the essence in a short definition then there's a great deal you're going to leave out. As the definition gets longer you'll bring in more and more of the details.
But I guess my main point is that whatever is wrong with most creationist definitions of evolution, I don't think inclusion of common descent is wrong. It might be more detailed than many prefer in a short definition, but wrong? I don't think so.
No, I wasn't thinking of you. In fact I had no one in particular in mind at all. I have to follow a lot of threads, and most times all I remember is a general sense of the discussion and not specifically who said what.
In response to your objection I would say that you're trying to argue that language is more precise than it actually is, and that there are clear and unambiguous lines of demarcation between evolution and the theory of evolution.
Would that language could be so precise, even if we are talking about the world of formal definitions within science. In the end, and especially at levels of increasing precision, we can only talk about which definitions we prefer or which we dislike. We can't talk about which definitions are right and which are wrong, though naturally inside we feel that a definition we dislike is wrong.
I think the greater danger lies in telling someone who includes common descent in their definition of evolution that they're wrong. We're talking to people who are inconceivably ignorant of science and who in many circumstances have been the target of a great deal of misinformation. Make your distinctions too fine and you're going to lose them.
So now that you've cut-n-pasted what the Berkeley site actually says, I assume you understand that the definition you earlier claimed came from Berkeley ("Macro evolution is defined by Berekely as the changes above speciation") was in error. The phrase "changes above the species level" includes speciation. Your definition excludes speciation as part of macroevolution when it is actually the lowest rung on the ladder of macroevolutionary change.
Can we have an unequivocal answer from you about something for once? You understand you were wrong, right? And we're not going to see you introducing this erroneous claim about how Berkeley defines macroevolution into threads anymore, right?
In light of these statements in the definition of macroevolution could you explain to me how speciation is a part of macroevolution according to the complete definition of macroevolution by Berkeley.
I don't know that anyone can explain anything to you. You get an idea in your head, you dig in your heels, and that's about the end of it no matter what the facts are.
Look at it this way. If your interpretation is correct then speciation is neither microevolution or macroevolution. Now how much sense would that make?
Microevolution is evolution below the species level, in other words, change within species. Macroevolution is evolution at the species level and above, in other words, species evolving into new species, genera, and so forth.
I grant that the Berkeley website's explanation is not idiot proof.
How can you forget that the mantra of creationists is, "We accept microevolution but not macroevolution. There can be change within a species, but one species cannot change into another."
AbE: Lots of microevolution (lots of accumulated change within a species) can eventually result in macroevolution (the accumulation of sufficient changes to result in a new species). Microevolution refers to the tiny changes that occur over the course of one or a few generations. Macroevolution refers to the large changes that can result from the accumulation of many microevolutionary changes.
Whether or not our billions of years ago single-celled ancestor was something like a modern bacteria, we can be reasonably certain that its DNA bore little in common with our own. The DNA of modern bacteria also has little in common with our own. A bacteria has only a single chromosome, while humans have 23 chromosome pairs for a total of 46 chromosomes. The common E. coli bacteria's DNA with its single chromosome has only about 4 million base pairs, while our own DNA totals around six billion base pairs. And as Wounded King already said, we share less than 0.1% of our genes with bacteria.
So if we evolved from bacteria or something somewhat like bacteria, where did all our additional DNA come from?
The answer is mutations, which is a chance occurrence that alters an organism's DNA, usually during reproduction. The most common type of mutation is a single nucleotide replacement where at one point along the DNA one of the four nucleotides (C, A, G and T) is accidentally replaced by another while being copied during reproduction. Nucleotides can also be inserted and deleted. Entire sequences of nucleotides can be skipped or copied twice. Entire genes and even chromosomes can be duplicated.
Viruses are another source of mutation, one that doesn't need to happen during reproduction. Viruses work by breaking into a cell and taking over its machinery by injecting its own DNA, causing the cell to make copies of the virus instead of whatever it was doing before. But viruses are no more perfect at doing their job than cells are at copying themselves, and it occasionally happens that instead of taking over a cell some of the virus's DNA becomes inserted into the cell's DNA. This new DNA becomes a permanent part of the organism's DNA if this happens in cells involved in reproduction, such as sperm or egg or the cells that produce them.
It's important not to confuse this picture at the DNA level with the symbiotic relationship between multi-cellular life and bacteria. The bacteria that inhabit the human body are independent of us. Their DNA does not mix with ours. They *are* a substantial portion of us. There are ten times more bacterial cells in our body than human, though they're much smaller on average and so maybe only represent 10% of us by weight.