Discontinuity Conference Report

From: Allen Roy (allenroy@peoplepc.com)
Date: Tue Aug 21 2001 - 12:13:49 EDT

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    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
    > days.
    > 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
    > ancestor."
    > 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
    > groups.
    > 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
    > here.
    > 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
    > material.
    > 2. There was a problem with the mike, I think, a few times, as those
    of us
    > 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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