Re: Transitional forms

Paul Arveson (
Fri, 17 May 96 10:40:54 EDT

In message <> Glenn Morton writes:

But the point is, what do we expect of a transitional form? What the
evolutionist means today is NOT what Darwin meant and what
anti-evolutionists insist evolutionists believe. Christian apologists
insist on what I call morphing--an infinite sequence of infinitesimal
changes in shape. Duane Gish writes:

"If evolution is true, museums should have an immense
storehouse of the fossil transistional forms. "
Duane T. Gish, Creation Scientists Answer their Critics, (El Cajon:
Institute for Creation Research, 1993), p. 126-127

Phillip Johnson writes:

"If neo-Darwinism were true, somewhere there should be a
universe of transitional intermediates, as Darwin said there had to
be. Where is it?" Phillip Johnson, "Darwinism: Science or
Naturalistic Philosophy?" Origins Research, Fall/Winter 1994, p. 6

> In short, the transitional sequence is chimerical, not an infinite sequence
> of infinitesimal transitions. To demand that evolutionists hold the view
> that most Christian apologists require is to demand that they believe
> something that they don't believe. In other words it is to set up a
> strawman.

Thanks for this, Glenn. Very well stated. I think there is an additional
dimension of knowledge that can be brought to bear on this question. That is
the discoveries in the realm of genotypes. We are beginning to learn how to
define species not only in terms of phenoytype morphology but in terms of
genetic makeup. Barbara McClintock long ago discovered "jumping genes" in maize
in which large, discontinuous changes occurred because of genetic or chromosome
recombination. This is now known to be a common occurrence.

The genome is "object oriented software". There are usually a discrete,
finite number of alleles of any particular gene. So we should not be surprised
to find that when carefully controlled experiments are done (such as Mendel's),
we find a discontinuous set of variants. So on a genetic level, there are NO
transitional forms.

New variations (i.e. new genetic information) are therefore not restricted to
point mutations. There are many other possibilities, such as duplication of
whole or parts of genes, reversal of sequences, splicing in of sequences from
other genes, rearrangements of control sequences, insertion or deletion of
foreign sequences (hybridization), introns, exons, and just plain junk.

Darwin knew none of this. But modern biologists do. And so should their
critics. That is, people like Gish and Johnson should do their biology homework
before they speculate about what should or should not be found in nature.

Lacking any deep knowledge of this field, I picked up the latest issue of
Science just to look for a relevant article, and I found a good one. It is
"Role of Gene Interactions in Hybrid Speciation: Evidence from Ancient and
Experimental Hybrids" by L. H. Rieseberg et al. (Science v. 272, p. 741ff, 3
May 1996). There is an excellent synopsis of this research on p. 700 (by Jerry
Coyne) that deserves to be quoted here:

"The findings of Rieseberg et al. are also important as an example of how
work on speciation has been revitalized by reductionist approaches that use both
molecular tools and population-genetics theory. Early evolutionists like
Dobzhansky and Muller (1937 ref.) made a good start in understanding speciation
through classical genetic analysis, but this approach was sidetracked when
evolutionary geneticists discovered the joys of gel electrophoresis and DNA
sequencing. The study of speciation then experienced a decline, its progress
checked by a surfeit of verbal theorizing and a paucity of experimentation."

".... Some researchers have insisted that speciation is an emergent
macroevolutionary phenomenon that is refractory to the tools of evolutionary
genetics and requires us to consider concepts like self-organization,
hierarchical selection, and the emergent properties of organic matter. Such
nebulous holism has, however, led nowhere. It is likely that painstaking
studies such as that of Rieseberg and his colleagues will be far more useful in
understanding the origin of species."

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20084
"Practice thoughtful kindness, and helpful acts of beauty."