Re: Is evolution really the central theory for all of biology?

From: Cornelius Hunter <ghunter2099@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Sat Sep 17 2005 - 22:22:22 EDT

Terry:

> If that's not an explanation or reasoning, I don't know what is.

The exchange we just had followed a pattern that is typical. It seems quite
often that when an evolutionist claims the evidence overwhelmingly supports
evolution; that evolution is a fact, etc.,etc., and I ask for the details,
what the evolutionist responds with is merely the textbook evolutionary
*explanation*, and omitting all the negative evidence. You claimed that the
vitamin C pseudogene is compelling evidence, and then wound up with the
conclusion that

> Evolution provides an apt explanation.

Yes, no doubt evolution provides an explanation, but that doesn't make the
pseudogene compelling evidence. I'll explain for a third time now why this
evidence does not seem compelling, and in fact why such a claim seems to be
a logical fallacy (ie, special pleading). The reason is this: the
independent occurrence of identical mutations is well known in biology, both
experimentally and inferred from genome data. That is, identical mutations
are observed and inferred in different species where common ancestry cannot
be the cause. The mutations occurred independently yet are identical. When
we see these data, no one, not even evolutionists, attempts to ascribe them
to common ancestry. So, the claim that the identical mutations in the
vitamin C pseudogene constitute compelling evidence for evolution ignores
the fact that a non evolutionary explanation not only exists, but is
routinely used (when the common ancestry hypothesis is otherwise ruled out).
Thus, this claim that the vitamin C pseudogene is compelling evidence for
evolution seems to me to be a logical fallacy. If I'm wrong about this I'd
like to know why.

--Cornelius

> Cornelius,
>
> There is nothing special about the vitamin C gene homology. I chose it as
> a specific example of something my readers may not be familiar with but
> which they could make sense of. I find the homology argument in general
> to be totally compelling. Especially, molecular homologies. The reasoning
> is nearly so obvious to me at least that I'm not sure how to go about
> explaining it. (I do try in a little more detail in my Perspectives
> article.) But, here's a shot.
>
> We know that organisms reproduce and pass on their genetic information to
> their descendants. So descendants have nearly identical genetic
> information as their ancestors. Sometimes there are mutations that alter
> this genetic information. These are observable even among human
> populations and can be traced in family lines, etc. (Often, if we have
> enough data, we can even identify the individual in which the mutation
> occurred.) In the course of many generations, you can tell which
> individuals belong in which line based on which cluster of mutations they
> have accumulated. (very similar to the way we trace Biblical manuscripts
> to come up with the originals). Brothers and sisters are more similar to
> each other than cousins. Cousins more than second cousins, etc. (This is
> not only true of genetic information, but also phenotypic (external)
> characteristics as we all know from identifiable family resemblances.)
> This is exactly the pattern we observe in the biological world and thus
> infer that ancestor-descendent relationships are the cause, i.e.
> evolution. If all organisms are related by an evolutionary relationship
> then we expect this kind of unity/diversity relationship.
>
> Pseudo-genes are icing on the cake because they are evidence of the
> ancestor-descendent relationship even though the biological function is
> turned off by some control region (or otherwise mutation). It doesn't
> appear that pseudo-genes are functional (although we don't know
> everything), so why (this is not a theological why!) are they there.
> Evolution provides an apt explanation. The gene was inherited from an
> ancestor but at some point along the family line the mutation knocked out
> the function. Apparently, knocking out the function is not deleterious
> and the organism can survive without that function (in the case of
> vitamin C and other essential vitamin syntheses, by getting the essential
> metabolite from the diet).
>
> If that's not an explanation or reasoning, I don't know what is. It's not
> a mere assertion. And, there is no underlying theology here (at least
> none that's any different than what undergirds my general confidence in
> scientific methodologies). Also, I find it compelling. Compelling on its
> own to accept evolution. But there are other evidences--the fossil record
> and biogeography, in particular. These force of all of these taken
> together makes evolution to be a solidly established theory.
>
> No doubt, there's lots of interesting puzzles and we have observed
> mechanisms, especially lateral gene transfer mechanisms such as viral and
> plasmid transfers that complicate things. In comparing organisms it
> appears that other lateral transfer events have occurred over the course
> of life's history as well such as acquiring genomes (endosymbiosis),
> fluid genomes at life's earliest history, etc.) I am also an advocate of
> "biological form" type arguments that emphasize that not all biological
> phenomena are directly directed by genes. Lots of interesting discussion
> nowadays from systems biologists and complexity theorists. This may
> explain mysteries that seem incongruent with common ancestry in the area
> of the different larval forms. Despite all this puzzles, I have seen
> nothing that suggests that the big picture originally suggest by Darwin
> and other early evolutionists (despite their appeal to bad theology)
> should be overturned.
>
> TG
>
>
> On Sep 17, 2005, at 3:15 PM, Cornelius Hunter wrote:
>
>> Terry and George:
>>
>> Terry:
>>
>> You say:
>>
>> "For what it's worth, and this may be a discussion stopper, I simply
>> disagree with your argument that pseudo-genes and other molecular
>> homologies and other homologies for that matter aren't compelling."
>>
>> But why? This is crucial. It would be very important if pseudo- genes
>> provided compelling scientific evidence for evolution. But you do not
>> explain why, you simply make the assertion Please don't take that as
>> criticism, I realize you were simply pounding out an email. But
>> evolutionists never explain why this evidence is compelling, in a
>> scientific sense, whereas it is easy to find the theological argument
>> made.
>>
>> I explained how this evidence is typically used with theological
>> premises, and why without such premises the argument is a case of
>> special pleading. You say this might be a discussion stopper. Well I'm
>> afraid it will be if you don't give your reasoning. I cannot respond to
>> bare assertions. For all the research I've done, I have been unable to
>> discover why the vitamin C pseudogene is compelling scientific evidence.
>> Indeed, it seems clear that it does not qualify as such. I've given the
>> reason why this argument fails scientifically. Can you explain why I am
>> wrong?
>>
>> You suggest this might be a case of different thresholds of what
>> qualifies as compelling. I don't understand this. How could this be a
>> case of different thresholds when no explanation for why this is
>> compelling has been given, here or in the literature (that I can find).
>> The only way I can try to cast this as scientific evidence for evolution
>> is the following:
>>
>> 1. Evolution predicts more similarities between more closely related
>> species.
>> 2. The vitamin C pseudo gene contains some similarities between closely
>> related species.
>> 3. Therefore, this is a successful prediction.
>>
>> But even this fails. First, this is hardly compelling evidence for
>> evolution. It places the evidence at the same level as any other
>> similarity. It is the same as every homologous feature between the
>> primates. There are millions of these (gall bladder, lower lip,
>> hemoglobin, etc, etc). Why then is the vitamin C pseudogene used, if it
>> has nothing to do with the theological "God wouldn't do it that way"
>> argument?
>>
>> Furthermore, as I've pointed out, it is special pleading anyway. How can
>> this be counted as scientific evidence, as minor as it is, when we find
>> the same evidence in cases where common descent and evolution could
>> *not* be the cause. In those cases, the evolutionist must ascribe the
>> similarity to independent mutation events. But if that explanation works
>> for amazingly repeated mutations, why can't it be used for the vitamin C
>> repeats?
>>
>> So I don't see how this can be a case of different thresholds of what
>> qualifies as compelling. I have yet to see the scientific case made at
>> all.
>>
>> --Cornelius
>>
>>
>>
>> George:
>>
>> I don't understand why you think I am imposing evolutionary views on
>> your position. I'm simply taking your statements at face value, which
>> are:
>>
>> ------------------------
>> It's true that God does not do all the things that take place directly -
>> i.e., without creatures - but this doesn't mean that God is absent or
>> distant from what takes places. "God concurs, he does nor precur" is a
>> classic formula. Thus I don't see this at all as a "break in the link
>> between God and creation" anymore than I would say that the link between
>> a carpenter & a nail being put through a board is broken because the
>> carpenter uses a hammer instead of pushing the nail though with his
>> hand.
>>
>> and,
>>
>>
>>> Ah, but then doesn't God's activity have to be deterministic? No. If
>>> there is a basic indeterminancy at the quantum level which is involved
>>> in changes in DNA & if there is some flexibility even in larger scale
>>> processes because of sensitivity to initial conditions, & if God limits
>>> divine activity to what can be accomplished through natural processes,
>>> then God may leave some element of chance in what happens in the world.
>>> If you want a very crude analogy, the carpenter closes his eyes before
>>> putting the nail in place.
>>>
>>
>> and,
>>
>>
>>> In any case I don't think it's necessary to equate the divine
>>> governance with micro-management of all events. I think that God
>>> intended for intelligent life to evolve so that the Incarnation could
>>> take place but that needn't mean, e.g., that bipedalism - which seems
>>> to have been a significant step in the development of _our_
>>> intelligence - was a requirement that God built in in the beginning.
>>>
>> ------------------------
>>
>> What you are saying easily fits into my phrase "break in the link
>> between God and creation." It sounds like you are pouring more meaning
>> into my phrase than is there. Part of the problem may be that I am
>> addressing evolutionary thinking, and you, I think, are not primarily
>> focusing on evolution but rather developing a theology that happens to
>> accommodate evolution nicely.
>>
>> It is interesting that biologists tend to use random mutations and
>> physicists tend to use quantum indeterminacy, chaos theory, or some
>> such. In any case, the effect is the same. You write:
>>
>>
>>> I realize that this idea may be intolerable to those with some views of
>>> divine sovereignty. It's legitimate to criticize what I say from such
>>> a standpoint but don't try to force my views into some Procrustean bed
>>> of "evolutionary thinking."
>>>
>>
>> I certainly do not want to be forcing your views anywhere you don't want
>> to go. I do not think, however, that the issue is over divine
>> sovereignty. One need not hold to a high view of divine sovereignty to
>> take exception to evolution's theological premises or the theology of
>> the cross.
>>
>> --Cornelius
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>>> George:
>>>>
>>>> Your carpenter analogy does not does not accurately describe the
>>>> evolution (or your) position. Yes, the carpenter may use his hand or a
>>>> hammer, but in both cases he drives the nail in where he want the nail
>>>> to be. The design reflects his will. Evolutionary thinking is that
>>>> what we observe in nature does not generally reflect divine will. So
>>>> there must be a break in the link. This is where the distancing of God
>>>> from nature comes in. It is fine for you to say you do not distance
>>>> God from nature, but this is true only in certain regards. You do
>>>> distance God from nature with regard to creative acts.
>>>>
>>>> You might try using the analogy of a sculptor rather than a carpenter.
>>>> One can imagine describing God using evolution as the sculptor uses
>>>> his chisel. In this case evolution, like the chisel, is merely a
>>>> deterministic tool and there is no break in the link between creator
>>>> and creation. The process is error-free, and both God and the sculptor
>>>> achieve exactly their desired designs. The tool or mechanism adds
>>>> nothing to the process. This is not evolutionary thinking.
>>>>
>>>
>>> Cornelius -
>>>
>>> Again you are trying to tell me what I think by, inter alia, assuming
>>> that because I accept evolution my ideas must be conformed to what you
>>> think is "evolutionary thinking." & although one could certainly use a
>>> sculptor instead of a carpenter as an analogy for divine cooperation,
>>> the way you set out the sculptor analogy suggests that you've missed my
>>> point. It is not that the sculptor uses "evolution" as a tool but that
>>> he/she uses all the detailed physical processes involved in genetic
>>> change, animal behavior &c as tools at every step of the process. To
>>> say that "evolution" is the tool suggests that God is only involved at
>>> some very high level & is thus remote from the details, whereas my
>>> point is that God is involved in the details.
>>>
>>> Ah, but then doesn't God's activity have to be deterministic? No. If
>>> there is a basic indeterminancy at the quantum level which is involved
>>> in changes in DNA & if there is some flexibility even in larger scale
>>> processes because of sensitivity to initial conditions, & if God limits
>>> divine activity to what can be accomplished through natural processes,
>>> then God may leave some element of chance in what happens in the world.
>>> If you want a very crude analogy, the carpenter closes his eyes before
>>> putting the nail in place.
>>>
>>> I realize that this idea may be intolerable to those with some views of
>>> divine sovereignty. It's legitimate to criticize what I say from such
>>> a standpoint but don't try to force my views into some Procrustean bed
>>> of "evolutionary thinking."
>>>
>>> OTOH the fact that there is scientific indeterminancy means that God
>>> has some freedom to act in the world without going beyond the limits of
>>> the laws of physics.
>>> This means that God may be able to give some direction to evolution
>>> even though the process appears to scientific observation to be
>>> "undirected." I have some hesitation about the idea (suggested by
>>> Pollard & Russell) that God exerts such direction by collapsing quantum
>>> wave packets in appropriate ways but remain open to some version of
>>> that idea. (I comment on this briefly on pp.82 & 119-120 of _The
>>> Cosmos in the Light of the Cross_ .)
>>>
>>> In any case I don't think it's necessary to equate the divine
>>> governance with micro-management of all events. I think that God
>>> intended for intelligent life to evolve so that the Incarnation could
>>> take place but that needn't mean, e.g., that bipedalism - which seems
>>> to have been a significant step in the development of _our_
>>> intelligence - was a requirement that God built in in the beginning.
>>> God's purpose for creation can really be seen only escatologically -
>>> Eph.1:10.
>>>
>>>
>>> Shalom
>>> George
>>> http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
>>>
>>>
>>
>>
>
> ________________
> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
> Computer Support Scientist
> Chemistry Department
> Colorado State University
> Fort Collins, CO 80523
> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
>
>
Received on Sat Sep 17 22:27:54 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Sat Sep 17 2005 - 22:27:54 EDT