Sunday, July 24, 2005

Challenges to Macroevolutionary Theory

At some point, I hope to write a summary of the criticisms of macroevolutionary theory. In the meantime, I thought I would begin to gather links to some of the best articles I have read. This is meant as a resource for those who are interested in evaluating the evidence for and against macroevolutionary theory for themselves.

Don't miss Phillip Johnson's piece from the August 16, 1999, Wall Street Journal entitled The Church of Darwin.

For a very brief article listing some of the main problems with Darwinian theory, there is this one by David Berlinski. Berlinski is an accomplished mathematician, with a PhD. from Princeton University, who happens to be Jewish. (I only say this because some Darwinian fundamentalists seem to dismiss out of hand any criticisms of Darwinian theory written by a Christian.)

Berlinski wrote a much longer discussion in Commentary, entitled The Deniable Darwin (also here). If you only have time to read one article from the web, this may be the best. He also happens to be fairly witty, which makes this an enjoyable read. Here is some of the flavor:

The facts in favor of evolution are often held to be incontrovertible; prominent biologists shake their heads at the obduracy of those who would dispute them. Those facts, however, have been rather less forthcoming than evolutionary biologists might have hoped. If life progressed by an accumulation of small changes, as they say it has, the fossil record should reflect its flow, the dead stacked up in barely separated strata. But for well over 150 years, the dead have been remarkably diffident about confirming Darwin's theory.

. . .

Most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged. Where there should be evolution, there is stasis instead - the term is used by the paleontologists Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge in developing their theory of "punctuated equilibria" - with the fire alarms of change going off suddenly during a long night in which nothing happens.

Letters in response to Berlinski's Commentary article, including a few from some of the leading evolutionary scientists, can be found here. Berlinski's response to the letters follows at the bottom.

I strongly recommend Phillip Johnson's classic book, Darwin on Trial. This is widely viewed as the book that launched the current intelligent design movement. However, it does not promote intelligent design directly, but simply evaluates the evidence for and against Darwin's theory based on common principles of logic and proof. Johnson is a former law professor at the law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

A great short summary of the peer-reviewed scientific literature dealing with the Cambrian Explosion can be found here.



Labels: , , , , , ,

23 Comments:

At October 30, 2005 4:52 PM, Anonymous Michael Kilpatrick said...

I'm thoroughly underwhelmed by MC Hawking's vocabulary, and also dismayed that adolescent barbarians are allowed uncensored posts here. If the pattern holds true, Hawking lacks the prerequisite equipment to articulate his sentiments from anywhere but the safety his bedroom at mommy's house. I otherwise admire the site, and hope to use it to advantage in some ongoing debates.

An example of some of the dificulties communicating with Darwinian fundamentalists:
In reference to micro vs. macro evolution a crucial term is suddenly out of bounds; "The word species is a human invention." To which I had to ask, well, who else might have 'invented' it?

 
At November 01, 2005 3:45 AM, Anonymous anti-ID said...

Well, your blog must be ironic, am I right?

 
At November 02, 2005 6:02 PM, Blogger Lawrence Selden said...

MC Hawking's post has been deleted.

 
At November 03, 2005 6:18 PM, Anonymous MC Hawking said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 06, 2005 8:31 AM, Anonymous Michael Kilpatrick said...

We now possess an empirical record that the shrieking green cheese moonbat is not extinct.

 
At November 06, 2005 11:40 PM, Anonymous Paul Lucas said...

You comment
" If life progressed by an accumulation of small changes, as they say it has, the fossil record should reflect its flow, the dead stacked up in barely separated strata."

But you have made a strawman.

First, not all the strata are there. Second, the small changes can happen so fast as not to be caught in the strata. As Gould has pointed out, most strata represent 50,000 years. That's a LOOONG time to accumulate small changes.

I have compiled a PARTIAL list of transitional individual fossils that link species to species. Many times these links of species extends to a new genus, family, order, and class. Funny how this data is freely available and yet, none of the sources in your blog mentions it. Instead, Berlinski and Johnson rely on your ignorance. You didn't disappoint them. Please stop being a patsy and repeating false witness.

Transitional series
Transitional individuals from one class to another
1. Principles of Paleontology by DM Raup and SM Stanley, 1971, there are transitional series between classes. (mammals and reptiles are examples of a class)
2. HK Erben, Uber den Ursprung der Ammonoidea. Biol. Rev. 41: 641-658, 1966.

Transitional individuals from one order to another
1. C Teichert "Nautiloidea-Discorsorida" and "Actinoceratoidea" in Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology ed RC Moore, 1964
2. PR Sheldon, Parallel gradualistic evolution of Ordovician trilobites. Nature 330: 561-563, 1987. Rigourous biometric study of the pygidial ribs of 3458 specimens of 8 generic lineages in 7 stratgraphic layers covering about 3 million years. Gradual evolution where at any given time the population was intermediate between the samples before it and after it.

Transitionals across genera:
1. Williamson, PG, Paleontological documentation of speciation in cenozoic molluscs from Turkana basin. Nature 293:437-443, 1981. Excellent study of "gradual" evolution is an extremely fine fossil record.

Transitional individuals in hominid lineage
1. CS Coon, The Origin of Races, 1962.
2. Wolpoff, 1984, Paleobiol., 10: 389-406
3. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/06/11/science/12FOSSIL.html?tntemail1

Transitional series from one family to another in foraminerfera
1. http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/foram/foramintro.html
2. http://cushforams.niu.edu/Forams.htm

Speciation in the fossil record
1. McNamara KJ, Heterochrony and the evolution of echinoids. In CRC Paul and AB Smith (eds) Echinoderm Phylogeny and Evolutionary Biology, pp149-163, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1988 pg 140 of Futuyma.
2. Kellogg DE and Hays JD Microevolutionary patterns in Late Cenozoic Radiolara. Paleobiology 1: 150-160, 1975.

 
At November 07, 2005 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I think this is what I was looking for a few minutes ago, when, in my comment, I asked about what you consider to be evidence against macrobiology.

Could I ask a favor of you? Do you think you could delete that former comment of mine? I accidentally signed in under my "Blogger display name". I would deeply prefer to be anonymous in this discussion. Many thanks, Lizzie

 
At November 15, 2005 4:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can anyone proof that beneficial changes accumulate over time?

All the experiments I've done with genetic programming and cellular automata proof for me that the process of natural selection is very good at only two things: (1) optimize configuration (data) to suit the environment and (2) weed out all structural mutation (functional code).

The problem is that we are ignorant about the way in which life works. Darwin was ignorant about the complexity of cells: he thought that they where trivial. Today we see a whole world of nanotechnology which we can't even simulate. Until we know how genetics really works all our theories about life are pure speculation.

One last remark about discussions about ID and Darwinism: What's up with this assumption that a designer/god need to be supernatural?

The meaning of supernatural is "beyond the laws of nature" of "breaking the laws of nature". Consider life to be really advanced technology, it may seem magical/wonderous to us because of our lack of knowledge and understanding, but you really don't need to be supernatural to create it. There is nothing in nature which requires a supernatural deity. One doesn't have to break any laws of nature to create life, one only needs to be very technological advanced.

 
At November 28, 2005 6:55 PM, Blogger alexandriatwo said...

Many times these links of species extends to a new genus, family, order, and class??????

Perhaps you could take a little bit of time and provide just ONE.
It has NOT been done.......


"One doesn't have to break any laws of nature to create life, one only needs to be very technological advanced."

A very interesting statement. Perhaps you could also give us what technology we need to create life or perhaps explain why all attempts have failed? I also wonder why Carl Sagan was wrong about Life on Mars. I'm sure he understands his errors now..but can you explain why there is no sign of life anywhere but on our little planet?
I must admit, I find it difficult to believe that you believe what you said.

 
At December 28, 2005 4:50 AM, Blogger Whirling Blade said...

"One last remark about discussions about ID and Darwinism: What's up with this assumption that a designer/god need to be supernatural?"

The problem is, the designer does have to be supernatural, or you haven't disproven Darwinism. Consider:

If we assume that macroevolution isn't sufficient to produce homo sapiens, then there must be an agency that intervened somehow. So the question becomes, where did THAT agency come from? We can assume that, although humanity is out of the reach of evolution, the designer of humanity was evolved However, if we do that, we have simply proved that Evolution can create an organism complex enough to design us.

So, if Evolution is to be disproven, the Designer must have been designed. And so on. It becomes an infinite regress, which is impossible in finite time (i.e. the age of the universe). Therefore if Darwinism is strictly false, in the sense that a designer is necessary, that First Designer can't be defined within the constraints of the physical universe. In other words, the First Designer must have a supernatural definition.

Note that I believe this is one of ID's inherent flaws, from a scientific perspective. But as a philosophical argument, it's pretty straightforward.

 
At June 11, 2006 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alexandriatwo,
You have asked Paul Lucas to provide JUST ONE example of transitional fossils, even though he has provided you with quite a substantial list to choose from. Your own closedmindedness and dogmatism seems obvious from your unwillingness to even consider the possibility that such transitions have indeed been documented in the fossil record. However, in the hopes that your input to this discussion signals an honest curiosity and interest in the truth, I will provide what I assume you are asking for: a detailed narrative describing just what was documented in one of Paul Lucas's listed papers.
Just to choose one I happen to be familiar with, Erben's paper ("Über den Ursprung der Ammonoidea") illustrates in detail, specimen by specimen, the transition from Order Nautiloidea to Order Ammonoidea. Neither of these is a trivial order in the fossil record -- each contains thousands of species ranging over hundreds of millions of year -- and so the transition between the two can hardly be said to be trivial. Erben's work laid out the order and timing (in geologic time, that is) of appearance of several of the diagnostic features of the emerging Order Ammonoidea, including but not limited to such fundamental characters as siphuncle position, septal neck orientation, and shell coiling. More recent work has added documentation on the transition from nautiloids to ammonoids in terms of embryonic features such as the primary constriction and the shape and size of the protoconch (this last one being traditionally an indicator of the style of juvenile development and therefore a central piece of data in documenting any transition from two groups as developmentally dissimilar as nautilolids and ammonoids).
Alexandriatwo, if this does not satisfy your demands then perhaps you will be kind enough to tell us what sort of documentation of evolutionary transitions WOULD satisfy you. Once you let us know, I would be happy to point to one of Paul's list of papers that I'm sure would do the job for you, if only you would be willing to read it.

 
At January 14, 2008 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your main arguments for why Neo-Darwinian Biological Evolution can't work for "macro-evolution" (a Creationist term by the way) come from a mathematician and a lawyer?

Are you not as guilty of mis-direction and mis-leading as the people you complain about?

 
At January 24, 2008 2:51 PM, Anonymous lawrence said...

Anonymous,

Mathematicians are pretty good at analyzing probabilities, no? Lawyers are pretty good at spotting bad logic and selective use of evidence, no?

A good argument is a good argument, no matter who makes it.

Plenty of scientists see the weaknesses in Darwin's theory.

Your argument is ad hominem, which means your logic is weak as well. Why don't you argue the merits, instead of arguing from authority?

 
At February 24, 2008 3:26 PM, Blogger Doppelganger said...

Mathematicians are pretty good at analyzing probabilities, no? Lawyers are pretty good at spotting bad logic and selective use of evidence, no?...Why don't you argue the merits, instead of arguing from authority?


Ironic.

 
At March 02, 2008 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only just discovered this thread, otherwise I would have commented earlier.

It is easy to prove that macroevolution is not neo-Darwinian. The best proof I have come up with simply notes that while changes associated with modification of existing genes follows the randomness rule that the rate of new change within a species is directly proportional to the species population size the process of adding genes follows a rule independent of population size and therefore does not comply with the neo-Darwinian randomness postulate.

What I find puzzling about the debate is that while it is very easy to work out the general rules and mechanisms applying to macroevolution nobody seems to have any desire or vision to engage in this. I have an outline at nsof.co.nz

The essential feature of macroevolutionary mechanisms is that they represent active evolutionary processes. Since the potential disadvantages of "harmful" mutations decrease with increasing probability of dying anyway those organisms that respond to incipient extinction with increased mutation levels cannot be worse off and may be better off. There are a small number of types of elective increase in mutation which effectively allow the organism to "cherry pick" beneficial mutations from a relatively small subset of possible changes. Possession of a tendency to this behaviour increases the chances of descendants which, naturally, inherit the tendency.

Dave Finn

 
At June 05, 2008 12:30 AM, Anonymous Josh said...

I will not argue for or against any of the evidence presented in this article or in the subsequent comments supporting or opposing the theory of darwinian evolution, though I will state that upon thorough investigation the claims against "macroevolution" don't seem to stand up.

Regardless, even if any part of the theory of evolution could be proven wrong, that is not evidence for a supreme being or "intelligent designer".

Saying so is reverting to the old standard of using the supernatural to explain the bits of the natural which we do not understand.

Imagine that 2400 years ago, in Ancient Greece, where most people believed lightening was hurled from the sky by Zeus, I proposed an hypothesis that lightening was in fact a case of spontaneous combustion of the "wind". My theory would eventually be proven wrong by science, but my theory being wrong doesn't make Zeus any more real.

 
At June 16, 2008 4:17 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

Josh,

You misunderstand the arguments. Challenging macroevolutionary theory is one enterprise. Arguing for intelligent design is another enterprise.

You are correct that problems with evolutionary theory do not prove ID. But no serious proponent of ID argues that.

There are positive arguments for ID that you apparently are not aware of.

You would do well to try a little harder at understanding the arguments of your opponents, and addressing their best arguments.

 
At November 28, 2008 4:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You are correct that problems with evolutionary theory do not prove ID. But no serious proponent of ID argues that."

I find that hard to believe; the whole thing seems to be about that.. irreducible complexity means "it's so complicated that evolution can't explain it so it must have been designed", to paraphrase.

 
At February 02, 2009 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, no. Irreducible complexity does not mean that.

IC is a set of factors that have no prior usability as their device without all the parts in the right order at the first.

The classic example is a mousetrap. Without one part of the basic mousetrap we've all warily loaded with peanut butter or cheese, the whole thing is useless. Take away the coil, or the hook, the pad or the snap bar, and you have zippo as to mousetraps.

The counterarguement against this would suppose that the other parts of the trap are useful for something else, and then they got retasked.

This is pretty weak stuff as a counter, in general, but its all the Darwinists have. And its fair to call it 'materialism of the gaps' for the fun of seeing heads explode.

 
At June 19, 2009 10:11 PM, Blogger SatansMuse said...

if you are looking for evidence of Macro evolution you must first understand that it occurs over thousands of years. next usually that occurrence is the complete change in a species, so there is only the objective observation of what is found to be a change taking that the newer creature does not die off which is often the case but not always. hence why you find hundreds of canine but only a few primate.

 
At November 14, 2009 2:17 PM, Anonymous copy-cat said...

". next usually that occurrence is the complete change in a species, so there is only the objective observation of what is found to be a change taking that the newer creature does not die off"

If there is only the objective observation of..the newer creature, how do you know evolution took place at all?

 
At November 14, 2009 3:02 PM, Anonymous copy-cat said...

Anonymous:
Do I take it that an order remains within the same species? If so my understanding is that the issues are with one species changing into another, not one order into another.

"each contains thousands of species ranging over hundreds of millions of year"

species? Paul Lucas calls this example a change from one class to another, not even one order to another.

The item hominid/s (on Paul Lucas' list) appears to be talking about 'Aldi' discovered several years ago but only in the last few weeks reported on. The wider scientific community are still trying to decide what nature of animal this is. Possibly an extinct ape?

At least one of the links on Mr. Lucas' list of 3 on hominids appears to be missing.

 
At April 30, 2012 8:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to the so-called links in the evolutionary chain...couldn't they just be a species that didn't adapt and died out, not one that evolved into a new species?

 

Post a Comment

<< Home