Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Thu Jun 25 2009 - 10:04:30 EDT

Modification: I'm not a biologist, but I believe a study of "modern organisms" (see Dawkins quote below) can make a convincing case for only relatively small evolutionary changes in organisms. Study of fossils alone can indicate how large the changes might be. So Dawkins is not correct in saying that a study of modern organisms can demonstrate that "all living species are cousins" (unless "cousins" means simply that the genetic material of all species has similarities). (But the chemical composition of all species also has similarities. Would that make them "cousins" as well?) In any case, a study restricted to modern organisms can't establish common descent, because it can't demonstrate that there have been sufficiently large changes in organisms.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Don Winterstein<>
  To: Dave Wallace<>
  Cc: asa<>
  Sent: Thursday, June 25, 2009 12:16 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

  Dawkins' quote (below) assumes there is such a thing as "our history," which in this case means the existence of long periods of time is understood. And yes, both Darwin and Wallace (Alfred Russel) drew many of their conclusions about evolution from relationships among living organisms and not fossils. So on further consideration I'd modify my point (1) to include such studies. But the fossil evidence is so much easier to grasp and more readily convincing than the kinds of details that Darwin and Wallace wrestled with, so for (over)simplicity it makes sense to restrict discussion to fossils.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Dave Wallace<>
    Cc: asa<>
    Sent: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 1:55 PM
    Subject: Re: [asa] Cameron- question of Adam

    Don said:

      "As I've pointed out N times already on this list, any "evidence for evolution" from DNA would be mere curiosity if (1) there were no fossil evidence of systematic changes in life forms with time and (2) there were no evidence that Earth is old."

    I'm just reading Richard Dawkins "The Ancestor's Tale". In the General Prolog (page 13 my paperback edition) he claims that even without all of the fossil evidence that evolution would still be demonstrated at least for sane people.

    "If every fossil were magicked away, the comparative study of modern organisms, of how their patterns of resemblances, especially of their genetic sequences, are distributed among species, and of how species are distributed among continents and islands, would still demonstrate beyond all sane doubt, that our history is evolutionary and that all living species are cousins. Fossils are a bonus. A welcome bonus to be sure but not an essential one."

    As a descendant of Scots, I would say "Maybe, but I'ha me doubts".

    Dave W
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Received on Thu Jun 25 10:05:27 2009

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