Re: Morphologically intermediate species 2/2

Stephen Jones (
Thu, 27 Mar 97 05:33:18 +0800



PM>And why are you suggesting that 'punk eek' or abrupt change, is
>evidence against the blind watchmaker macro evolution? But the
>data on gradual versus punctual change show evidence of both.
>Similarly punk eek, should not be seen as a replacement but
>addition to the theory of evolution.

No. It is well known that the two leading proponents of "punk eek"
and "blind watchmaker macro evolution", Gould and Dawkins, hardly
agree on anything, except their mutual atheism. See Johnson's
account of Gould's violent disagreement with Dawkins'
extrapolation from micro- to macro-evolution in "Reason in the
Balance", 1995, p84-86:

"If rival models of evolution cannot even in principle explain
complexity, Dawkins's blind watchmaker model deserves to be called
the theory of evolution. That is exactly what his protege Helena
Cronin did call it in her book The Ant and the Peacock, where she
referred to the Dawkins model simply as "modern Darwinism"...By
using that term Cronin implicitly relegated all other understandings
of Darwinism to the trash can of history, and for that she drew a
furious reaction from the most famous American advocate of
evolution, Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould. In his angry review
of Cronin's book, Gould denied that most evolutionary biologists
accept the gene-selection model and declared, for reasons similar to
those I have already discussed, that genes cannot possibly be the
exclusive unit of selection...If Gould is correct on that point,
then to select for individual genes or even gene combinations is not
to select for predictable properties in the adult organism. But in
that case, how can the complex adaptations that Dawkins and Cronin
seek to explain be built up by a process of mutation and selection?
Gould did not ask himself that question, nor did he draw his
readers' attention to the problem. Instead he went on to reject
what he called the "uniformitarian vision of extrapolation," which
is the fundamental Darwinian principle illustrated by the finch-beak
example with which this chapter began...According to Gould, however,
"the main excitement in evolutionary theory during the last twenty
years has not been...the shoring up of Darwinism in its limited
realm (by gene selectionism or any other patching device), but
rather the documentation of the reasons why Darwin's crucial
requirement for extrapolation has failed"...After this review of his
own version of "modern Darwinism," Gould concluded, "The Darwinian
struggle does not extrapolate to the tree of life."

SJ>"The actual evidence supports what Gould calls "the
>fast-transition theory": "the fossil record, read literally,
>seems to indicate...the fast-transition theory" (Gould S.J.,
>"Wonderful Life", 1991, p273).

PM>Gould has both addressed the evidence of abrupt change as well as
>the evidence of slow transitional changes. The existance of one
>does not preclude the other as they can be easily explained in the
>same framework.

Someone better tell Gould and Dawkins! ;-)

SJ>"It is *Darwinist* who need to claim that there must be an
>"absence of evidence": "I can answer these questions and
>objections only on the supposition that the geological record is
>far more imperfect than most geologists believe." (Darwin C., "The
>Origin of Species", 6th Edition, 1967 reprint, p441)

PM>Of course this once again means ignoring the evidence that IS

No. I am not "ignoring the evidence that IS there" and neither am I
"ignoring the evidence that" ISN'T "there".

PM>and secondly it is explained by the reality that fossilization
>is rare.

No. Firstly "fossilization" is not as "rare" for some things as
for others. In some places the record is quite good. Yet
*everywhere*, whether good or bad, rare or common, the same
systematic pattern emerges of sudden appearance and stasis pervades
the fossil record.

PM>Whether the observed jumps are actually caused by an imperfect
>fossil record or by punk eek, they do not serve as a problem per se
>for evolution.

No doubt. But when two diametrically opposite theories like
punctuated equilibria and `blind watchmaker' Neo-Darwinism can both
be accepted simultaneously, then it is difficult to see what *would*
serve as a problem per se for evolution. Multiple theories
render "evolution" untestable as Patterson notes:

"When these two theories [natural selection and genetic drift] are
combined, as a general explanation of evolutionary change, that
general theory is no longer testable. Take natural selection: no
matter how many cases fail to yield to a natural selection analysis,
the theory is not threatened, for it can always be said that these
failures of selection theory are explained by genetic drift. And no
matter how many supposed examples of genetic drift are shown to be
due, after all, to natural selection, the neutral theory is not
threatened, for it never pretended to explain all evolution."
(Patterson C., "Evolution", 1978, p70, in Bird W. R., "The Origin of
Species Revisited", Vol. II, 1991, p113)

>PM>Stasis in the record is not a problem for darwinism either. Even
>Darwin speculated about the possibilities of stasis followed by
>rapid change.

SJ>"Agreed, but nowhere near the extent of the degree of stasis that
>modern palaeontology has revealed:" "....a biological stability
>for species of animals and plants that I think would have shocked
>Darwin...." (Steven Stanley, "The New Evolution", 1982, pp6-11)

PM>And there are similarly good examples of a gradual change in
>organisms. Stasis is not a problem per se for evolution and neither
>is the abrupt changes.

Agreed. *Nothing* is "a problem per se for evolution". It can
accommodate *anything* and its opposite:

"The central illusion of evolution lies in making a wide array of
contradictory mechanisms look like a seamless whole. There is no
single evolutionary mechanism-there are countless. Evolutionary
theory is a smorgasbord: a vast buffet of disjointed and conflicting
mechanisms waiting to be chosen by the theorist. For any given
question, the theorist invokes only those mechanisms that look most
satisfying. Yet, the next question elicits a different response,
with other mechanisms invoked and neglected. Evolutionary theory has
no coherent structure. It is amorphous. It is malleable and can
readily adjust to disparate patterns of data. Evolution accommodates
data like fog accommodates landscape...." (ReMine W.J., "The Biotic
Message", 1993, p24)

PM>Stasis is expected for instance in larger populations while abrupt
>changes can take place when the population is constricted in
>geographical extent or by catastrophy.

Yes. See Patterson above. This means that "evolution" is
untestable. If there is "stasis" it is claimed to be from "larger
populations". If there are "abrupt changes" it is claimed to be
"when the population is constricted in geographical extent or by

PM>For instance from a theoretical point of view the pattern of punk
>eek is not a problem. Models by Lande and Newman (Lande, expected
>time for random genetic drift of a population between stable
>phenotypic states" Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 82, 7641 (1985), Newman et
>al "Neo-Darwinian evolution implies punctuated equilibria", Nature
>315 400 (1985)). predict a jerky evolution during relative
>environmental constancy. The question remains if the fossil record
>is enough to address these issues but in the last decades, punk eek
>and stasis have become far better understood in terms of possible
>mechanisms explaining them within the classical neo-darwinian

Yes. When there is a problem, "models" are found which provide
"possible mechanisms". This is convincing only if one knows in
advance that evolution is a fact and therefore is true, irrespective
of the evidence:

"...evidence is not really necessary to prove something that is
practically self- evident. The existence of a potent blind
watchmaker follows deductively from the philosophical premise that
nature had to do its own creating. There can be argument about the
details, but if God was not in the picture something very much like
Darwinism simply has to be true, regardless of the evidence."
(Johnson P.E., "What is Darwinism?", 1993

But in any event, *neither* "phyletic gradualism" nor "punctuated
equilibria" explains the origin of higher taxa, which is the crucial
issue in Creation vs Evolution:

"The required rapidity of the change implies either a few large steps
or many and exceedingly rapid smaller ones. Large steps are
tantamount to saltations and raise the problems of fitness barriers;
small steps must be numerous and entail the problems discussed under
microevolution. The periods of stasis raise the possibility that the
lineage would enter the fossil record, and we reiterate that we can
identify none of the postulated intermediate forms. Finally, the
large numbers of species that must be generated so as to form a pool
from which the successful lineage is selected are nowhere to be
found. We conclude that the probability that species selection is a
general solution to the origin of higher taxa is not great, and that
neither of the contending theories of evolutionary change at the
species level, phyletic gradualism or punctuated equilibrium, seem
applicable to the origin of new body plans (Valentine J. & Erwin, D.,
"Interpreting Great Developmental Experiments: The Fossil Record",
Development as an Evolutionary Process, Raff R.A. & Raff E.C., eds,
Liss: New York, p96 in Battson A.L., "On The Origin of Stasis By
Means of Natural Processes", Perspectives on Science and Christian
Faith, December 1994, p235)

PM>"Like all major theories in the sciences of natural history,
>including natural selection itself, punctuated eequilibrium is a
>claim about relative frequency, not exclusivity. Phyletic
>gradualism has been well documented across all taxa of microfossils
>to mammals. Punctuated equilibrium surely exists in abundance but
>validation of the general hypothesis requires a relative frequency
>sufficiently high to impart the predominant motif and signal to
>life's history." Stephen J Gould and Niles Eldredge, Punctuated
>Equilibrium comes of age, Nature 366, 1993, pp 223-227.

The above is a classic example of Gould & Eldredge double-talk.
They both know that there is *no* evidence in the fossil record for
"phyletic gradualism". PE was intended to be a *alternative* to
"phyletic gradualism" as the title of their 1972 paper, "Punctuated
Equilibria, an Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism" indicates. But
the fact is that, as Stanley put it:

"The known fossil record fails to document a single example of
phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphologic
transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model
can be valid" (Stanley, S.M., "Macroevolution", p39, in Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", 1985, p182)


SJ>...If evolution was a gradual, step-by-step undirected `blind
>watchmaker' process, then there must have been hundreds of thousands
>of intermediate species in the whale transition alone, and each of
>those transitional species would have branched off into other
>species. This would mean countless millions of actual individual
>animals in total, revealing different stages in the transition.
>Even with an extremely low rate of fossilisation and recovery, one
>would expect to find much more evidence of these transitional stages
>than what has been found."

PM>Could you quantify this number?

Yes. It was eactly 7439847967854321! What a silly, trick question.
is this is yet another Darwinist tactic - set its rivals impossible
tasks that it itself cannot do, and then claim that Darwinism
is the winner by default? If it was good enough for Darwin to claim
they would be "countless numbers", then it should be good enough for
creationists to say the same:

"But, as by this theory innumerable transitional forms must have
existed, why do we not find them embedded in countless numbers in the
crust of the earth? (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species", 1967, p157)

"...The number of specimens in all our museums is absolutely as
nothing compared with the countless generations of countless species
which have certainly existed." (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species",
1967, p441)

PM>Given the rareness of fossil finds, fossil preservation and given
>the possibility that much of the change in species might be limited
>in geographic extent it is remarkable that so many transitionals
>have been found. Your are arguing from an argument of 'absence of
>evidence' leading to evidence of absence by neglecting what has been
>found in favour of what has not (yet) been found.

You are repeating yourself. See above.

>PM>Why not focus on what has been found and what is supporting
>evolution rather than the evidence which has yet to be found ?

SJ>"See above. The word "evolution" without qualification or
>defintion is too vague to even be wrong! The actual "evidence" is
>more consistent with a progresssive mediate creation than fully
>naturalistic `blind watchmaker' macroevolution."

PM>I disagree since it requires additional requirements which by
>virtue of Occam's Razor should lead to dismissal as viable
>arguments. A 'Deus ex machina' explanation, while convenient
>requires far more faith, has far less predictability and
>falsifiability than a naturalistic explanation.

See above. This would only be true if there was "a naturalistic
explanation" for the origin of: 1. the universe; 2. life; and 3.
life's major groups.

In fact the problem of origins is of a complex hierarchical reality.
My mediate creationism is multi-layered and involves the
insufficiency of natural processes *alone* to generate most (but
not necessarily all) the following levels of reality:

1. The origin of fine-tuned laws
2. The origin of the universe
3. The origin of the earth-moon system
4. The origin of life
5. The origin of life's genetic information
6. The origin of life's biomolecular systems
7. The origin of life's major groups
8. The origin of life's minor groups
9. The origin of human consciousness

For example, it may be that "natural processes" are sufficient "to
generate the observed diversity of life" at level 8, but not at other
levels. Most evolutionist areguments are pitched at level 8 and they
think they have solved the whole problem if they have can provide a
"a naturalistic explanation" at that level.

PM>Resorting to the unknown when trying to explain scientific data is
>never a satisfying answer.

I am not "resorting to the unknown". God is real and *known* to me):

"...I call myself a theistic realist. The term signifies that I am
convinced that God is objectively real, not merely a concept or
fantasy in my own mind....I have been told by many modernists that to
assert the reality of God as Creator is dogmatic and arrogant, since
it is to imply that I have knowledge that is unavailable to
scientific naturalists....Arrogant or not, I think that the Creator
is real and naturalism is untrue." (Johnson P.E., "Reason in the
Balance", 1995, p49-50)

PM>Especially if the 'problems' are hardly as large as you are

If they were as simple as you would like to think they are,
they wouldn't still be "problems"!

>PM>Indeed, you find one transitional and there are two gaps to fill.
>Extrapolating this idea reveals that the more transitionals are
>found, the more are lacking.

SJ>"This wouldn't be so if they were true ancestor-direct descendant
>"transiitonals". It only highlights that there are enormous "gaps"
>between most claimed "transitional" forms."

PM>True, but once again this requires you to ignore the available
>evidence in favour of what you expect should be found.

No. The fossil record is *exactly* what I "expect should be found":

"In reality, the fossil record is something that Darwinists have had
to explain away, because what it shows is the sudden appearance of
organisms that exhibit no trace of step-by-step development from
earlier forms. And it shows that once these organisms exist, they
remain fundamentally unchanged, despite the passage of millions of
years-and despite climatic and environmental changes that should have
produced enormous Darwinian evolution if the theory were true. In
short, if evolution is the gradual, step-by-step transformation of
one kind of thing into another, the outstanding feature of the fossil
record is the absence of evidence for evolution." ("Darwinists
Squirm Under Spotlight", Interview with Phillip E. Johnson, Citizen
Magazine, January 1992.

PM>The transitionals show perfect examples of evolution just not to
>the degree to satisfy you.

That's right. They are "perfect examples of evolution" (whatever
that is) to those who have decided in advance that the theory must be
true, regardless of the evidence. But as Darwin pointed out, it is
not enough to show that there are "transitionals", one must also show
*how*, ie. by what fully naturalistic mechanism the "transitionals"
(ie. from kingdom level down to species level) were modified:

"In considering the Origin of Species, it is quite conceivable that a
naturalist, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic beings, on
their embryological relations, their geographical ambrian strata of rocks, vintage about
600 million years, are
the oldest ones in which we find most of the major invertebrate
groups. And we find many of them in an advanced state of evolution,
the very first time they appear. It is as though they were just
planted there, without any evolutionary history. Needless to say,
this appearance of sudden planting has delighted creationists.
Evolutionists of all stripes believe, however, that this really does
represent a very large gap in the fossil record, a gap that is simply
due to the fact that, for some reason, very few fossils have lasted
from periods before about 600 million years ago.' (Dawkins R., "The
Blind Watchmaker, Penguin: London, 1991, pp229-230)

(Johnson P.E. "Evolution as Dogma: The Establishment of
Naturalism", Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 1990, p4)

SJ>"If one has no apriori bias that naturalistic evolution just has
>to be true, then a mediate creation by the progressive introduction
>of new genetic information is more consistent with the evidence."

PM>In science the assumption of something that cannot be proven,
>observed or falsified has little meaning. Furthermore the theory
>fails the test of Occam's Razor in that it requires more complex
>explanations to explain observations.

See above. I have answered both these. But if "Occam's Razor" is
the test, why does science need to posit an infinite number of
universes to avoid the simpler theistic explanation that an
Intelligent Designer has fine-tuned the universe to prepare it for
human life:

"In spite of the apparent ease with which the many-universes theory
can account for what would otherwise be considered remarkable feature
of the universe, the theory faces a number of serious objections.
Not leas of these is Ockham's razor: one must introduce a
vast(indeed infinite) complexity to explain the regularities of just
one universe. This "blunderbuss" approach to explaining the
specialness of our universe is scientifically questionable...."
(Davies P., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science", in Templeton
J.M, ed., "Evidence of Purpose", 1994, pp52-53)

PM>The Blind Watchmaker or neo-darwinian theory explains the observed
>data equally well, especially when marrying the concepts of stasis
>and punk eek without the need to resort to the 'unkown supernatural
>force' which cannot be proven or disproven and is as such not a very
>useful scientific theory.

See above. A smorgasbord of "The Blind Watchmaker...stasis and punk
eek" leads to an incoherent and untestable theory. which neither
Dawkins nor Gould think is "marrying" but more like a divorce!

"Unlike Martin Gardner, I do believe that punctuated equilibrium
damages the Darwinian viewpoint; so does everyone else. By
compressing the time available for speciation, Stephen Jay Gould has
eliminated an accretion of small changes as its mechanism. The
result is a theory which very nicely fits the facts, but a theory
that all the same leaves the mechanism of change entirely in the
dark." (Berlinski D., "Denying Darwin: David Berlinski and
Critics", Commentary, September 1996, p35)

PM>So in conclusion your arguments against the Blind Watchmaker
>interpretation are based upon the fallacy of implying that a absence of
>evidence or absence of sufficient evidence is (sufficient) evidence of

See above. I actually accept the "evidence" of the fossil record.
But if "absence of evidence" is not "evidence of absence", what
would be?

PM>The observed transitional fossils have to be ignored

No. See above. I accept the "observed transitional fossils" and do
*not* "ignore" them. Indeed, they are the most important part of my
mediate creation argument.

PM>punctuated equilibrium and stasis have to be interpreted as
>competing, exclusive theories.

Eh? "punctuated equilibrium and stasis" are part of the *same*



| Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ |
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