I thought this might also provide some interesting discussion.
Helen is a retired Public High School Biology science teacher.
----- Original Message -----
From: Helen Fryman <helenfryman@HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2001 9:55 AM
Subject: Discontinuity Conference Report
> I have divided this report up into three parts: the conference itself;
> particularly interesting parts; and some personal reactions and thoughts.
> The conference itself was fantastic. Usually at conferences having to do
> with creation and/or intelligent design there is a predominant 'group
> or reigning paradigm within which the presentations are made. The
> Discontinuity conference was remarkably free of that. The presentations
> were from a wide variety of disciplines and spanned the full range from
> general to technical. It is impossible to imagine the idea that there
> have been someone there who did NOT get something valuable out of that
> The first three presentations, the first morning were from Wayne Frair who
> discussed the life and contributions of Frank Lewis Marsh to the subject
> baramins (Marsh was the one who coined the term). The second presentation
> was by David Fouts on Discontinuity in Genesis One, which resulted in
> massive note-taking by a number of us. He discussed the various forms and
> ways in which 'yom' is used throughout the Bible as well as the use of
> 'evening and morning,' 'and it was so,' 'let there be,' and the word
> To make a long story short, the conclusion was that the grammatical
> structure and use of words in Genesis 1 leave no room for anything but the
> clear and unambiguous intended meaning of six literal 24-hour days. The
> last presentation of the first morning was by John Mark Reynolds who
> discussed the philosophical foundations of discontinuity, with special
> emphasis on the Greek philosophers.
> The first afternoon saw first a presentation by Todd Wood who, although
> quite technical, made it equally clear that some VERY different chemical
> pathways lead to the proper translation of mRNA and the maintenance of the
> universal genetic code. To quote from his abstract, "The conflict between
> the universal genetic code and the haphazard inheritance of AARSs is one
> the most fundamental discontinuities present in all living things.
> ..Universals may be explained as the result of a common Designer, while
> discontinuities are predicted by separate acts of creation."
> The next presentation was by Paul Nelson, discussing biological
> discontinuity in historical perspective. He brought out that the concept
> the discontinuities between basic life forms predates Darwin and has been
> discussed almost continuously since Darwin and that 'notions such as
> 'irreducible complexity' (Behe 1996) represent the revival of Cuvier's
> outlook (Russell 1916) in biology, and imply that fundamental
> discontinuities exist between organismal systems."
> The last part of the first afternoon involved three shorter presentations.
> The first was from Walter ReMine, discussing what he feels is needed to
> advance the study of discontinuity systematics, including a reproduction
> database (which is actually in construction, as per a later presentation),
> reminder of the subtle distinctions used in both creationary and
> evolutionary methods, which causes confusion, and the need for a good
> working knowledge of traditional methods which have falsely promoted the
> idea of continuity in biology. The second presentation was by Steve
> who discussed discontinuity and systems theory, giving a way to measure
> complexity via the connections, both external and internal, of any system.
> The last presentation was by Stephanie Mace, representing the many people
> Bryan who are working on the very database ReMine was saying we needed.
> This database charts hybrids from all available records (and all new
> information is invited, along with the references).
> The second day of the conference opened with a presentation by Richard
> Sternberg of the Smithsonian entitled "Structuralism and Typology:
> Implications for the Theory and Practice of Baraminology". Because I was
> not able to attend this presentation, I can only quote a bit from his
> abstract: "Two allied schools of biological and taxonomic thought have
> asserted that historical processes are incapable of explaining the array
> complexity of biological forms, and the natural system of taxa.Both
> structuralism and typology have an identical aim in the domain of
> systematics. To be specific, this aim is to study biological form and
> relationships in a manner independent of evolutionary thought. In this
> paper, the implications of both schools of thought for baraminology are
> presented. It is argued that structuralism provides a ready-made,
> as yet incomplete, theoretical foundation for baraminological thinking.
> Typological systematics, likewise, has much to offer in the way of
> baraminological data interpretation."
> The second presentation of the morning was by Nigel Crompton, who flew
> from Switzerland to stand in for Scherer. His presentation was on Basic
> Type Biology. He discussed hybridization as an indicator of basic type.
> also presented two novel ideas (at least to me). The first was that we
> might want to consider the question 'why' in relation to a basic type.
> instance, "Why was the dog type created?" His response was that is might
> have something to do with the Creator revealing something about Himself -
> the dog type perhaps companionship. Felines were perhaps expressing
> something about majesty (although the housecat may simply be trying to
> it..grin - my comment). His other comment which caught my attention was
> that humans seem to be 'hard wired' regarding recognizing basic type
> differences among animals and plants. We seem to instinctively understand
> that the dog and the cat are basically different.
> The third presentation that morning was by Kris McGary. He reviewed
> traditional methods of taxonomic classifications and then presented an
> overview of the current material regarding bariminology.
> The second afternoon opened with a presentation by Ken Cumming who
> a brief history of systematic methods and highlighted the discontinuities
> found in some specific areas of the plant and animal kingdoms.
> The shorter presentations of the afternoon were led off by Dave DeWitt,
> presented some genetic evaluations involving Neandertal and modern humans.
> He examined areas of overlap and noted particularly that there were 'hot
> spots' of high degrees of variation which could give false impressions.
> quote from his abstract, "Because of the high observed substitution rate
> especially at sites where Neanderthals differ from the human reference
> sequence and the fact that 100% of the intra-Neanderthal substitutions
> congruence of one Neanderthal to the modern human reference sequence, we
> conclude Neanderthals cannot be excluded from the range of human
> variability. We believe this is strong evidence for a recent common
> Donald Moeller followed with a review of dental fossils and the fossil
> record, showing conclusively that the fossil record shows no intermediary
> stages of dentition in any animal. All fossils which present tooth and
> structure show perfectly developed structures with no signs of
> forms available. He also showed the wide range of variability, including
> many problems, known in the teeth and jaws of modern man. In particular,
> the problems we have today are nowhere shown in the available fossil
> To quote his abstract, "Craniofacial growth is highly controlled and
> regulated. It is intricately correlated to dental morphology and eruption
> sequencing. There is no evidence of any transitional fossils
> dental crowding due to lack of coordination of the craniofacial-dental
> growth patterns."
> The next short presentation was by Roger Sanders regarding taxonomic names
> and codes. Again, to quote from his abstract, "current procedures are
> incapable of representing patterns exhibited by the diversity of living
> extinct organisms, particularly in the context of baraminology and
> discontinuity systematics." He discussed nesting, apomorphies, and the
> that 'there is no idrect comparability among conventional ranks, all of
> which are arbitrary." He urged some new method of defining biological
> Regretfully, I also missed the last short presentation of the second day,
> which was by Todd Woods regarding the fossil horse series. He, in
> conjunction with Kurt Wise and David Cavanaugh argued for the acceptance
> the changes indicated by the fossil horse series, indicating it is
> consistent with the creation model.
> The third and last day opened with a presentation by Charles Thaxton
> discussing discontinuities in biochemistry. He concentrated on why
> abiogenesis ideas and experiments have hit a wall and have nowhere to go.
> However, since the evolutionist paradigm states that 'we are here, so
> abiogenesis happened', there is no indication they will quit trying to
> it possible, despite a growing disinterest in life's origins among many
> evolutionists. He mentioned the huge discrepancy between the Miller-Urey
> experiment and modern methods of science. Proteins are extremely complex
> aperiodic polymers. He also mentioned that early in the abiogenesis
> attempts, no one had dreamed a coded relationship existed between proteins
> and DNA. He made a point of the fact that there is no source for
> complexity in nature, and that stochastic chemistry is simply not enough,
> but that specific mechanisms are needed.
> Joe Francis followed with a presentation on the discontinuity presented in
> cytokinesis, or cell division. He highlighted the vast differences
> plant and animal cell division, and that the 'simple' process outlined in
> biology texts could not be further from the truth. "Examination of
> cytokinesis mechanisms reveals the existence of profound discontinuities
> between prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells, and between animal cells
> plant cells. The observation of disparate, complex, cytokinesis
> in living cells is consistent with the pre-existence of complex cells at
> origin of life and offers a challenge to the naturalistic origin of one of
> life's most basic and essential processes."
> Jonathan Wells opened the afternoon with a presentation on discontinuity
> development. His main thrust was that genetic mutations were not capable
> changing basic body types, but they 'affect development primarily by (a)
> damaging molecules needed for normal development, and (b) damaging binary
> switches that direct development along pre-determined lines that are not
> controlled by the genes themselves." He pointed out that a fertilized
> frog egg, with the genome fully extracted, would still proceed through the
> first cell divisions, indicating that the initial development had no
> connection to the genetic information. As he stated in his abstract, "A
> neo-Darwinian explanation based on simple changes in DNA sequences is
> fundamentally incapable of accounting for evolutionary significant changes
> in development. Within a neo-Darwinian framework, the organism can't get
> there from here."
> The last presentation of the conference was by Kurt Wise, giving evidence
> biological discontinuity in the fossil record. As I was driving a
> presenter to a plane almost missed, I was not able to attend this
> presentation. So, to give an idea of his presentation, here are a few
> quotes from his abstract: "The radiometrically oldest rocks on earth
> capable of preserving fossils do contain fossils. [but] the earth's
> record seems to provide zero to negative time for the origin of life.Since
> communities are made up of multiple species, and the fossil record has a
> resolution sufficient to document new fossil species as they arise,
> evolutionary theory would expect the species in a given fossil community
> appear at a constant rate before the complete community assemblage is
> In point of fact, fossil communities typically appear abruptly in the
> record." He brought up such evidences as the "Archaean Explosion", the
> "Cambrian Explosion," the presence of chimeric (mosaic) forms, showing
> organs are not intermediate, and the fact that although 95% of the fossil
> record is 'composed of shallow water marine invertegrate animals, there
> appear to be no stratomorphic intermediates of any type in these animals."
> The last session of the last day involved a panel discussion among the
> presenters themselves with questions from the audience being fielded and
> discussed as well.
> A number of high points came to mind as I typed up the previous review.
> Perhaps one of the first is the fact that enough time was given all of us
> talk and discuss various issues outside of the time dedicated to
> presentations. This is sometimes ignored by conference planners in their
> effort to get as much material presented as possible. And yet a major
> drawing card for any of these conferences is the chance to meet and talk
> with the other people there. This conference was extremely well-planned
> this respect. The facilities, as well, at Cedarville University, are
> terrific and very comfortable, as I think everyone there noted.
> I really appreciated, as I mentioned at the beginning, the diversity of
> speakers. I had never thought of the dentition argument before, but it is
> strong one. I was not aware of the extraordinary complexity and order
> required for cell division, and this despite the fact that I taught high
> school biology! Actually, in every presentation there was material which
> was either totally new to me or added to my previous knowledge in that
> The only negative I found was too much repetition in the history area
> regarding background data and overviews. Better coordination could be
> In terms of quality of presentations, there are a few that stand head and
> shoulders above the rest. Going in order of presentation, the information
> given by Dr. Fouts regarding Genesis was orderly, clearly presented and,
> me, fascinating. Todd Wood's presentation on discontinuity that day was
> technical for me in the main, but his main point came through so clearly
> that he, too, stands out in terms of material I learned. All three short
> presentations at the end of the day had high points for me. Although
> ReMine speaks much too softly, he brought up some very interesting points.
> Steve Gollmer did an excellent job demonstrating a method of calculating
> complexity mathematically, and his presentation was very clear and
> understandable. Stephanie Mace did a very good job presenting the
> regarding the developing hybrid data base.
> Nigel Crompton really stands out in my mind as presenting some excellent
> ideas as well as reviewing other material. The idea of us being more or
> less instinctively able to recognize basic type differences made me smile
> and say to myself, "But, of course!" I know others have mentioned this
> kind of thing, but the way he said it, perhaps, was what made so much
> to me. I had also never before thought of the idea of each type of
> being an expression of something specific about God. I like that idea,
> am really 'chewing' on it.
> Both Dave DeWitt and Donald Moeller's short presentations were outstanding
> in information given and, despite the fact that Dr. Moeller tried to give
> triple time to get it all in, were both really very clear in their main
> points. Dr. Moeller's humor was also a high point. He has a marvelous
> of presenting which I think was enjoyed by everyone.
> And although I did not get a chance to hear Kurt Wise on the last day, I
> quite confident that he, as well as Thaxton, Francis, and Wells, gave an
> outstanding talk. They are all clear, and present solid material. I do
> have to mention Jonathan Wells' talk as a real highlight simply because he
> is so clear and so precise with his material that it would take a real
> to miss his points.
> And so I personally want to thank Todd, Kurt, Joe, Dennis, and the many
> others who were responsible for that three day conference. It really was
> outstanding. A couple of suggestions:
> 1. The best presentations are not always made by the most capable
> researchers. There were a few times when it was very hard to follow
> 2. There was a problem with the mike, I think, a few times, as those
> on one side of the auditorium had to strain to hear what was being said.
> That should be corrected, unless it was just my ears.
> And, in closing, there are a couple of things based on material presented
> the conference I would like to throw out.
> Measurement of complexity: it seems to me that not only the connections
> should be considered, but the variety of internal parts must be noted and
> calculated in. For instance, stochastically, an octopus is more complex
> a human where arms are concerned. But if variety of internal parts is
> considered along with simple numbers, the advanced complexity of the human
> arm is clearly discerned. I think this type of calculation could be used
> for any level, from organs to molecules, depending on one's choice.
> Secondly, I was interested in a few minutes of a side discussion regarding
> the intelligent design issue. It was going to fast for an 'end of day'
> tired brain to think fast enough to contribute, but perhaps it needs to be
> clear that the argument concerning intelligent design is specifically
> pointing to primary causes, and not secondary or tertiary causes. Any law
> can be claimed to be part of design, but that is not the point. The point
> is whether or not design can be discerned as a primary cause, as would be
> presumed with irreducible complexity.
> That's it. Again, the quality of this particular conference was
> and thank you again to all those involved.
> In Christ,
> Penny Fryman
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