Re: Morphologically intermediate species 1/2

Stephen Jones (
Wed, 26 Mar 97 22:25:24 +0800


SJ>"Welcome to the Reflector! I'm sorry but I haven't the time to
>answer your private messages on Reflector topics. I will normally
>only answer public ones on Reflector topics since I feel Creation v
>Evolution should normally be a public debate."

PM>Unless I made a mistake, the messages are sent to the reflector.
>My e-mail program insists on responding to you so I have to manually
>reset it to the reflector. I might have mixed up.


SJ>"I am not sure where you are coming from in this debate. Are you a
>naturalistic or theistic evolutionist? Apologies if you have already
>stated this and I have missed it."

PM>No I have not introduced myself. My name is Pim van Meurs and I
>am an oceanographer. My viewpoint is naturalistic rather than
>theistic, being the incurable scientist.

Unless "oceanography" touches on *origins* it is appropriate that as
a "scientist" your "viewpoint is naturalistic". I do not believe that
God supernaturally intervenes in the ongoing operations of the
cosmos, except in highly specific individual cases, eg.
Biblical miracles, answers to prayer, etc. I only argue for
supernaturalistic intervention in the case of *origins*, not ongoing
*operations* :

"it is far from clear that God is being used as a supernatural
concept in any way inappropriate to science. In this regard, Norman
L. Geisler and J. Kerby Anderson ("Origin Science", 1987, pp13-36)
have distinguished between operation science and origin science.
They argue that appealing to God as a personal first cause is
legitimate in the latter but not the former. Operation science is
an empirical approach to the world that focuses on repeatable,
regularly recurring events or patterns in nature (e.g., chemical
reactions or the relationship between current, voltage, and
resistance in a circuit). Operation science tests theories against
these recurring patterns of events and, theologically speaking,
secondary causes are the only focus. Secondary causation refers to
God's acting mediately (i.e., through the instrumentality of natural
laws); primary causation refers to God's acting immediately (i.e.,
directly, such that discontinuities obtain in the world). In
contrast to operation science, origin science focuses on past
singularities that are not repeatable (e.g., the origins of the
universe, life, various life forms, and mankind)." (Moreland J.P.,
"Christianity and the Nature of Science", Baker: Grand Rapids, 1989,

>PM>There are never enough intermediates to satisfy you? When will
>it be enough?

SJ>"When Darwinists can prove their step-by-step `blind watchmaker'
>macroevolutionary hypothesis. Denton suggests how:"

PM>And one is never satisfied with 'perfect sequence' ?

Read again what Denton says if there is no "perfect sequence":

"...or two, to reconstruct hypothetically in great detail the exact
sequence of events which led from A to B or from a common ancestor to
A and B, including thoroughly convincing reconstructions of
intermediate forms and a rigorous and detailed explanation of how and
why each stage in the transformation came about." (Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in >Crisis", 1985, pp55-56)

PM>The increasing number of transitional fossils continue to present
>more and more evidence supporting evolution. I am surprised that
>the response to this is 'never enough'.

Actually, "the increasing number of...fossils" is actually making it
*worse* for Darwinist, `blind watchmaker' macroevolution:

"Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin and the knowledge of
the fossil records has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter
of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much.
The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically,
we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in
Darwin's time." (Raup D., "Conflicts between Darwin and
paleontology'. Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin, January
1979, pp22, 25, in Moreland J.P. ed., "The Creation Hypothesis",
1994, pp278-279)

That's why Dawkin's colleague Mark Ridley has given up on the
fossil record as "evidence supporting evolution":

"This is a terrible mistake; and it springs, I believe, from the
false idea that the fossil record provides an important part of the
evidence that evolution took place...a lot of people just do not know
what evidence the theory of evolution stands upon. They think that
the main evidence is the gradual descent of one species from another
in the fossil real evolutionist, whether gradualist or
punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the
theory of evolution as opposed to special creation...No good
Darwinian's belief in evolution stands on the fossil evidence..."
(Ridley M., "Who doubts evolution?' New Scientist, vol. 90, 25 June
1981, pp830-832)


>PM>Given the problems of fossilization, the possibility of
>regionally restricted development make it remarkable that so many
>intermediates have been found.

SJ>"It depends how you define "intermediates". In a strict sense of
>ancestor to direct descendant, *no* "intermediates" have been found:"

PM>Irrelevant, the issue is not a complete record of all the animals.

Well then, if there is no "'perfect' sequence of fully functional
intermediate forms I1, I2, I3 leading unambiguously from one species
to another, ie A->I1->I2->I3->B" as per Denton's first option, then
you are left with his second.

SJ>"But even if a less strict sense of ancestor to indirect
>descendent...between higher taxonomic groups there are few (if any)
>"intermediates" at all:" "Where information regarding transitional
>forms is most eagerly sought, it is least likely to be available..."
>(Carroll, R.L., "Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution", 1988, p4)

PM>Again, by focusing on what is not there you ignore what IS there.

No. I *accept* "what IS there". The actual evidence of "what IS
there" is that there are not enough "transitional forms" for `blind
watchmaker' Neo-Darwinian macroevolution:

"The important claim of Darwinism is not that relationships exist,
but that those relationships were produced by a naturalistic process
in which parent species were gradually transformed into quite
different descendant forms through long branches (or even thick
bushes) of transitional intermediates, without intervention by any
Creator or other non-naturalistic mechanism." (Johnson P.E., "Darwin
on Trial", 1993, p91)

Indeed, "what IS there" is evidence for a directed `artificial
selection' by an Intelligent Designer:

"Because Darwinian evolution is a purposeless, chance-driven process,
which would not proceed directly from a starting point to a
destination, there should also be thick bushes of side branches in
each line." (Johnson P.E., in Buell J. & Hearn V., eds., "Darwinism:
Science or Philosophy?", 1994, pp13-14)

PM>You are confusing the issue of absence of evidence with evidence
>of absence.

Now you are "focusing on what is not there! There is an "absence of
evidence" which is prima facie "evidence of absence".

PM>Why ignore the many transitionals that are known and
>focus on what is not (yet) known?

I don't "ignore" *any* "transitionals that are known". I accept them
*all*! They are good evidence for "the fast-transition theory",
namely mediate creation.

PM>From a scientific point of view this does not make sense.

On the contrary, "From a scientific point of view this" is the *only*
virew that "does...make sense". The absence of evidence is data
just as much as the presence of evidence:

"This sorry situation led us to postulate our alternative model of
punctuated equilibria (Eldredge 1971; Eldredge and Gould 1972). We
wanted to expand the scope of relevant data by arguing that
morphological breaks in the stratigraphic record may be real, and
that stasis is data-that each case of stasis has as much meaning for
evolutionary theory as each example of change." (Gould S.J. &
Eldredge N., "Punctuated equilibria: the tempo and mode of evolution
reconsidered", Paleobiology, 1977, vol. 3, p116)

SJ>"If Darwinist `blind watchmaker' macroevolution is true, one
>should expect not only intermediates, but intermediates from the


PM>And intermediates from intermediates from intermediates. And when
>you continue this to the absurd then the more intermediates there
>are found the more 'gaps' there will be until you have the total
>family tree of all animals that ever lived. Given the reality of
>fossilization that is unlikely. Nor does the absence of such a
>sequence mean that blind watchmaker macroevolution is wrong.

Disagree. "fossilization" is more "unlikely" for some animals and
plants than others:

"Human evolution now seems to be largely immune to the "poor fossil
record" argument of phyletic gradualism. This argument also largely
disappears for well-fossilized invertebrate animals, in general, when
we consider that these creatures, unlike the vertebrates, have
records that for major segments of geologic time are widely
distributed in space and are also well studied" (Stanley S.,
"Macroevolution", 1979, p88)

But no matter which animals or plants it is, the same *systematic
pattern* of sudden appearance and then stasis is revealed. This is
*the exact opposite* of what "blind watchmaker macroevolution"
expected and therefore it *is* "wrong":

"The fundamental problem in explaining the gaps in terms of an
insufficient search or in terms of the imperfection of the record is
their systematic character - the fact that there are fewer
transitional species between the major divisions than between the
minor. Between Eohippus and the modern horse (a minor division) we
have dozens of transitional species, while between a primitive land
mammal and a whale (a major division) we have none*. And this rule
applies universally throughout the living kingdom to all types of
organisms, both those that are poor candidates for fossilization such
as insects and those which are ideal, like molluscs. But this is the
exact reverse of what is required by evolution. Discontinuities we
might be able to explain away in terms of some sort of sampling error
but their systematic character defies all explanation. If the gaps
really were the result of an insufficient search, or the result of
the imperfection of the record, then we should expect to find more
transitional forms between mouse and whale than between dog and cat."
(Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", 1985, pp192-193)

* that there is now a few claimed transitional forms between land
mammals and whales does not alter Denton's or my argument. Indeed it
confirms it!

SJ>"As Darwin himself put it, if Darwinism is true the Precambrian
>world must have `swarmed with living creatures'..." (Johnson P.E.,
"The Blind Watchmaker Thesis", Trinity Founders Lectures, 1992)

PM>Depending on how you define 'swarmed'

I'll do better than that. I'll let Darwin "define" it:

"Consequently, if the theory be true, it is indisputable that before
the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited, long periods elapsed, as
long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the
Cambrian age to the present day; and that during these vast periods
the world swarmed with living creatures...To the question why we do
not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed
earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no
satisfactory answer." (Darwin C.R., "The Origin of Species", 6th
Edition,, 1967 reprint, p315)

PM>there are quite a few fossil species from the precambrian. Just
>not as abundant as later species.

Same problem. There is not enough "fossil species from the
precambrian! The evidence is of mediate creationist `ladders' not
Darwinist blind watchmaker `bushes'.

SJ>"Denton points out that in the case of the whale alone the number
>of side-branches must have been "inconceivably great" unless there
>was "an external unknown directive influence in evolution":

PM>The transisitional record for the whales has lately been increased
>quite impressively and the finds are truely remarkable in that they
>show an impressive transition.

They do not show all that "an impressive transition". There are still
neither "a 'perfect' sequence of fully functional intermediate forms
I1, I2, I3 leading unambiguously from one species to another, ie
A->I1->I2->I3->B" nor are evolutionists able to "reconstruct
hypothetically in great detail the exact sequence of events which led
from A to B or from a common ancestor to A and B, including
thoroughly convincing reconstructions of intermediate forms and a
rigorous and detailed explanation of how and why each stage in the
transformation came about." (Denton M., "Evolution: A Theory in
Crisis", 1985, pp55-56)

The whale transition is better evidence for a directed mediate
creation than for `blind watchmaker' macroevolution.

PM>If the argument is that 'not enough' have yet be found, why not
>address what has been found?

You are going around in circles. I *do* "address what has been
found". It's not enough.

PM>After all the possibilities of a strawman fossil record as
>'required' by Denton aer quite small but the absence of such a
>record does not undermine evolution. It's the presence of data
>which should be addressed, not the absence of data.

The "absence of data" *is* data. And Its the *pattern* of "the
presence of data" that rules out `blind watchmaker' macroevolution.
That's why leading paleontologists like Gould, Eldredge and Stanley
have abandoned it.

"These tales, in the "just-so story" tradition of evolutionary
natural history, do not prove anything. But the weight of these,
and many similar cases, wore down my faith in gradualism long ago.
More inventive minds may yet save it, but concepts salvaged only by
facile speculation do not appeal much to me." (Gould S.J., "The
Return of the Hopeful Monster", "The Panda's Thumb", 1980, p158).

PM>1994 Stephen Jay Gould, writes of whales in _Natural History_
>5/94, pp.8-15: "... I am absolutely delighted to report that
>our usually recalcitrant fossil record has come through in
>exemplary fashion. During the past fifteen years, new discoveries
>in Africa and Pakistan have added greatly to our paleontological
>knowledge of the earliest history of whales. The embarrassment of
>past absence has been replaced by a bounty of new evidence - and
>by the sweetest series of transitional fossils an evolutionist
>could every hope to find. ... I don't mean to sound jaded or
>dogmatic, but Ambulocetus is so close to our expectation for a
>transitional form that its discovery could not provide a
>professional paleontologist with the greatest of all pleasures in
>science - surprise."

I would hardly call one or two fossils "a bounty of new evidence".
Previously there was *no* evidence, now there is some! And it is
not the "recalcitrant fossil record" that is the problem, but the
theory! As Gould himself has pointed out, the "fossil record"
pervasively documents what actually happened, namely *un-Darwinian*
sudden appearance, stasis, and extinction.

The fossil record indeed supports common ancestry (including between
land mammals and whales) but it does not uniquely support
Neo-Darwinian, `blind watchmaker' macroevolution:

"...the hierarchic patterns of class relationships are suggestive of
some kind of theory of descent. But neither tell us anything about
how the descent or evolution might have occurred, as to whether the
process was gradual or sudden, or as to whether the causal mechanism
was Darwinian, Lamarckian, vitalistic or even creationist. Such a
theory of descent is therefore devoid of any significant meaning and
equally compatible with almost any philosophy of nature" (Denton M.,
"Evolution: A Theory in Crisis", 1985, pp154-155)

SJ>"I accept the actual evidence of the fossil record that
>`evolution' has been too direct for any known naturalistic
>evolutionary mechanism. Therefore, I believe in...mediate creation
>through the progressive introduction of genetic information by an
>Intelligent Designer."

PM>Why invoke a supernatural which can not be disproven or proven
>when perfectly naturalistic explanations explain as well or

I disagree that a "supernatural" theory like mediate creation "can
not be disproven or proven". A "supernatural" theory is always
highly vulnerable to a plausible naturalistic explanation. If any
naturalistic theory of evolution can plausibly explain the evidence,
then it will automatically displace all "supernatural" theories.

For example, if naturalism can plausibly show how: 1. the cosmos can
spontaneously arise out of nothing; and 2. life spontaneously arose
from non-life; and 3. how life's major groups arose spontaneously
in the Pre-Cambrian; then "supernatural" explanations will be

PM>...allow for predictions and for falsifications?

See above. Mediate creation makes "predictions" and is vulnerable
to "falsification". Its primary predictions (and therefore
potential falsification) is that the origin of the universe life and
life's major groups will continue to defy all plausible naturalistic

PM>Under Occam's Razor the supernatural power (Deus ex Machina)
>fails as a viable hypothesis, not just because of its unnecessary
>complexity, the additional questions it raises (who created the
>creator) but also because of a lack of adherence to what is
>considered scientific, falsifiability.

I do not claim that "the supernatural power (Deus ex Machina)". He
is "Deus" Himself! :-)

And Occam's Razor roughly states that if two or more theories
equally explain the data, the simplest of them is to be preferred.

The point is that the hypothesis the intervention of "supernatural"
power better explains the data than step-by-step Neo-Darwinist
`blind watchmaker' macroevolution.

>PM>It needs the intermediates where there are none found yet. To
>focus on the absence of evidence rather than on the presence of
>evidence is not very useful.

SJ>"See above. I *do* "focus...on the presence of evidence". The
>actual "evidence" does not support Darwinist, `blind watchmaker'
>"We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the
>story of gradual adaptive change], all the while really knowing that
>it does not."] ( Eldredge N., "Time Frames", 1986, p144, in Johnson
>P.E., "Darwin on Trial", 1993, p59)




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