Re: Snoke's reply

From: David C Campbell <amblema@bama.ua.edu>
Date: Tue Aug 16 2005 - 19:31:42 EDT

>I can't finish without taking a little poke at evolution. Jay Parker
writes:
>"I have a problem applying the concept of predictive science to any
>kind of macro-species biology. That is, the examples I'm most
>familiar with in other sciences, like physics, are richly predictive
>because at root there is a theory of continuous equations (for
>example, partial differential equations based on things like
>inverse-square force laws). These equations allow for interpolations
>between observations and extrapolations to combinations of conditions
>not yet probed (with caution, but also considerable success).
>
>"I'm not saying I deny biology can make any predictions; but I don't
>know how to think about their range of applicability and determining
>if tests are valid. Where's the math? Or, how do you make a strong
>argument without math?"
>
>I (DS) and many other ID advocates have often pointed out that
>evolution itself is not a predictive theory. We are constantly
>reading of major surprises that don't fit the model, but which are
>worked into the model anyway. What we have is a documented set of
>homologies-- things which are like other things-- and this is useful
>for science. But I can't think of any cases in which a history of the
>origins, i.e. a theory of a specific path of changes, was used to
>generate useful predictions. But maybe Jay and I are just being naive
>hard-sciences types and there are many such examples.

Obviously the theory of gravity is not a predictive theory. It can't
tell us that objects will exist, much less predict any details such as
the existence of the solar system. If more than two objects are under
consideration, the answer becomes too complex to calculate.

There are many specific mathematical evolutionary models, especially
relating to genetic patterns, in evolution. These can be applied and
tested in well-constrained settings, e.g. evolution of bacteria or
viruses in the lab. However, just like the theory of gravity, they do
not predict details of the kinds of organisms we might expect to exist.
 

Evolution also provides some more general predictions. E.g., a general
sequence from less complex to more complex in the fossil record.
Although part of this sequence was known before widespread acceptance
of evolution, much more detail is now known. The existence of many
transitional forms is another prediction about what we should find in
the fossil record, and again many are found. Evolution also predicts
that a specific sequence of organisms will exist through time, and this
in turn provides the key to biostratigraphy, which has been very
important in the search for petroleum reserves.
This also allows us to predict intermediate forms in chronological gaps
in the known fossil record. E.g., the ancestral inner shell in
bivalves is mother of pearl. Modern oysters do not have a pearly
inner shell, but in other ways they resemble pearl oysters. An
extensive search for well-preserved Triassic oysters revealed that many
have a pearly inner layer. DNA sequence data for multiple genes also
supports the oyster-pearl oyster link. Another prediction of evolution
is that, as a population begins to evolve into two new species,
barriers to interbreeding are likely to evolve relatively rapidly.
This is observed in many ways. E.g., high rates of mutation in
egg-sperm recognition proteins in spawning species; rapid
differentiation of bird songs; color patterns in fish species flocks.

----------------------------------------
Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama, Box 870345
Tuscaloosa AL 35487
"James gave the huffle of a snail in
danger But no one heard him at all" A.
A. Milne
Received on Tue Aug 16 19:34:32 2005

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