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evolution-digest Wednesday, March 31 1999 Volume 01 : Number 1373


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 21:08:31 -0700
From: "Kevin O'Brien" <>
Subject: Re: Genes and Development Conference

>>Brian D Harper wrote in part:
>>> OK, so one of the lofty goals (yet to be attained of course)
>>> of Webster, Goodwin and many others belonging to "that tradition
>>> in biology" is to develop a rational theory of form which would
>>> (among other things) explain homology in terms of fundamental
>>> theory, independent of history. My question then is, supposing
>>> for the moment that they are wildly successful, what effect would
>>> such a theory have upon the theory of common ancestry?
>>A tangential question I have often wondered about is this apparent desire
>>many biologists to divorce their science from history. Is it because they
>>wish to emulate the physical and chemical sciences, which are ahistorical?
>>Is it because they are uncomfortable with the contingency history might
>>imply? Either way it seems strange to me as from a geological perspective
>>where history is (almost) everything and where species may outlive
>This is a good question. There is no question that Goodwin's
>approach appeals to me personally because mechanics plays such
>a crucial role in the proposed theory of form. But I think there's
>more to it than that. To me an explanation based on fundamental
>principles and devoid of historical contingency is much more
>satisfying. Of course, a historian (or geologist :) might disagree.
>There are many examples I might give here. The shortest is an
>example used by Goodwin all the time. "Why does the earth
>go around the sun in an elliptical orbit." The historical
>explanation would be that last year it went around the sun in
>an elliptical orbit. And the year before and ....
>There's nothing wrong with this in so far as it goes. But it
>is much more satisfying to understand the regularity in terms
>of something more fundamental, i.e. Newton's laws.

Such laws do exist to explain evolutionary diversity even under contingent
circumstances, such as the laws of genetics. The problem, unlike a regular
system such as one body orbiting another, is that much evolutionary change
is clearly in response to changing environments. And such patterns are more
likely to be governed by chaos theory than by more regular laws. Having
said that, however, one thing that chaos theory has taught us is that even
chaotic events are governed by specific patterns that do not vary, so the
idea that contingency may in fact be "predictable" may not be so far

>This example is good only because it is so short. A better,
>but lengthier example (also from Goodwin) is spiral phyllotaxis.
>I wrote something on this about a year ago and so I'm going
>to just copy it here with slight modifications. It is written
>in a narrative form because of original context which might
>seem strange here, but I'm taking the easy way out (an obvious
>example of historical contingency :).
>Spiral Phyllotaxy
>====== ==========
>Suppose you are a botanist investigating possible
>geometrical growth laws in plants. In particular, you
>are studying a group of plants displaying a growth
>pattern which has come to be referred to as spiral
>phyllotaxy. But you don't know this obviously, since
>you are the lucky scientist who is going to make this
>discovery :). As you look down the stem of a plant
>from the top you note that successive leaves form a
>spiral pattern as you move up the stem with a constant
>angle of divergence. Careful measurements reveal this
>angle to be very nearly 137.5 degrees. As you study
>more and more plants with this spiral pattern you
>find this same constant divergence angle again and
>Well, this is not particularly surprising. Its not
>really surprising that the divergence angle should
>be a constant. This constant must be some number,
>why not 137.5? As to why the same angle in so many
>plants one imagines two possible explanations:
>(1) historical contingency (frozen accident) or
>(2) natural selection (this particular angle confers
>some advantage and was thus selected for during evolution).

A third possibility: the growth pattern could be the result of some
chemical system similar to the one that causes stems to grow against gravity
and roots to grow with gravity (see more about this below).

>OK, fine. Several weeks later you are reading your
>favorite "joy of math" book during one of your many
>"time-outs" imposed by the Emperor, err, I mean the
>Department Chair. You are fascinated to learn about
>the Golden Rectangle and the mystical and magical
>Golden Ratio. The ratio that Kepler referred to as
>the "Divine Proportion" and a "precious jewel", one
>of the two "great treasures" of geometry, the other
>being the theorem of Pythagoras.
>Now the thought occurs to you: What angle will
>divide a circle into the divine proportion?
>IOW, consider a circle of circumference A and
>some angle that divides the circumference into two
>parts B and C (A = B + C) in such a way that the
>ratio C/B = B/A = R, the Golden Ratio. This is
>a fairly simple problem and after a few moments
>you discover, to your great horror :), that the
>required angle is 137.5 degrees.
>And so you have discovered that the divergence
>angle during the growth of the plants you have
>been studying divides a circle into the Divine
>Proportion. So you have to add a 3rd possibility
>to the list of explanations above: (3) magic :)
>Just kidding. The actual explanation (more correctly,
>the explanation I find more appealing :) is that
>there are fundamental laws at play, the operation of which
>give rise to a restricted set of possible divergence
>angles. Learning how this works (beautiful mechanics :)
>is very satisfying.

But those fundamental laws need not be all that unusual. For instance, why
do all large bodies like planets, moons and stars take on the shape of the
sphere? Is there some mystical law like the Golden Ratio at work, something
that ties pi into the very structure of the universe? Carl Sagan suggested
as much in the final chapters of his book _Contact_. However, in this case
the reason is more mundane. It's because under the influence of a
gravitational field, any sufficiently large mass tries to maximize its
volume to surface area ratio, and the sphere has the largest possible volume
to surface area ratio of any of the perfect solids.

Spiral phyllotaxy (which by the way does seem to be a real phenomenon) may
have more to do with the fact that this allows a plant to maximize the
exposure of all leaves to the sun than to some fundamental law, contingent
event or natural selection scenario. Though there is certainly some genetic
control over the shape, since plants are able to move their body parts a
plant may simply develop that way just as all plants develop in such a way
that roots grow down and stems grow up. (Speaking of which, plants raised
on a spinning disk can develop so that the stems grow towards the axis of
the disk while the roots grow away; obviously this growth pattern is based
on the ability of the plant to sense and respond to gravity -- even false
gravity -- and not some fundamental law.)

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 20:07:02 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Evolution's Imperative (was Def'n of Science)

>Henry Morris in 'The Long War Against God' states, "It is clear that
>Marx and Engels based their communistic philosophy squarely on the
>foundation of evolutionism.=20

and of course, they didn't (I have often found that the truth is a =
in Henry Morris's mouth) because they developed their ideas before =
published. The fact that they admired Darwin later on, means nothing.

Indeed, but Henry Morris has never been a good source of reliable =
scientific information. His ignorance of science is what saved me from =
remaining a Young Earth Creationist.


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 20:07:25 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Evolution's Imperative

> Except that I disagree that macro evolution is a phenomenon and =
> as you say. I understand that basic point about science. I disagree =
> your connection between it and evolution.(macro) And if it's so =
> observable, again, start posting pictures of transitions that have =
> found. I'm not aware there are any, correct me (with proof) if I'm =

CumminsL I've never met an Evolutionist who was capable of an honest =
debate. =20

Oh please. You have shown no interest in a honest debate dear Cummins. =
So perhaps you were staring in the mirror when you reached the above =

Cummins: It doesn't take a genius to see that gravity, lightning, =
tornadoes, cancer,
etc. are things that we can see and test -- even if there are things =
them we can't yet explain. Evolution is something that we've neither =
nor can we explain.

Again erroneous, evolution can be observed and can be explained. That =
you cannot explain it is of no relevance.

CumminsL Here is where the Evolutionist demonstrates his dishonesty =
again by insisting that we can see Evolution (his birth changed the =
allele frequencies of his species), even though he knows that I'm =
talking about macro-evolution, specifically, the indefinite increase in =
the complexity of life over time.

Ad hominem remarks how appropriate. After all Cummins has no intentions =
to discuss issues on their merrits.

> >Except that any perusal of the archive of this listserv, plus the
> >scientific literature, would prove them {creationists} wrong.
> I disagree with that as well. Both sides are able to claim that the =
> twists evidence to fit with their respective hypotheses. I think if =
> look through many discussions of this topic, some observations are =
used by
> both sides against the other, depending on interpretations of what the
> observation could imply.

Cummins: Yet another point of dishonest debate by Evolutionists. The =
literature" means "peer reviewed" means that any interpretation not in
accord with Evolution is censored.

More unsupported assertions. Poor Cummins is stuck in his ignorance of =

Cummins: Even if the Evolutionist wants to lie and insist that =
Creationist views aren't censored, it's still nothing but an appeal to =

Cummins it is good to see how you argue. It shows the lack of science =
surrounding your beliefs. And it also gives your beliefs a bad name. =
Well done


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 20:07:22 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: invention of writing vs. tools (was: Evolution's Imperative)

> Writing is one of those genious ideas. By that, I see an =
> and it is obvious, right in front of your face..why didn't you think =
of it
> yourself? Looking back, since writing is such an obviously =
> tool, we imagine that people invented it relatively quickly.

CumminsL Actually, it seems simple to invent writing, and history shows =
that I'm

No it doesn't. And while it may seem simple to you, so do many other =
things we now take for granted.

CumminL Now, look at history. There are a number of written languages =
which appear
to have developed independently of each other (e.g. French vs. Chinese). =

And so what ? Yes there appear to be a set of languages which evolved =
seperately but we also see a very interesting evolutionary pattern

CumminsL A number of independent and mature written languages appeared =
roughly 5000
years ago where before there is nothing.

Before that there is nothing preserved in history. Nor did all languages =
appear at the same time..

Cummins: There isn't a history of these languages developing, possibly =
because they developed so fast that there wasn't much time for them to =
create their own historical record. =20

Or most likely because there was no preservation on what was written.=20

Cummins: A number of them appeared at the same time, a sign that it is =
easy for a culture to
develop writing.

Not at all. That is something you have to prove. Cummins failure to =
provide convincing evidence is once again painfully obvious. Please =
mention which languages originated 5000 years ago and how this shows =
that languages are "easy".

Cummins: I'm not aware of any societies who kept oral histories. =20

That of course is not surprising.
CumminsL BTW, both Africans and American Indians did leave some history =
in the form
of art and symbolic paintings.

And so did some cavemen.
> They did not know about writing. How could they want to put
> their language
> in writing if the idea had not even been thought of. It is a
> basic idea to
> us, but no human on earth had ever written a thing.

CumminsL There is almost no such thing as an invention that wasn't long =
thought of
before by countless people. Before the first plane ever flew, millions =
people over thousands of years had already thought about some =
that would make it possible for man to fly.

Nope, many had fantasized about it. Few had come up with the contraption =
that actually could fly.

CumminsL You don't see non-agricultural societies using tallying marks =
for counting
days, debts, or accomplishments, etc.? Necessity is the mother of
invention. Anyone with a need or desire to keep track of something is =
to use at least tallying marks.

In a manner that would survive 5000 years ? Why ?

Time to get to the basics dear Cummins


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 22:06:38 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: News on fossil man

Cummins: Theistic Evolution is the path of least resistance. It's a =
kludge devoid of
a coherent framework which can be attacked. And, liberals are satisfied
that they caused someone to sell-out.

An alternative is what Morris and Gish et al have chosen, an untenable =
interpretation of the Bible leading=20
to ridicule by most scientists. So the question is: Is theistic =
evolution "the path of least resistance" and
if so, so what ?

A Theistic Evolutionist picks and chooses what to believe, almost at =
If you say Adam was the first man, was he blood related to earlier =
If you say Adam wasn't the first man, you've now covered all the basis =
open by Creationists (Adam=3Dfirst man, no other hominids) and =
(no Adam).

Nope, theistic evolutionists cannot pick what they want, they are =
constrained by reality.

CumminsL As for those earlier hominids and their art and crafts. Most =
of that is
pure imagination (e.g. where does "long range planning" come from? =
not imagination is bad theory.

Or bad understanding of the theory. The latter is what you have =
demonstrated. You have not demonstrated on the other hand that evolution =
is a "bad theory" or "imagination".

CumminsL Considering that most new "nature" discoveries come to us =
secular/atheist interpreters, I would be most worried if my beliefs were
consistent with "the results."=20

More erroneous "facts" from Cummins. How interesting to see how little =
of his remarks are based in fact.

> Evolutionary biologists, who used mitochondrial
> to trace human evolution, had estimated that
> the woman from whom all others descended lived between
> 100,000 and 200,000 years ago.

CumminsL Oops, now you've got to explain 195,000 years of no history.=20

Not at all, just no written history. Your errors in assumption are =

When will you make a scientific attempt ?


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 22:12:40 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Where's the Evolution?

> Yes. There are more parts in the human body, and more kinds of
> interaction
> between parts.

Cummins: There's a good start.

Is it ? Well, it's better than what you have shown so far but that's =
hardly a challenge.

CumminsL A fundamental difference between Creationists and Evolutionists =
is that
Creationist believe that the source of complexity is intelligence while =
Evolutionist believes that the source of complexity is nature. =20

And as far as science goes, Evolutionists have the upper hand. But there =
are also evolutionists who believe in nature AND God.=20

CUmmins: The problem for Evolutionists is that empirical science =
squarely demonstrates that
they're wrong.=20

On the contrary, of course you are free to show that this is the case

Cummins: If nature can create complexity, show me just one example.

Define complexity first. After all under the common definition of =
complexity, nature is creating it all the time.

Cumminsl Of course, the first thing they'll say is a snowflake. =20

Nope, that's equilibrium thermodynamics, nature is far better at =
creating complexity at far equilibrium.

CUmminsL The problem with that is that information for that complexity =
has always existed (nevermind
that there's never any hope of ice crystals becoming more complex than a =

Irrelevant, it has become more complex hasn't it? And yes, information =
for the snowflake has always existed in the laws of nature, so what's =
the problem ?

CumminsL So, when I challenge Evolutionists to show us that nature can
create complexity, I always include the qualifier "indefinite," as in
"Demonstrate an indefinite increase in complexity in nature." =20

And why do you add this qualifier ? Because otherwise your argument can =
be shown to be lacking relevance ?

CumminsL If you read the past messages on "Where's the Evolution?" =
you'll note the absolute
failure of Evolutionists to provide any examples -- because there are no =

You might also have noticed how Cummins was 1) unable to provide =
evidence that indefinite complexity is a requirement 2) when asked he =
resorts to ad hominems.

Cummins: Evolution is foreign to nature.

On the contrary.

> The difference, of course, is that ice formation does not involve
> inherited
> variation and natural selection.

CumminsL Right. The design of snowflakes does not come from random =
variation nor

Huraah, but it does show increased complexity. So if you could at least =
try to make a coherent argument why you 1) require indefinite complexity =
2) what the relevance of your statements is ? Perhaps then we can =
attempt to educate you in the sciences ?


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 22:12:49 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Where's the Evolution?

>Okay, I'll get you started. Do you consider a human to be more complex
>than an ameba? If so/not, why?

The correct spelling is "amoeba". The answers to your questions depend upon
what you mean by complexity. Biochemically the answer is no, because
amoebae have the same basic biochemistry as any human cell does.
Structurally the answer is yes, because an amoeba is a single cell, whereas
a human being is a metazoan organism. Evolutionarily the answer is no,
because the amoeba is just as highly evolved beyond the last ancestor it
shared with human beings as a human being is, in its own way.

Perhaps if you explain what you mean by complexity I can give you a specific

Very well put. It is up to Cummins to provide support for his unsupported

>Do you think there's something fundamentally different
>about the limits of change that allow a snowflake to form from water vs.
>allowing amebas to mutate into humans? If so/not, why?

This question does not even make sense. What do you mean by "the limits of
change" in this case and why do you believe it has any bearing on this

And man did not evolve from amoebae; they are the wrong kind of animal to
have been man's one-celled ancestor.

Thanks for taking the time to try to educate Cummins.

Kevin L. O'Brien


Date: Tue, 30 Mar 1999 22:15:31 -0800
From: Pim van Meurs <>
Subject: RE: Recent rhetoric

To all,

Howard: Having read some of the recent posts by "Cummins" and other =
proponents of a strident anti-evolutionist variant of Christian belief, =
must register my utter and complete disgust.=20

Indeed, Cummins in his ignorance not only insults evolutionists but even =
worse, portrays a picture of Christianity which is quite ugly.

Howard: If I thought for a moment that in order to be a Christian I had =
think, or treat other persons in a manner anything closely resembling =
these posts exemplify, I would not simply walk away from Christianity, I
would RUN as fast as I could!=20

Thank God that Cummins is not representative of Christianity. I wonder =
how many Christians would see in Cummins the hand of the devil? Making =
Christianity look bad while pretending to be a Christian?

Howard: Fortunately, the Christian faith does not demand such behavior. =
In fact,
thank God, it discourages it.

Hear hear


End of evolution-digest V1 #1373