Thursday, January 11, 2007

Plausibility Survey

How plausible is the following statement with respect to various events in the history of life on earth?
Random mutation and natural selection, together with other known natural mechanisms and environmental events adequately explain "X".

For X, fill in the following, and then state the plausibility of each (10 = highly plausible; 0 = highly implausible):

1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.


Please comment! I will wait for some comments before giving you my answers. Feel free to describe yourself when you give your answers in whatever way would be of interest to readers. I may tweak the survey if there are comments that convince me that it can be improved significantly, but I will put any significant changes in a new post.

I encourage links to this survey, as I am genuinely curious to see how others evaluate the evidence.

************

Update: I revised number 2 to clarify that I was referring to varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.


13 Comments:

At January 12, 2007 2:59 PM, Anonymous John said...

No responses so far? Weird. Anyway, here's mine.

Personal info: 40 yr old white male, married, 2 kids, IT professional.

The following is all opinion based on what I've read from various "true" scientific sources as well as ID, creationist, and alternative theory sources.


1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

RM+NS plausibility: 9

Disease resistance and similar phenomena seem to depend on slightly deleterious changes in the organism "pre-empting" a worse effect. Example: sickle cell anemia versus African bloodborne pathogens.

The problem with extrapolating this effect to species-altering proportions is the tendency of affected populations to regress to the mean (i.e. return to "normal").


2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species.

RM+NS plausibility: 5

If canines can vary as widely as has been observed, it seems just as likely to me that RM+NS can be stretched slightly further to cover things like the beetle example.

The only sticking point is trying to explain anatomical features like the defenses of the bombadier beetle. Features like these pop up fully formed out of seemingly nowhere; supposedly related species don't show intermediate related features, even though Darwinian theory predicts them. Neo-Darwinian theory simply mouths "it's in the genes" and daintily waves its hand at such features.


3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

RM+NS plausibility: 3

We're trusting morphology to tell us how closely related a particular set of species are, when genetics tell us an entirely different story.

To 19th Century science, it's very easy to see how a horse, a donkey, and a zebra could all come from some nebulous ancestor and thus be related. Late 20th/early 21st Century science, however, is no longer under the illusion that a cell is a microscopic bag. The only recourse open to Darwinists for species that look very similar but are genetically very different is "convergent evolution". Unfortunate for them, it has been shown by mathematical analysis to be nearly impossible.

Even so, some of these physically similar species can still interbreed (e.g., mules, ligers, etc.), which lends credence to their close relation and makes it impossible to completely rule out neo-Darwinism. This phenomenon kind of hampers some accepted definitions of speciation and how speciation occurs, though.


4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

RM+NS plausibility: 3

See answer to #3.


5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

RM+NS plausibility: 2

See answer to #3 and reference to bombadier beetle defenses in answer to #2.


6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

RM+NS plausibility: 1

George Herbert Walker Bush: "Read my lips... no... new... phyla!"


7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.

RM+NS plausibility: 0

Pasteur put this one to bed. Also, natural selection can't work on something that doesn't reproduce in the first place.

 
At January 12, 2007 3:02 PM, Anonymous John said...

Correction in the answer to #3:

Late 20th/early 21st Century science, however, is no longer under the illusion that a cell is a microscopic bag of goo.

 
At January 13, 2007 12:50 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...

John,

Great response. You are a model commenter- I hope others do not think that they have to say so much. I welcome more but am only looking for seven numbers.

Here are my responses. I put question marks for the ones where I have mixed feelings. I added a qualifier for number 2, based on your good comments.


1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

10

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species (with no significant morphological changes).

9

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

8

4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

4??

5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

1??

6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

1

7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.

0

 
At January 16, 2007 6:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personal: like John, only a little more so: Dave, 48 yr old WM, married w/3 kids, self-employed web application programmer/analyst/engineer.

Here goes:

1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance - 10, but I'm far from certain that RM is even required to explain some resistance. I seem to recall reading that some mutational points/nodes which affect resistance were NOT random. That is, the bug randomly mutates precise areas of it's genome to try to find a way to overcome the bad environment it's in.

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species - 5. If the genus (or perhaps one level higher) were front-loaded with enough genetic information, RM would not be required for speciation events.

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor - 3. Again, if there was enough front-loaded genetic information, RM would not be required. The example given (horses, zebras and I'd add donkeys) is great. I wish someone would try to cross all three to try to reconstruct a possible common ancestor. There are zedonks, mules, and horzees already.

4-7 - 0. Coming at this from a programmer/engineering perspective, I find it EXTREMELY difficult to believe that RM can accomplish anything, especially considering some recent research which shows that while one mutation in a gene might be OK (non-fatal), two mutations are a death sentence.

 
At January 16, 2007 8:21 AM, Anonymous Michael Kilpatrick said...

I'm inclined to give a philosophical zero for all seven. Random, directionless, chaotic events producing functional complexity have never been touted in any reasonable manner to me. Of course it could be that I'm just an ignorant peasant without academic standing. Other things that seem to be far fetched in their explanations are abiogenesis, beneficial mutations, transitional forms (which we should still be seeing, not to mention the lack of a fossil record), and the something from nothing theory of origins. But all of those and more are presented as not only plausible, but, with the magic elixir of enough time, irrefutably and inevitably 'uncaused'.

 
At January 22, 2007 6:43 AM, Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

I'd say something like 10,7,7,2,1,1,1 - but all pending more information. The first I would say has been demonstrated, the second two I would say are sufficiently probable for RM+NS to be an acceptable explanation given our existing knowledge. The others, until somebody gets a probabilistic framework on them, I believe are positions held by faith by darwinists - they have no more *scientific* support than the position held by creationists.

 
At January 22, 2007 4:31 PM, Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Let's say 9,5,3,1,0,0,0.

I may get a chance to write more about this later.

 
At January 31, 2007 5:35 PM, Anonymous Victor Erimita said...

About me: I'm a reasonably highly educated professional person with alifelong intense interest in philosophy and spiritual inquiry. I am neither a Christian, a Deist of any sort nor (certainly) a "creationist." I am fascinated by the mythic quality of materialist/pure Darwinists and the irony of their own brand of "fundamentalist faith of which they appear to be wholly unaware.

(1) Micro evolutionary changes. I'll say "8," but since I think consciousness and materiality co-arise, even this assertion begs a very large question. Namely, to what extent the "autopilot" mechanisms implied by this assertion are themselves the product (or "co-phenomenon") of the "consciousness" with which they co-arise?

(2)With the qualification stated in (1) above, maybe a 2. Too many "random mutations" would have to appear simultaneously in a reproducing male and female who then successfully meet and mate---with no non-adaptable: random mutations," etc.

(3) Maybe a 1.

(4) 0.

(5) 0.

(6) Please. Less than zero?

(7) Also less than zero. What Ken Wilber calls "frisky dust." Even the pre-Scoratic Greeks knew materialism was utter nonsense. Only modern specialists who have never bothered to examine the most rudimentary philosophical rufutations of materialism arrogantly assert things beyond their knowledge or areas of study. Ant biologists presume to pronounce on metaphysical matters they know nothing of and then ridicule their skeptics as mythic religion dupes.

 
At April 05, 2007 12:05 AM, Anonymous turandot said...

1. 10

2. 10

3. 8

4. 1

5. 0

6. 0

7. 0

 
At April 13, 2007 11:55 AM, Anonymous Dr Ken said...

Among the components of evolution, natural selection - survival & differential reproduction of the fittest - is self-evidently true. Other parts (gradual change resulting in new species / genus / phyla / whatever over time) are less plausible and less supported. With that as an intro, my stab at plausibliities:

1. 10
2. 9
3. 8
4. 7
5. 4
6. 1
7. 0

If you want a more detailed discussion of biology, sorry. I'm not that kind of doctor.

 
At June 01, 2007 6:31 PM, Anonymous DoubleE said...

I am a retired electrical engineer who became interested in origins in the early nineties. My knowledge rests on having read a number of popular books on intelligent design: "Darwin on Trial", "Darwin's Black Box", etc.

My criterion for the determination of the plausibility of certain evolutionary events is whether an existing feature is being modified slighlty (e.g., a longer beak on a finch) or a whole suite of coordinated features must appear at once or at least develop simultaneously (e.g., the long neck of the giraffe, which requires a stronger heart, sophisticated blood pressure control, faster breathing rate, etc.). As with almost any demarcation criterion, there will be instances where the classifcation is difficult to make.

For me item 4 falls into my gray area. As I see it, it looks as if no new features are required, but is a sheep sufficiently different to not have evolved from the same ancestor as a horse?

1 - 9
2 - 7
3 - 5
4 - 3
5 - 0
6 - 0
7 - 0

 
At June 03, 2007 2:37 AM, Blogger Chris Harrison said...

1. 10

2. 10

3. 10

4. 10

5. 10

6. 10

7. 5

The last one doesn't really fit in with the rest, since mutation and selection only work if there is some pre-existing self-replicating genetic material. But, since your statement included "other known natural mechanisms", it still garners a 5. I don't think we have discovered all the prebiotic mechanisms that contributed to the origin of life.

Looking at the rest of the comments, it appears I'm the biggest evolutionist yet!

Do I get a prize for that? heh.

 
At June 22, 2007 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

56 years old, white, CPA

10
10
10
8
5
0
0

 

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