Re: Stereotypes and reputations

From: Pim van Meurs <>
Date: Sat Aug 06 2005 - 17:41:03 EDT

janice matchett wrote:

> At 04:56 PM 8/6/2005, Robert Schneider wrote:
>> Finally, to Janice: I have read several of Francisco Ayala's papers
>> and heard him lecture twice. I think it is quite mistaken to lump
>> him with Gould and others and describe his worldview as "inherently
>> irrational." Far from it.
>> Bob Schneider
> *When Faith and Reason Clash: Evolution and the Bible.
> Alvin Plantinga* University of Notre Dame
> Notre Dame IN 46556 Christian Scholar's Review XXI:1 (September
> 1991): 8-33. Used by permission.
> Evolution is certain, says *Francisco J. Ayala*, as certain as "the
> roundness of the earth, the motions of the planets, and the molecular
> constitution of matter."14
> <>
> <>
> According to Stephen J. *Gould,* evolution is an established fact, not
> a mere theory; and no sensible person who was acquainted with the
> evidence could demur.15
> <>
> According to Richard *Dawkins*, the theory of evolution is as
> certainly true as that the earth goes around the sun.
You are indeed doing a disservice to Gould, Dawkins and Ayala to place
them in the same categories as their viewpoints, while accepting the
fact of evolution are quite different. Things are seldomly this black
and white.

> From this perspective, then, how shall we evaluate the evidence for
> evolution?
> Despite the claims of Ayala, Dawkins, Gould, Simpson and the other
> experts, I think the evidence here has to be rated as ambiguous and
> inconclusive.
Arguments from personal incredulity are seldomly relevant thus we come
to issues how to interpret the evidence. So far the evidence for common
descent have made this a fact of life, when it comes to the
explanations, evolutionary theory has contributed by providing
mechanisms and hypotheses to explain the observed data.

> The two hypotheses to be compared are:
> (1) the claim that God has created us in such a way that (a) all of
> contemporary plants and animals are related by common ancestry, and
> (b) the mechanism driving evolution is natural selection working on
> random genetic variation - and
> (2) the claim that God created mankind as well as many kinds of
> plants and animals separately and specially, in such a way that the
> thesis of common ancestry is false.

The latter one seems highly untenable given the evidence.

> Which of these is the more probable, given the empirical evidence and
> the theistic context? I think the second, the special creation thesis,
> is somewhat more probable with respect to the evidence (given theism)
> than the first.

Which evidence is this?

> There isn't the space, here, for more than the merest hand waving with
> respect to marshalling and evaluating the evidence. But according to
> Stephen Jay Gould, certainly a leading contemporary spokesman,
> our confidence that evolution occurred centers upon three general
> arguments. First, we have abundant, direct observational evidence
> of evolution in action, from both field and laboratory. This
> evidence ranges from countless experiments on change in nearly
> everything about fruit flies subjected to artificial selection in
> the laboratory to the famous populations of British moths that
> became black when industrial soot darkened the trees upon which
> the moths rest .... 18
> <>
> Second, Gould mentions homologies: "Why should a rat run, a bat fly, a
> porpoise swim, and I type this essay with structures built of the same
> bones," he asks, "unless we all inherited them from a common ancestor?"
> Third, he says, there is the fossil record:
> transitions are often found in the fossil record. Preserved
> transitions are not common- ..but they are not entirely
> wanting.... For that matter, what better transitional form could
> we expect to find than the oldest human, Australopithecus
> afrarensis, with its apelike palite, its human upright stance, and
> a cranial capacity larger than any ape's of the same body size but
> a full 1000 cubic centimeters below ours? If God made each of the
> half-dozen human species discovered in ancient rocks, why did he
> create in an unbroken temporal sequence of progressively more
> modem features, increasing cranial capacity, reduced face and
> teeth, larger body size? Did he create to mimic evolution and test
> our faith thereby?19
> <>
> Here we could add a couple of other commonly cited kinds of evidence:
> (a) we along with other animals display vestigial organs (appendix,
> coccyx, muscles that move ears and nose); it is suggested that the
> best explanation is evolution.
> (b) There is alleged evidence from biochemistry: according to the
> authors of a popular college textbook, "All organisms ... employ DNA,
> and most use the citric acid cycle, cytochromes, and so forth. It
> seems inconceivable that the biochemistry of living things would be so
> similar if all life did not develop from a single common ancestral
> group."20 <>
> There is also :
> (c) the fact that human embryos during their development display some
> of the characteristics of simpler forms of life (for example, at a
> certain stage they display gill-like structures). Finally:
> (d) there is the fact that certain patterns of geographical
> distribution-that there are orchids and alligators only in the
> American south and in China, for example-are susceptible to a nice
> evolutionary explanation.
> Suppose we briefly consider the last four first.
> The arguments from vestigial organs, geographical distribution and
> embryology are suggestive, but of course nowhere near conclusive.

Science always is tenetative but these arguments are quite suggestive
indeed as they formulate a scientific theory in which we can explain the

> As for the similarity in biochemistry of all life, this is reasonably
> probable on the hypothesis of special creation, hence not much by way
> of evidence against it, hence not much by way of evidence for evolution.
Anything is probable on a hypothesis of 'creation' as it explains
nothing. The nested hierarchies however are strong evidence in support
of evolutionary theory.

> Turning to the evidence Gould develops, it too is suggestive, but far
> from conclusive; some of it, furthermore, is seriously flawed.
> First, those famous British moths didn't produce a new species; there
> were both dark and light moths around before, the dark ones coming to
> predominate when the industrial revolution deposited a layer of soot
> on trees, making the light moths more visible to predators.
Strawman argument. The moths argument is to show the relevance of
natural selection. Let's at least understand the argument in its proper

> More broadly, while there is wide agreement that there is such a thing
> as microevolution, the question is whether we can extrapolate to
> macroevolution, with the claim that enough microevolution can account
> for the enormous differences between, say, bacteria and human beings.
> There is some experiential reason to think not; there seems to be a
> sort of envelope of limited variability surrounding a species and its
> near relatives.

So far little evidence has been presented to support such a suggestion.
Yes, I am aware of the creationist arguments but let's deal with the
scientific facts first. What are these so called barriers? How are they
relevant to the topic of micro versus macro evolution.

> Artificial selection can produce several different kinds of fruit
> flies and several different kinds of dogs, but, starting with fruit
> flies, what it produces is only more fruit flies.
Again this is misleading as the effort did generate more species thus
the limited variability surrounding species is highly suspicious.

> As plants or animals are bred in certain direction, a sort of barrier
> is encountered; further selective breeding brings about sterility or a
> reversion to earlier forms.

Aha, of course there are constraints to evolution but we should not
confuse constraints with barriers.

> Next, there is the argument from the fossil record; but as Gould
> himself points out, the fossil record shows very few transitional
> forms. "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil
> record," he says, "persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The
> evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips
> and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however
> reasonable, not the evidence of fossils."21
> <>

An out of context quote to which Gould has strongly objected in the past.


Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it
        is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists--
        whether through design or stupidity, I do not know--as admit-
        ting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms.
        Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level,
        but they are abundant between larger groups.

-- Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory," _Hen's Teeth and
        Horse's Toes_, 1983, Norton, New York.

> Nearly all species appear for the first time in the fossil record
> fully formed, without the vast chains of intermediary forms evolution
> would suggest.

Again, not supported by the actual evidence.

> Gradualistic evolutionists claim that the fossil record is woefully
> incomplete.

Of course it is. But that is to be expected.

> Gould, Eldredge and others have a different response to this
> difficulty: punctuated equilibriumism, according to which long periods
> of evolutionary stasis are interrupted by relatively brief periods of
> very rapid evolution.

Which explains why the fossil record is woefully incomplete. But their
viewpoint is not much different from Darwin's.

> And still more epicycles are required to account for puzzling
> discoveries in molecular biology during the last twenty years.23
> <>

Such as? I see you are using cut and paste but did not include the
actual reference.

> And as for the argument from homologies, this too is suggestive, but
> far from decisive.
Again, that's the nature of science.

> First, there are of course many examples of architectural similarity
> that are not attributed to common ancestry, as in the case of the
> Tasmanian wolf and the European wolf; the anatomical givens are by no
> means conclusive proof of common ancestry.
I have addressed this strawman before. Understanding the evolutionary
argument is a pre-requisite. In addition, science does not deal in
conclusive proof so that makes it a double strawman.

> Consider the mammalian eye: a marvelous and highly complex
> instrument, resembling a telescope of the highest quality, with a
> lens, an adjustable focus, a variable diaphragm for controlling the
> amount of and optical corrections for spherical and chromatic
> aberration. And here is the problem: how does the lens, for example,
> get developed by the proposed means-random genetic variation and
> natural selection-when at the same time there has to be development of
> the optic nerve, the relevant muscles, the retina, the rods and cones,
> and many other delicate and complicated structures, all of which have
> to be adjusted to each other in such a way that they can work together?
> Indeed, what is involved isn't, of course, just the eye; it is the
> whole visual system, including the relevant parts of the brain.
And yet science and Darwin himself provided some very plausible
pathways. So the argument from personal incredulity once again loses.
I will not address the rest of your cut and paste job other than to
point out tht it suffers from many similar problems

Here are some of the supporting evidences for my claims

Gould and transitionals


Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it
        is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists--
        whether through design or stupidity, I do not know--as admit-
        ting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms.
        Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level,
        but they are abundant between larger groups.

-- Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory," _Hen's Teeth and
        Horse's Toes_, 1983, Norton, New York.

More creationist misquotes of Gould can be found at

Eye evolution
*Darwin's greatest challenge tackled*
The mystery of eye evolution

[quote] When Darwin's skeptics attack his theory of evolution, they
often focus on the eye. Darwin himself confessed that it was 'absurd' to
propose that the human eye, an 'organ of extreme perfection and
complication' evolved through spontaneous mutation and natural
selection. But he also reasoned that "if numerous gradations from a
simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to
exist" then this difficulty should be overcome. Scientists at the
European Molecular Biology Laboratory [EMBL] have now tackled Darwin's
major challenge in an evolutionary study published this week in the
journal /Science/. They have elucidated the evolutionary origin of the
human eye.

Researchers in the laboratories of Detlev Arendt and Jochen Wittbrodt
have discovered that the light-sensitive cells of our eyes, the rods and
cones, are of unexpected evolutionary origin they come from an ancient
population of light-sensitive cells that were initially located in the

I finally found what reference 23 is about ^ Here see Michael Denton,
/Evolution: A Theory /in Crisis (London: Burnet Books, /1985), /chapter 12.

Let's not rely on just Denton's view of evolutionary theory. Many of his
'problems' were easily explained once the misunderstanding was resolved
See for instance his confusion on cytochrome C evolution.

Now I cannot blame Plantinga for his 1991 comments but anyone quoting it
in 2005 better be aware of the 14 years of progress made in evolutionary
theory and data.
Received on Sat Aug 6 17:42:36 2005

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