Original Message Follows:
evolution-digest Tuesday, March 9 1999 Volume 01 : Number 1331
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 16:53:15 GMT
From: "David J. Tyler" <D.Tyler@mmu.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Pattern of PE
On Fri, 5 Mar 1999, Wesley R. Elsberry wrote:
> Can Neal list any significant part of the pattern of PE that
> Darwin did not mention in his first edition of Origin of Species?
I just happen to be reading something relevant to this. The better
question is: "Is PE something Darwin antipated, or is it
revolutionary for Darwinism?"
"But, despite the rhetoric, the theory [PE] was revolutionary for two
reasons. First, it took the fossil record at face value for the
first time since Darwin, who had invoked gaps in the record to
explain away the absence of intermediate forms in evolutionary
lineages. Large gaps certainly exist but can commonly be overcome by
replicate sampling in different places. Second, morphological stasis
was unexpected, despite revisionism to the contrary."
Jackson, J.B.C. and Cheetham, A.H. 1999. Tempo and mode of
speciation in the sea. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 14(2), 72-77.
For the record, this is a quote that I agree with.
David J. Tyler.
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 12:23:14 -0600 (CST)
From: "Wesley R. Elsberry" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Pattern of PE
David J. Tyler wrote:
>On Fri, 5 Mar 1999, Wesley R. Elsberry wrote:
WRE> Can Neal list any significant part of the pattern of PE that
WRE> Darwin did not mention in his first edition of Origin of Species?
DJT>I just happen to be reading something relevant to this.
DJT>The better question is: "Is PE something Darwin antipated,
DJT>or is it revolutionary for Darwinism?"
Is it a better question? Neal's claim had to do with the
"pattern of PE" and when it was recognized. This question of
David's seems to be pretty much irrelevant to Neal's claim,
so I fail to see *how* it happens to be a better question in
the context of this discussion. It certainly is an interesting
question in its own right, though. My view is that Darwin can
be credited with recognizing the pattern of PE, but not with a
complete explication of a mechanism to explain that pattern.
But Darwin did give several biological reasons for fossil
record completeness, a fact disregarded by many scholars.
Here's a quote by a couple of those authors....
DJT>"But, despite the rhetoric, the theory [PE] was
DJT>revolutionary for two reasons. First, it took the fossil
DJT>record at face value for the first time since Darwin, who
DJT>had invoked gaps in the record to explain away the absence
DJT>of intermediate forms in evolutionary lineages. Large
DJT>gaps certainly exist but can commonly be overcome by
DJT>replicate sampling in different places. Second,
DJT>morphological stasis was unexpected, despite revisionism
DJT>to the contrary." Jackson, J.B.C. and Cheetham, A.H.
DJT>1999. Tempo and mode of speciation in the sea. Trends in
DJT>Ecology & Evolution, 14(2), 72-77.
DJT>For the record, this is a quote that I agree with.
Darwin gave both geological and biological reasons for
incompleteness of the fossil record, a fact Jackson and
Cheetham overlook. It certainly can be argued that those who
followed Darwin overlooked stasis, but it is difficult to pin
a lack of appreciation of stasis on Darwin himself.
I'd like to give Neal some more time to respond to the
original query before going into more detail on these issues.
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 11:35:13 -0700
From: "John W. Burgeson" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Kevin (I think) said recently:
>>Note to Burgy: I understand your inclination towards defending
yourself since I too have been subjected to this sort of abuse
by several individuals in the past. I can assure you that you
are greatly appreciated by myself and by everyone else on this
list (with perhaps one or two exceptions) and that no one is
falling for this crap.>>
I appreciate that, Brian.
On the matter of civility, Stephen Carter, author of THE CULTURE OF
DISBELIEF and INTEGRITY, both of which books I have a great respect for
(although some arguments as well) was supposedly going to write a book
called CIVILITY. This was a year or so ago. Have you (or anyone) heard
anything of this?
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Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 23:14:28 +1030
From: Mark Phillips <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Cambrian Explosion
> >"Kevin O'Brien" wrote:
> >> "Brian D Harper" wrote:
> >> >2) The theory makes a specific prediction that such and such
> >> >evidence should be found in such and such a fashion. But this
> >> >evidence is not found.
> >> >
> >> >How would you define these two "lack of evidence" situations
> >> >using your terminology?
> >> Both are clearly cases of negative evidence, since we lack positive
> >> evidence that would support the theory, but we do not have any
> >> evidence that refutes the theory either.
> >I don't see how 2) is a "clear case of negative evidence"!! If a
> >theory makes a specific prediction that such and such evidence should
> >be found in such and such a fashion --- but the evidence is not there
> >--- then the theory has been falsified! This "lack of evidence" then
> >constitutes _positive_evidence_ against the theory.
> Your conclusion is flawed for two reasons. The first is that Brian
> himself gave an example of a failed prediction that DID NOT falsify
> a theory. So it cannot be true that a lack of positive evidence in
> favor of a theory automatically constitutes positive evidence
> against a theory.
First of all, your last sentence is not an accurate description of
what I am arguing for. I am not saying that "lack of positive
evidence" proves anything --- it doesn't. I am saying a failed
prediction constitutes positive evidence against a theory --- in fact,
it falsifies it. (When I wrote "lack of evidence" above, I was using
the sense Brian was using, namely "the predicted experimental outcomes
failed to eventuate" rather than the strict sense.)
Secondly, concerning Brian's example, the reason why the "failed
prediction" did not falsify Newton's theory was that the "prediction"
didn't really fail at all! The experimental results were wrong. When
the experiment was performed correctly, the results _did_ match the
theory. So Brian's example was not a true example of scenario 2).
Perhaps your point is that experiments can go wrong, and so we
shouldn't be too quick to dismiss a theory on the basis of one lot of
bad results --- we should investigate the possibility of experimental
error thoroughly first. I would agree with this. But this is a side
issue --- asking whether the evidence is valid or not. If there is a
problem with experimental technique then of course conclusions are
going to be questionable. But the question we are examining is the
underlying logic --- namely, that if a theory makes predictions, which
disagree with the results of non-flawed experimentation, then the
theory is false.
> The second reason is that you are ignoring all the evidence that was
> used to develop the theory in the first place. That evidence can be
> considered positive evidence in favor of the theory. To refute the
> theory you have to refute that evidence. A failed prediction does
> not refute this supporting evidence, so a failed prediction by
> itself does not falsify the theory. Only if the result directly
> contradicts the theory by refuting some of this supporting evidence
> (or directly contradicts known physical laws or other more strongly
> verified theories) can it then be considered positive evidence
> against the theory.
I have two serious concerns with your argument here.
1. It takes much evidence before one starts to have confidence in a
theory, but only a single piece of solid evidence to refute it. If my
theory is that all sheep are white, this theory may have come about by
the painstaking examination of many sheep --- and every extra white
sheep provides a bit more positive evidence for my theory. But all it
takes is for me to find one black sheep and my theory has been
falsified. I could go back to the drawing board and modify my theory
slightly to account for the new data, for example "at least 90% of all
sheep are white", but this will be a new theory.
2. It is considered a dangerous thing to use the same data for both
developing a theory and testing it. Ideally, having developed a
theory, one should devise means of testing it entirely independent of
data used in the development stage. Why? Well because it is often
possible to develop a theory which, due to the way it was developed,
predicts the data already available wonderfully --- but is completely
wrong. The falsity of the theory is only discovered by the fact that
it fails on new data. So indeed we should be "ignoring all the
evidence that was used to develop the theory in the first place" when
it comes to testing the theory.
Now of course, if a theory is falsified by new evidence, we may modify
the theory to take into account both this new evidence and the old
evidence. But the point is that this will be a new theory --- the
original one was false.
"They told me I was gullible ... and I believed them!"
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 17:26:08 -0500 (EST)
From: Loren Haarsma <email@example.com>
Subject: Falsification, evolution, and Punc Eq
Vernon Jenkins wrote:
> Concerning falsifiability, let me first say that the nub of the matter
> is not that evolution hasn't yet been falsified, but rather that it is
> incapable of ever being falsified.
To put it glibly: Falsificationism has been falsified as a criterion
for scientific legitimacy.
This group has discussed falsificationism before, and every time we
discuss it, we seem to forget how important it is to define the term
"evolution." It is ESSENTIAL to define that term when debating
You can define a "theory of evolution" which:
E1) Is impossible to falsify.
You can define a "theory of evolution" which:
E2) Can be falsified in principle, but which in practice would require
such an UNUSUAL observation that no one (not even opponents of
evolution) would expect such an observation to be made.
You can define a "theory of evolution" which:
E3) Can be falsified, but has not yet been falsified.
You can define a "theory of evolution" which:
E4) Has already been falsified.
Let me expand on these a little bit.
E1) You might phrase it this way: "Evolution happened by natural
mechanisms." It's hard to see how that could be falsified.
E2) You might phrase it this way: "Take a collection of known natural
mechanisms [NM1, NM2, NM3 ... NMn]. Evolution happened by some
combination of those natural mechanisms." If you phrased the theory
this way, each natural mechanism in that list might be fairly well
understood empirically (though not necessarily). However, if you are
allowed to construct the global theory so that it can combine the
natural mechanisms in almost any combination, the global theory winds up
with very few empirical constraints, and is almost impossible to make
predictions because of the complexity of the interactions. It would
require a very unusual observation to falsify a theory phrased this way.
E3) You might phrase it this way: "Take a collection of known natural
mechanisms [NM1 ... NMn]. Evolution happened by a combination of these
mechanisms, with NM1 predominating under conditions C1 and historical
periods H1, NM2 predominating under conditions C2 and historical periods
H2, NM3 and NM4 predominating under conditions C3, C4, and C5 ... etc."
The key here is to make specific predictions about when certain natural
mechanisms are important and when they are not, and WHY they are more
important than other mechanisms under those conditions. If you phrase
your "theory of evolution" in this way --- as many scientists have done
in the past and are doing in the present --- the theory can be
E4) Essentially, you can do E3, but in a way which has already been
falsified. Note, however, that if a particular E3-version of the theory
is falsified, it doesn't necessarily falsify an E2-version of the
This doesn't just apply to biological macroevolution. This kind of
theory construction also happens for the evolution of the very early
universe, for the formation and evolution of galaxies, for the formation
and evolution of stars, and for the formation and evolution of the
planet earth (or other planets in the solar system).
For stellar evolution (but not stellar formation), we have very good
quantitative models which fit extensive data, so some version of E3 is
For stellar FORMATION, the complexities of magnetohydrodynamics mean
that we can't be as quantitative. Almost no one doubts an E2-version of
stellar formation, but scientists who work in this field are constantly
trying out improved versions of E3-theories (after their OLD favorite
E3's turn into E4's).
For galaxy formation, it's a lot more difficult. We have a little
empirical data on galaxy formation, but not nearly as much data as we
have for stellar formation. What's worse is that several of the natural
mechanisms believed to be important for galaxy formation (such as the
gravitational attraction and conglomeration of "dark matter") have weak
empirical constraints. When some of the important natural mechanisms
have weak constraints, any global theory which uses them is bound to
have weak empirical constraints.
Planetary formation, I think, is in better empirical shape than galaxy
formation, but not so good as stellar evolution.
What about biological macroevolution?
I've seen plenty of pro-evolution books (and articles and posts) which
spend most of their time explaining E2, toss out some specific examples
of E3 which work on sub-sets of the data in order to bolster their case,
and then make some grandiose conclusions about E1 --- all the time using
the same phrase ("theory of evolution") and never explaining to the
readers how they use that phrase differently in different places.
And I've seen plenty of anti-evolution books (and articles and posts)
which cite a few examples of E4-versions of evolution, make some overly-
simplistic and empirically flawed attempts to falsify an E2-version of
evolution, and then complain bitterly than all the evolutionists are
REALLY doing is preaching E1.
Folks, if you want to know which E3-type "theories of evolution"
scientists are working with day-to-day in the lab, and how they deal
with data which potentially falsifies their favorite E3-type (or even
E2-type) theories, then the popular literature on evolution is the WRONG
WRONG WRONG place to look. You've got to look in the professional
journals. Popular books on evolution (both pro- and anti-) can be quite
good (much better than the professional journals) at explaining the
various proposed natural mechanisms. But the popular literature does a
poor job of showing how scientists today wrestle with those natural
mechanisms and the data in order to construct new E3's.
What most biologists work with everyday are hybrid E2/E3 version of
macroevolution. Various specific E3's are applied in certain conditions
and/or in certain historical periods where there are theoretical reasons
for expecting it and some data to back up the choice, then falling back
on E2 for the rest of biological history. As new data comes in, some of
these E2/E3 hybrids are effectively falsified and discarded, while new
ones are created which are (A) consistent with existing data, (B)
falsifiable, and (C) not yet falsified.
This same sort of dynamic of creating and falsifying E2/E3 hybrids is
going on in the study of galaxy formation. And this same dynamic USED
to go on in the study of stellar evolution, until they were finally able
to get enough data and computing power to really nail down a solid E3.
The observed examples of Punctuated Equilibrium in the fossil record
successfully falsify some hybrid E2/E3 versions of the theory of
evolution, but not other E2/E3 hybrids. Here's another way to say more-
or-less the same thing: The E2-version of macroevolution is
sufficiently weakly constrained (empirically) that it has not been
falsified by the observed examples of PuncEq in the fossil record.
It's not too difficult to write down an E2-type "theory of biological
macroevolution." And it's not too difficult to think of some remarkable
observation which, if it were actually made, could falsify it. For
example, we could imagine finding a species of field mouse somewhere in
the Andes whose fossil record showed continuity with other species in
the region, but whose genetic sequences and genome organization were so
totally different from supposedly related species that there is simply
no way it could have evolved via known natural mechanisms.
Now of course, IF that happened, some evolutionists would retreat to an
E1-version of the theory. (And they would look for new natural
mechanisms to explain that field mouse.) However, the fact that some
people would retreat from E2's to E1's does NOT invalidate the fact that
there currently exists an E2-version of the theory of macroevolution
which is falsifiable, but has not yet been falsified.
On the other hand, the mere existence of an unfalsified E2-version of
the theory of macroevolution doesn't say too much about the likelihood
of it being true. All the "heavy lifting" gets done in nailing down the
data and the empirical constraints on natural mechanisms, to move E2-
versions of the theory into E3-versions. E2-versions get falsified (IF
they get falsified) in the same way: by nailing down the data and the
empirical constrains on natural mechanisms so tightly that it becomes
clear that there just aren't any E3-versions which will work, forcing
abandonment of the theory or a retreat to E1-versions.
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 18:16:34 -0500
From: "Bodester" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Just a funny thought
As I've heard some good arguments on both sides of the debate, I'm curious
as to how some sides account for some of the attacks on their hypothesizing
/theorizing. Here are some questions I've heard from the creationist
standpoint that I'd like to hear the other side of:
(not my statement, just a paraphrase)
"there are no examples of beneficial genetic mutations that result in an
increase of genetic material. Only ones that appear to help exist and are in
fact harmed information that is a loss of info." (cited examples are usually
moths in England, and one more that slips my mind)
Now, my qs: What examples of "positive" mutations are there? If there are
none, how does the idea still stand or what explanation has replaced it?
One more q:(This one's a kinda funny topic I think)
Where the heck did the platypus evolve from?
Just curious again folks,
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 17:22:22 -0600
From: Steve Clark <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Just a funny thought
>One more q:(This one's a kinda funny topic I think)
>Where the heck did the platypus evolve from?
Date: Mon, 8 Mar 1999 16:55:43 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <Cuchulaine@worldnet.att.net>
Subject: News, News!!
I have an announcement that is sure to gratify a few on this list.
Today I was given a project that will consume most of my time. In fact,
after I post this message and wolf down some dinner I have to get back to
the lab to finish a purification protocol.
Anyways, that means I'll no longer have the time I used to to devote to the
level of participation that I have been maintaining lately. In fact, from
now on I'll barely have time to read what I get, much less reply to it.
Don't everyone cheer at once.
But don't get the wrong idea; I'm not leaving the list. For one thing I
still owe Mark Phillips a reply on an earlier discussion (which I hope to
send off this weekend; however, Stan and Brian can have the last word in our
respective discussions if they wish). For another, I'll still be monitoring
the messages, so I may make a comment or two on occasion. But I won't be
able to engage in any more long debates like I have in the past.
I hope everyone's not too disappointed.
(Seriously, though, it's been fun; thanks for the stimulating debate.)
Kevin L. O'Brien
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 16:03:25 -0800
From: Brian D Harper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)
At 06:21 PM 3/7/99 +0000, Vernon wrote:
>Thanks for your response to my posting of 3/3/99.
Your welcome, and thanks for the follow up.
>Concerning falsifiability, let me first say that the nub of the matter
>is not that evolution hasn't yet been falsified, but rather that it is
>incapable of ever being falsified. A number of people seem to have
>missed the point here. For example,
>(1) In your initial response to Neal you stated "Many attempts to
>falsify evolution were made in the past."
OK, let me concentrate on this one and leave others to comment
on their items. Could you elaborate on why my response is
missing the point? In the mean time let me try to guess :).
Now, it seems to me that an attempt to falsify evolution shows
that evolution is falsifiable. Unless, of course, you can provide
some argument as to why such attempts were illegitimate.
So, I'm trying to figure out what the point is. Let me ask you
this. Suppose many attempts have been made to falsify a particular
theory and that all have failed. Do you count this as evidence
that the theory is "...incapable of ever being falsified"?
I suppose one could reasonably say something like this: "Many
attempts have been made to falsify this theory and all have failed.
Based on our current evidence then, this theory is not falsifiable."
But one would not be using falsifiabilty in the way Popper meant.
If one took this approach, then one would have only two types of
theories, unscientific theories and refuted theories.
You quote Ian Stewert later as saying "The more a theory fails to be
falsified when confronted by experiment, the more likely it is to be true..."
Do you agree? This is what I had in mind by pointing out the attempts
to falsify evolution in the past.
OK, let me try another idea. From what you say later I get the
impression that you think that enough evidence has been accumulated
to falsify evolution but that people are ignoring this evidence
because of some bias or whatever. Evolution then is unfalsifiable
for these people, they will believe it no matter what? OK, once
again this would be a reasonable use of the word unfalsifiable but
once again would not be what Popper meant by the word.
>Concerning Neal's original statement, "Generally evolution education
>...never even defines what the falsification scenario looks like.": this
>is not because it has no wish to rock the Darwinian boat, but because
>such a requirement makes an impossible demand of a metaphysical concept.
Why do you keep dropping back to evolution education? What matters
is the debate that has occurred over the last hundred and something
years in which falsification scenarios have been discussed in
great detail. I seriously doubt that any theory has been subjected
to as many attempts at falsification as has evolution.
>Thank you for the quotation from Popper's "Natural Selection and the
>Emergence of Mind". However, in agreeing evolution to be a valid
>scientific theory, Popper signally failed to apply the principles that
>he himself had formulated in 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery'. Why
Really? Let's look at the quote again:
" The Mendelian underpinning of modern Darwinism has been well tested,
and so has the theory of evolution which says that all terrestrial
life has evolved from a few primitive unicellular organisms, possibly
even from one single organism."
- --Popper, "Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind",
_Dialectica_, vol. 32, no. 3-4, 1978, pp. 339-355
Popper says the theory has been well tested. How is this a failure
to apply his principles?
>After all, the world of science had already espoused the ideas
>expressed in this book - as witnessed, for example, by Professor Ian
>Stewart in 'Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos' (Blackwell,
>1989). He writes: "To count as scientific, a theory in principle must be
>falsifiable...The more a theory fails to be falsified when confronted by
>experiment, the more likely it is to be true..." (p.174). When I wrote
>to him some years ago suggesting that the Theory of Evolution was
>unfalsifiable and therefore, in his own words, unscientific, our
>correspondence abruply ceased.
I would caution you against the argument from silence. It is
>Clearly, once the penny drops, an
>alternative criterion for categorizing theories is urgently sought by
>evolutionists. This, of course, has now been found in the notion of
>'scientific consensus' - strict objectivity being rejected in favour of
>corporate subjectivity! I suggest that both Popper and Kuhn have
>betrayed their principles in going along with this charade. They are
>complicit in allowing a manifestly reasonable and objective criterion to
>be sacrificed on the altar of the god evolution!
Again, I invite you to re-read the quote from Popper. No where
does he suggest that evolution be accepted because of consensus.
He says instead that it is well tested. Thus he did not, as
matter of fact, seek an alternative criteria for evolution.
The Ohio State University
Date: Mon, 08 Mar 1999 20:04:11 -0800
From: Cliff Lundberg <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Pattern of PE
William Bateson doesn't get any credit from PE advocates, but look
at this line from a 1914 speech:
> Modern research lends not the smallest encouragement or
> sanction to the view that gradual evolution occurs by the
> transformation of masses of individuals, though that fancy
> has fixed itself on popular imagination.
End of evolution-digest V1 #1331