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

From: Cornelius Hunter <>
Date: Tue Sep 20 2005 - 17:43:44 EDT


It seems to me that to be compelling, an evidence should fulfill some these criteria to some reasonable degree, and not fail on them:

A. The evidence should not include problems for the theory (obviously).

B. The evidence should be the fulfillment of a somewhat narrow prediction of the theory. That is, if the evidence as well as several other outcomes are all accommodated by the theory, then the evidence is not compelling.

C. The evidence severely damages all alternative theories (need to be careful not to misrepresent or ignore the alternative theories, of course).

Make sense?

The fossil record suggests or reveals:

1. Dramatically increasing complexity of life forms over time
2. Many extinctions
3. Rapid appearance of new species
4. Stasis of species once they appear
5. Rapid increase in biosphere diversity followed by winnowing of diversity (reverse of the traditional evolutionary tree, if you will) due to extinction. This occurs repeatedly.
6. Lineages (ie, there is rapid appearance, but usually the design is not radically different from earlier designs).

I think 1 and 3 fail on A but realize you may disagree. Setting that aside then, I think that clearly 1-5 fail on B. None succeed on C. The only positive is 6 which succeeds on B. So, with 5 evidences, of a total of 6, failing on B and only 1 out of 6 succeeding on B, I don't see how this can be compelling evidence for evolution. Can you explain?


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Terry M. Gray
  Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 12:51 PM
  Subject: Re: Is evolution really the central theory for all of biology?


      If we "assume" that evolution is true, it's because there is significant warrant for doing so.

    Yes, evolution is supposed to be a fact. What we need are compelling evidences though. How about this: start by supplying *one* compelling evidence.

  Back to where we've been before. I and most biologist, palentologists, think that the "textbook" examples are compelling especially taken together. So there's a bunch of them there: fossil record, homologies of all sorts (nested hierarchies), biogeography. It seems what's compelling to me is not compelling to you. (By the way, I also like some forms of punk rock and there's no better music in all the world than progressive/classical rock!)

  I'll even leave out the small-scale evidence that you're fond of criticizing, because I agree that it doesn't address directly "macroevolutionary" questions. However, it does show us that the genetic variations that are observed in the large-scale tree of life are for the most part "more of the same" as what is observed in virus, bacteria, fruit flies, zebrafish, mouse, pigeon, dog, cows, pigs, horses, and humans. Are you going to tell me that all of the instances of hemophilia or sickle-cell anemia or cystic fibrosis or whatever mutation you want to track arose independently? Maybe some did, but who cares? The vast majority are examples of descent with modification of single base pair. That's how a good chunk of modern molecular genetics actually works. Traditional pedigrees based instances of disease identify "families". Detailed genome analysis of these families identifies regions of the chromosome where the modified gene exists. Further analysis usually locates a single base pair modification.

  BTW, I still owe you a response to something from Saturday night. Hope to get to it soon.


  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 Tue Sep 20 17:48:37 2005

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