Re: Evolution Statement

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Wed Dec 26 2001 - 18:03:32 EST

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    Sometime ago I tossed off a too-quick answer to why I was still
    unconvinced the "Macroevolution is Microevolution writ large." Keith
    Miller properly took me up on one of my four reasons, as follows:
    Burgy wrote>The fact that animals appear in very definite classes, cats,
    dogs, elephants, etc. Yes, I know the "niche" arguments, but they are not
    really very satisfying.>
    I will make a brief reply to the above comment. The fact is, the
    boundaries between taxonomic groups are NOT clearly drawn. When you move
    back in time toward the time of appearance of a new taxonomic group,
    distinctions become less and less clear. It is a very common occurrence
    paleontology that there is considerable uncertainty and disagreement
    workers regarding the proper classification of early appearing forms.
    morphologic features that define recognized living groups do not appear
    the fossil record simultaneously. Thus some fossil forms bear some but
    all defining characters of a living group, and some bear the defining
    characters of more than one distinct taxonomic group. This pattern
    characterizes the appearance of many class level groups -- mammals,
    birds, reptiles (amniotes), amphibians (tetrapods), bivalves, gastropods,
    scaphopods, rostroconchs, etc.
     In thinking about this over the past month, while traveling, I conclude
    that Keith is right in his criticism. I could argue (as the person who
    wrote the butterfly book recently cited by Dembski) that if common
    descent is taken as fact, then the researcher will see all evidential
    data within that mindset, and be blind to other interpretations. But
    somehow I don't find this line of defense satisfying, even if it is
    possibly true.

    What I was thinking about at the time, and did not express it, was a
    gedanken experiment. Suppose the world we inhabited were one in which any
    organism could (and often did) mate with any other. Then dog-cats, and
    elephant-tiger-apes, and etc. etc. beings would, if not abound, not be
    unthinkable, and the sheer variety of living beings, including
    human-snail combinations, to take one absurd example, would be
    effectively infinite. Now put yourself in such a (terrifying) world and
    ask if the variety of living organisms must not be excellent evidence of
    "microevolution writ large?" In such a world, the answer would surely be
    "yes," and, indeed, overwhelming.

    But we do not (thankfully) inhabit such an imaginary world, and,
    therefore, I was thinking that the argument must therefore be at least
    somewhat weaker here.

    But I do acknowledge that it is not a very good argument. Particularly
    from one who nearly flunked sophomore (high school) biology and ever
    since views its practitioners with awe.

    Blessings of the season.
    John Burgeson (Burgy)
           (science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
            humor, cars, God's intervention into natural causation, etc.)

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