Monday, July 22, 2013

Donald Prothero Reviews Darwin's Doubt

Donald Prothero is a paleontologist. He has reviewed Darwin's Doubt [ Stephen Meyer's Fumbling Bumbling Cambrian Amateur Follies]. The reason why this is important is because the IDiots want a "real expert" to review the book [see IDiot Ironly.

Well, they got their wish. It's a long, detained review but here's the fun part.
The entire literature of creationism (and of its recent offspring, "intelligent design" creationism) works entirely on that principle: they don't like any science that disagrees with their view of religion, so they pick tiny bits out of context that seem to support what they want to believe, and cherry-pick individual cases which fits their bias. In their writings, they are legendary for "quote-mining": taking a quote out of context to mean the exact opposite of what the author clearly intended (sometimes unintentionally, but often deliberately and maliciously). They either cannot understand the scientific meaning of many fields from genetics to paleontology to geochronology, or their bias filters out all but tiny bits of a research subject that seems to comfort them, and they ignore all the rest.

Another common tactic of creationists is credential mongering. They love to flaunt their Ph.D.'s on their book covers, giving the uninitiated the impression that they are all-purpose experts in every topic. As anyone who has earned a Ph.D. knows, the opposite is true: the doctoral degree forces you to focus on one narrow research problem for a long time, so you tend to lose your breadth of training in other sciences. Nevertheless, they flaunt their doctorates in hydrology or biochemistry, then talk about paleontology or geochronology, subjects they have zero qualification to discuss. Their Ph.D. is only relevant in the field where they have specialized training. It's comparable to asking a Ph.D. to fix your car or write a symphony--they may be smart, but they don't have the appropriate specialized training to do a competent job based on their Ph.D. alone.

Stephen Meyer's first demonstration of these biases was his atrociously incompetent book Signature in the Cell (2009, HarperOne), which was universally lambasted by molecular biologists as an amateurish effort by someone with no firsthand training or research experience in molecular biology. (Meyer's Ph.D. is in history of science, and his undergrad degree is in geophysics, which give him absolutely no background to talk about molecular evolution). Undaunted by this debacle, Meyer now blunders into another field in which he has no research experience or advanced training: my own profession, paleontology. I can now report that he's just as incompetent in my field as he was in molecular biology. Almost every page of this book is riddled by errors of fact or interpretation that could only result from someone writing in a subject way over his head, abetted by the creationist tendency to pluck facts out of context and get their meaning completely backwards. But as one of the few people in the entire creationist movement who has actually taken a few geology classes (but apparently no paleontology classes), he is their "expert" in this area, and is happy to mislead the creationist audience that knows no science at all with his slick but completely false understanding of the subject.


87 comments :

  1. I rather like this quote from Prothero's review:

    In short, Meyer has shown that his first disastrous book was not a fluke: he is capable of going into any field in which he has no training or research experience and botching it just as badly as he did molecular biology. As I've written before, if you are a complete amateur and don't understand a subject, don't demonstrate the Dunning-Kruger effect by writing a book about it and proving your ignorance to everyone else!

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  2. Sounds more like a rant than a review. I suspect that Prothero is still upset by the fact that Meyer and Sternberg sort of mopped the debate floor with him and Shermer.

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    1. Because a prior debate they supposedly won means that all of the errors being pointed out in Meyers book don't actually exist?

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    2. I listened to that debate, Prothero vs. Meyer and Sternberg. The assertion that they "won" is creationist bullshit. Meyer and Sternberg bullshitted through that debate, and it was clear they knew nothing about paleontology.

      When they started talking about population genetics in that debate, it was clear they were lying-- it seemed they had done some envelope calculation, badly, 10 minutes before the debate started. They came up with some bullshit number like it would take 300 million years to evolve one genetic change on a whale. This in spite of the fact that we have a whole suite full of transitional fossils for the transition from artiodactyl to whale!

      If they're so courageous, why won't they debate me? You go tell them Diogenes will debate them. I have one condition, intolerable to creationists: any video of said debate can only be posted on internet pages with an OPEN COMMENT POLICY. The Inquisition can't swallow that policy.

      It's bullshit to say Meyer and Sternberg won the debate. As Troy Britain says, arguing like creationists is like playing chess with pigeons: they knock the pieces over, shit on the board, and then fly off to claim victory to their flock-mates!

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    3. Someone named Sean K. Garrigan left the following in the comments thread under the Prothero review:


      Sean K. Garrigan says:
      Sounds more like a rant than a review. Me thinks you're still upset by the fact that Meyer and Sternberg sort of mopped the debate floor with you and Shermer. You're in the public eye, and some of us are paying attention.
      Posted on Jul 21, 2013 5:26:11 PM PDT

      I wonder if Alethinon61 was so excited by that hard-hitting comment that he felt compelled to share it, slightly modified, with us; or if Sean K. Garrigan was so pleased with his own comment that he felt compelled to adopt a pseudonym and share it, slightly modified, with us a full day after originally posting it?

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    4. The assertion that they "won" is creationist bullshit. Meyer and Sternberg bullshitted through that debate, and it was clear they knew nothing about paleontology.

      They won the way Woody Allen's "Allan" character in Play it Again, Sam did: "I snapped my chin down onto some guy's fist and hit another one in the knee with my nose."

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    5. I wonder if Alethinon61 was so excited by that hard-hitting comment that he felt compelled to share it, slightly modified, with us; or if Sean K. Garrigan was so pleased with his own comment that he felt compelled to adopt a pseudonym and share it, slightly modified, with us a full day after originally posting it?

      The latter (link).

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    6. OK, how come the folks at the Dishonesty Institute are afraid to debate PZ Myers and Aron Ra? All one hears from them is excuses.

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    7. A debate would not turn the stupidity that the IDiot creationists write any less idiotic. A debate would not make creationists any less wrong.

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    8. I saw the debate too, honestly I think Sternberg let them of the hook to easily on the 'just-so story" of the whale evolution. Interesting that 2 years after Phil Gingerich himself retracted the claim that Rodhocetus had a fluke and flippers evolutionist friendly sites still depict it whale like...Prothero was swinging wild for most of the debate without hitting anything. The low point must have been when he claimed that the presumed ancestors of the Cambrian phyla did not fossilize because the lacked a hard skeleton EVERY paleontologist must know that that argument does not hold water after the excavations of the Burgess and Chengjiang sites.

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    9. Every paleontologist knows that the Chengjiang and Burgess are lagerstätten, rare examples of extraordinary preservation, and that we have nothing similar any earlier in the Cambrian or Ediacaran. And every paleontologists knows that we do however have trackways and burrows of the proper age, but no body fossils of the animals that made them. And we have the small, shelly fauna, some of which consists of sclerites from larger, unknown animals. And you are equally wrong about whale evolution.

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    10. John, don't take my word for it, just listen what Phil has to say (at 8:30 forward):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eltxBT670M

      On the note of the deconstruction of the Rodhocedus as whale ancestor; paleontologists are amazing! They can reconstruct the morphology of an animal from 600 my trackways, but they cannot tell a foot from a flipper even if they have the fossil of the leg down to the ankle...

      Sure, I agree, Chengjiang and Burgess are rare, but isn't it strange that evolution always seem to happen where it doesn't get recorded in the fossils?

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    11. ilikai1820rental, before you comment again, please answer this queston: what do you call an animal with an ankle bone whose trochlea is double-spooled?

      Please compare the skull of Rodhocetus and that of Ambulocetus, which is clearly a land or semi-aquatic animal. Do you think they are not related?

      Also note the similarity in ear bones between Ambulocetus and modern whales. Do you think THEY are not related?

      What do you all an animal when its auditory bulla is formed from the ectotympanic bone only?

      Please answer this question: Are the nostrils on Rodhocetus in the same position as a land animal, or where a whale's blowhole is, or somewhere in between?

      Again: please answer this queston: what do you call an animal with an ankle bone whose trochlea is double-spooled?

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    12. ilikai1820rental asks: "isn't it strange that evolution always seem to happen where it doesn't get recorded in the fossils?"

      Isn't is strange that creationists ALWAYS ask "innocent" questions based on false premises?

      Here are some pictures of gradual transitions giving the lie to this 50-year-old creationist quote mine. The more complete the fossil record is, as with ocean-dwelling foraminifera, the more gradual the transitions appear. Here are some more pictures for foramen/plankton.

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    13. Diogenes, to your first question I would answer Artiodactyla...by the way, do hippos have flippers? I'll answer the rest of the questions some other time, it's way past my bed time.

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    14. Ilikai,

      Don't worry, I'm not taking your word for anything whatsoever. Whales are artiodactyls. Do you disagree? If so, why?

      And given the quality of the fossil record, we would expect most things to happen out of sight. But we most certainly expect the evolution of animals without hard parts to happen almost entirely out of site. What's surprising about that? Now explain the trails, burrows, and small shellies. I'll wait here.

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    15. John, I believe the clade is today referred to as 'Cetartiodactyla", but naming conventions does not help solving the problem of the poor fossil record nor does it give an explanation for the supposed mechanism for the evolvement from the last common ancestor.

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    16. Another low point for Prothero was when he claimed crystals and patterns I mud are equally complex as a DNA sequence of nucleobases. You do not need to know much mathematics to laugh for a long time at that statement.

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    17. John, I have searched for information about traces of Cambrian phyla in Ediacaran deposits and lagerstäten and as we discussed earlier the fossils are absent. There is also an absence of trackways and burrows from the Cambrian phyla in Ediacaran deposits. E.g. arthropod trackways and burrows which would be easily recognizable do not appear. You are implying that you have information telling you otherwise, could you please give a reference? It seams most papers are stressing that the case for an explosion of animal life in the Cambrian is getting stronger and that the Cambrian phyla replaced the Ediacaran, not developed from it.

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    18. John, see what Matz et al wrote in Current Biology, Dec 9 2008 as explanation for your pre-cambrian trackways.
      One of the strongest paleontological arguments in favor of the origin of bilaterally symmetrical animals (Bilateria) prior to their obvious and explosive appearance in the fossil record in the early Cambrian, 542 million years ago, is the occurrence of trace fossils shaped like elongated sinuous grooves or furrows in the Precambrian [1–5]. Being restricted to the seafloor surface, these traces are relatively rare and of limited diversity, and they do not show any evidence of the use of hard appendages [2, 6]. They are com- monly attributed to the activity of the early nonskeletonized bilaterians or, alternatively, large cnidarians such as sea anemones or sea pens. Here we describe macroscopic groove-like traces produced by a living giant protist and show that these traces bear a remarkable resemblance to the Precambrian trace fossils, including those as old as 1.8 billion years. This is the first evidence that organisms other than multicellular animals can produce such traces, and it prompts re-evaluation of the significance of Precam- brian trace fossils as evidence of the early diversification of Bilateria. Our observations also render indirect support to the highly controversial interpretation of the enigmatic Ed- iacaran biota of the late Precambrian as giant protists [7, 8One of the strongest paleontological arguments in favor of the origin of bilaterally symmetrical animals (Bilateria) prior to their obvious and explosive appearance in the fossil record in the early Cambrian, 542 million years ago, is the occurrence of trace fossils shaped like elongated sinuous grooves or furrows in the Precambrian [1–5]. Being restricted to the seafloor surface, these traces are relatively rare and of limited diversity, and they do not show any evidence of the use of hard appendages [2, 6]. They are com- monly attributed to the activity of the early nonskeletonized bilaterians or, alternatively, large cnidarians such as sea anemones or sea pens. Here we describe macroscopic groove-like traces produced by a living giant protist and show that these traces bear a remarkable resemblance to the Precambrian trace fossils, including those as old as 1.8 billion years. This is the first evidence that organisms other than multicellular animals can produce such traces, and it prompts re-evaluation of the significance of Precam- brian trace fossils as evidence of the early diversification of Bilateria. Our observations also render indirect support to the highly controversial interpretation of the enigmatic Ed- iacaran biota of the late Precambrian as giant protists [7, 8

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  3. About the 6th or 7th comment is Rex Tugwell crying about how Prothero didn't deal with epigentics or embryological development.

    Dumbass. He's a paleotologist.

    I wrote up the details, with links here: http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/07/22/the-bait-and-switch-in-id/

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  4. Prothero recommends reading Valentine and Erwin's book, The Cambrian Explosion. Casey Luskin quotes from that book extensively to show that it agrees with Stephen Meyer's book. Perhaps he's quote-mining. I wouldn't know.

    I'm still crawling through Meyer's book, and have nothing to add to the debate, yet. However, if both Prothero and Luskin recommend Valentine and Erwin, perhaps we should read their book first.

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    1. I have Valentine and Erwin and it bears no resemblance whatsoever to what Meyer wrote. In fact, Meyer's first reference to Erwin is from the Introduction (pg. 8) and it's a mined quote that flips V&E's meaning 180-degrees.

      "Perhaps he's quote mining. I wouldn't know."

      Let me give you a hint. HINT: Meyer.

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    2. Oh?!? I'm doing a chapter-by-chapter review of Darwin's Doubt. Can you put the correct quote out, please? I spent my monthly budget on other books to refute Meyer and didn't get V&E.

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    3. I've got Erwin & Valentine's book, it is very useful, and an impressive effort, but it should not be read uncritically. One of the big issues is that the book is not as thoroughly phylogenetic as the field of modern evolutionary biology has come to be. They make a decent effort but there is still a sense of "catching up" and some weird internal contradictions due to the continued use of Linnaean concepts as well. Read Graham Budd's review in SysBio to get a sense of how many of the next generation of evolutionary biologists would react to the book.

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    4. I also think that they have nothing interesting to say in the last chapter, the one on genetics and evo devo. Great reference work on the paleontology, though. I do want to buy it, but I'm waiting to get a meeting price.

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    5. It's really kind of a textbook, so probably all of us learn something in the specialties we're not in, and then get impatient when they address the specialty we are in. I thought the stratigraphy/environmental context part of the paleontology was really good, but the cladistic/phylogenetic part of the paleontology I had issues with.

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    6. I had perhaps fewer issues than you did. I do cringe every time I see the word "basal", though. That sort of thing?

      I do think the bit on genetics and evo devo is supposed to be an original contribution rather than just a review, and I think it fails in that goal.

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    7. So all you people with copies of Erwin and Valentine: Is Luskin quote-mining or not? If yes, could you provide some examples?

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    8. Bilbo: Is Luskin quote-mining or not?

      Do you know how absurd that question is? It's like asking is the Pope wearing a funny hat or not? Do fish breath through their gills or not?

      I haven't read E and V, but I know Luskin can never stop.

      What's your next question: Is Lindsay Lohan drinking or not?

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    9. "I had perhaps fewer issues than you did. I do cringe every time I see the word "basal", though. That sort of thing?"

      That doesn't bother me as much as some, especially when time really is a factor as e.g. is the case in the Cambrian and many of the branches really are early on the animal tree. It's more problematic when the term is applied to currently-living taxa.

      It was mostly the reliance on the "phylum"/"bodyplan" concept. They actually do pretty well at moving towards the crown/stem terminology, I just think they should have gone all the way in this day and age.

      While I'm whining: also, the typo "Baysian" and Figure 4.3 on p. 69 is weird (they draw shared traits across clades, rather than across the branches, the latter is the proper inference/depiction).

      I would have preferred raw cladograms from the literature, with statistics, time-scaling, etc. Instead we mostly get artistic summary cladograms.

      Not huge points but it would be interesting to see e.g. Graham Budd write a similar book.

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    10. Bilbo -- sadly I don't have time to do your research for you -- but it would be good project for you!

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    11. Hi Nick,

      It's the $55.99 that bothers me the most. Interested in selling your copy...cheap?

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    12. Hi Diogenes,

      I'm still waiting for you to crush Mike Gene with your biting rebuttal.

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    13. We're all waiting for you to show any evidence whatsoever for front-loading. Is there anything on Gene's web site that you think is correct and are willing to defend? I bet not.

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    14. Bilbo: Have you heard of libraries? You can read a book without buying it! See if there's one near you.

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    15. Bilbo, I have crushed Mike Gene with my biting rebuttal, as you requested. The comment is awaiting moderation, so I will copy it here.

      [Comment in moderation here, Part 1 of 2]

      Your citation from this blog post (undated, but actually Dec. 15, 2010) just happened to insert a "creationist ellipsis", and whenever I see creationists write "..." I have to check what's in the "..." Immediately after "The proteins predated their current function in animals", we read:

      "According to King, this “a classic example of co-option,” an evolutionary process in which an existing biological structure or system is adapted for a new function." ["Target Health Global", Dec. 15, 2010]

      Wonder why you left that out. "Classic example" means as in textbook, what's taught to every undergraduate. Is the source you cited, as an authority, still considered to be an authority by you? Or is it no longer an authority now that the full form undermines what you wrote?

      Let's compare the source you cited, which you treated as an authority (at least in the form in which you edited it), against what I wrote:

      "The fact that a signalling system appeared millions of years ago, and that highly modified duplicates of it took on a new function later, supports evolution by exaptation or co-opting of functions, as evolutionists have repeated many times."

      Strangely similar, hmm. I can't entirely blame you for being fooled by the blog post you cited which does over-hype the "Gosh! I'm shocked!" nature of the results, which in fact are not very surprising. Such hyping of results is, alas, common in the muggle press. For the muggle press, every discovery is a Kuhnian "Paradigm Shift."

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    16. [Comment in moderation here, Part 2 of 3]

      Now you ask a good question: "Can you please cite where someone used evolutionary theory to predict that tyrosine kinases would predate the appearance of metazoans?"

      Fair enough. I go to Wikinome and look at their page for "Tyrosine Kinase evolution", but not the current revision, let's go waaaay back to the revision of 21 Aug 2009, pre-dating your blog source.

      "Tyrosine Kinases... [Their] overall sequences are most similar to the diverse TKL [Tyrosine-Kinase-Like] group, from which they may have emerged. The first clear TKs are seen in holozoans - the unicellular protists intermediate between fungi and animals - though possible TKs have also been seen in a few other basal lineages." [Wikinome page for "Evolution of Tyrosine Kinases", revision of 21 Aug 2009]

      So TK's must predate metazoans, and the TKL group is found in most eukaryotic lineages, including notably plants. This page considers it likely that TK's evolved from TKL enzymes (duh!). Continuing with this page, more detail on TKL's:

      "TKL... This group is most similar to the TKs in sequence and structure, but is found in most eukaryotic lineages. In plants and Dictyostelium there is strong evidence that TKLs can act as tyrosine kinases. In both cases, the family is expanded, and many are found as transmembrane receptors, like most TKs are. In Dictyostelium, six TKLs have been shown to phosphorylate Tyr (Goldberg et al., 2006) and four others are fused to SH2 domains, suggesting that they do likewise.

      Homologs of metazoan GSK3, c-Cbl (no pTyr sites conserved!) and STAT proteins that are regulated by Tyr phosphorylation have conserved these phosphorylation sites in Dictyostelium (unpublished), and both STAT and GSK3 have been shown to be Tyr-phosphorylated by Dictyostelium TKL kinases, suggesting that these control mechanisms are ancient, and that the later invention of TKs may have displaced TKLs from this role and these specific substrates.

      In plants, several TKLs (IRAKs) have been implicated in tyrosine phosphorylation...


      The current revision of this page of course is better written and has more complete information.

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    17. [Part 3 of 3, vs. Mike Gene]

      You state: "All you are telling me here is that you don’t understand my hypothesis of front-loading."

      No, I understand your thesis perfectly well, it's the cutting edge science of the twelfth century, the scholastics and their teleology: you observe how something acts, and then only after the fact you say, it's purpose is to act the way it acts. The problem with that is that you can't predict things ahead of time, because you can't deduce the purpose of things by an independent method, independent of how they act, so you're stuck with circular logic.

      My hypothesis begins with a simple question – would it be possible to design/guide evolution given the reality of random mutations and selection? Then, if so, HOW might one do this?

      No, that is not scientific. Instead of asking HOW an invisible spook might "guide" evolution, you should instead ask "How may I TEST my hypothesis via a double-blind test? And what is my negative control?"

      Again I repeat: the mechanisms you describe are functional when they first appear, they just do not have their modern function. If front-loading really made predictions DIFFERENT from evolutionary theory, then these mechanisms should be non-functional when they appear, and somehow protected from deleterious mutations (by some non-NS mechanism) for 500 million years or whatever. If OTOH front-loading just predicts that mechanisms are functional when they appear, and change function later, then it IS evolutionary theory.

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    18. Wow, long rebuttal, Diogenes. I'll be interested to see how Mike replies.

      John, why wait for me, when you can get it straight from the horse's mouth? Meanwhile, I'll try a local college library or two.

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    19. Bilbo, I think you're staring into the wrong end of the horse.

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    20. Bilbo, I got it from a public library, not some backward safety school like Harvard.

      I choose to haunt a limited number of blogs. This is one of them. Put up or shut up. Here.

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    21. Steve: Very funny. :)
      John: Try to be nicer. Life is short.

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    22. Bilbo: Since life is short, perhaps you could get started on your defense of front-loading before the year is out.

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    23. For such brilliant people, you all use quite a bit of sarcasm and name calling. Why not just present your case?

      I would sincerely like to learn more - I am not a scientist with a degree or anything, but I am genuinely interested in learning -- one little bit at a time if I can. Can anyone give a basic rebuttal to the following point from Meyer's book?:

      "So, there is a question as to how mutation can ever select a better adapted individual. Since macroevolution is dependent upon mutations that change the body plans of species, mutations that do so must impact development early in the process. However, these kinds of mutations are almost always deleterious".

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    24. Robin, since you appear to be a sincere seeker of the truth, rebut the following or explain why you would not waste your time doing so.

      Vol. I (the Scientific Evidence) demonstrates through history, philosophy, and mainly through science itself that modern science has not demonstrated that the earth moves or is not in the center of the universe. It demonstrates that in fact observation after observation and experiment after experiment indicate that the earth does not move and is in the center of the universe. Scientist after scientist admit candidly that "it appears that the earth is standing still" or that " we appear to have a priviliged position" (i.e., are at center). Of course science offers complicated explanations as to why every observation indicates that we are at the center and not moving, yet somehow actually we are not at center and are moving.

      From http://geocentrism.com/gww.htm and appears to be serious.

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    25. "So, there is a question as to how mutation can ever select a better adapted individual. Since macroevolution is dependent upon mutations that change the body plans of species, mutations that do so must impact development early in the process. However, these kinds of mutations are almost always deleterious".

      I think he's implicitly assuming a one-step event here in which the body plan is radically reorganized by a single macromutation. Consider instead a series of small changes; each one is much less likely to disrupt anything.

      But the greatest rebuttal of all is that it clearly did happen: all metazoans are related by common descent, and the evidence for that is overwhelming. Given that relationship, all the transformations implied by that tree must have happened somehow. One could of course claim that the process was helped along by some unnamed entity (hint: Jesus), but that doesn't appear to be Meyer's idea. He's all for independent creation, apparently. And the data just don't allow for that.

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    26. Re: ""So, there is a question as to how mutation can ever select a better adapted individual. Since macroevolution is dependent upon mutations that change the body plans of species, mutations that do so must impact development early in the process. However, these kinds of mutations are almost always deleterious"."

      I'm just a layman, not very well-read in biology, but I know, for example, in humans, thousands or hundreds of thousands of sperm are produced for every one which implants itself successfully in an egg, and dozens or hundreds of eggs are produced for every one which successfully gets implanted in a womb and carried to term without miscarriage. Besides which, some percentage with developmental defects do get born, but would not long survive in a natural state. So I can easily account for a huge number of deleterious developmental mutations in humans and filter out a few beneficial or neutral ones, over hundreds of thousands of generations. Therefore the statement as given does not seem a problem for evolution to me.

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    27. Diogenes' comment and Mike Gene's reply are up.

      John, let me get this straight: You don't want to go to Mike Gene's blog to challenge him directly on his hypothesis of front-loading. Instead, you want me to defend Mike Gene's hypothesis here. Is that right?

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    28. So, there is a question as to how mutation can ever select a better adapted individual.

      It can't. Mutation can only supply the raw material for selection to filter.

      Since macroevolution is dependent upon mutations that change the body plans of species,

      A vast number of single celled organisms may take issue with being swept aside in this manner. As, indeed, may the many multicellular clades that are simply variations on a theme. Where is this 'change in body plan' assumed to occur? Between bats and other rodents, say? The difference is mainly that the former have long webbed fingers and squeak. Between rodents and primates? There's no major retooling going on there. Between Man and Chimp?

      mutations that do so must impact development early in the process. However, these kinds of mutations are almost always deleterious.

      'Almost always'. How big is that, roughly? Unless it's really 'always', evolution can proceed by whatever fraction is not included in the set 'almost always'.

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    29. John, let me get this straight: You don't want to go to Mike Gene's blog to challenge him directly on his hypothesis of front-loading. Instead, you want me to defend Mike Gene's hypothesis here. Is that right?

      Bilbo: Bingo. Unless of course you can't. Or he could come here. I don't care who, just where.

      Delete
  5. Hi Bill,

    Amazon wants $55.99 for E&V. Willing to sell your copy for less?

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  6. Bill,

    If you're not willing to part with your book, how about comparing its context with the quotations that Casey Luskin gives in the link I gave above. Is he also quote-mining? If so, could you quote enough of E&V to show us how, for at least one or two examples?

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  7. I suspect that somewhere in the offices of the Discovery Institute is a red phone under glass. The phone has one button in the center and a big 'B' emblazoned on the side. When one picks up the phone and pushes the button, Berlinski answers from his table at the Café Verlet in Paris. But who are they going to call now for damage control after this devastating review by Prothero? Berlinski's 2 pieces on Matzke's review were terribly weak....to put it mildly.
    RodW

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    1. Ah yes, David Berlinski, who failed to correct the folks who claimed that he had a degree in mathematics when his degree is in philosophy. I had the honor of outing him several years ago on Jason Rosenhouse's blog. We even got a talkback from Berlinski claiming that he never claimed to have a PhD in mathematics. Maybe so, but he never corrected those who claimed that he did.

      I like Richard Dawkins take on Berlinski, after hearing a lecture by him. "One who rejects the theory of evolution is either ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked (but I don't want to consider that). Berlinski is neither ignorant, stupid, or insane.

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    2. Please dear god, give me a link to that. I wants my crack...

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    3. http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/114

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    4. Piotr, thanks for the link.

      I also found this:

      http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2007/03/02/berlinski-in-turkey/

      Da crack... da crack...

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    5. So, Berlinski was hanging out with the Muslim creationists in Istanbul? And especially with the former spokesperson of an institution whose founder is a holocaust denier? Oh well, what else should we expect.

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    6. Shadi,

      Larry will probably ban me from Sandwalk soon, but you can contact me at my blog. I'm sorry I didn't respond to your comment on the other thread. If you want to contact me you can reach me at diogenes Lamp 0 at gmail dot com. Just remove the spaces. I don't check that email box very often, so if I don't get back to you right away, it doesn't mean I've blown you off.

      You are right about the hypocrisy of the DI associating with Mustafa Akyol, although he broke with Harun Yahya's BAV a few years ago, it's clear they're applauding the Turks for censoring evolutionary science, and the DI wants the USA to get what the Turks already have.

      However, the reason why I linked to [http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2007/03/02/berlinski-in-turkey/] was because of the comments in that thread, where Berlinski shows up to say he's got a PhD in philosophy, not math, and he asserts that none of his books or essays, nor the DI, have ever said otherwise. The very next comments pointed out that, in fact, at least one book, one essay and ARN (run by the DI) call him a mathematician or math Ph.D.

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    7. Re Diogenes

      Thanks for linking to that thread on Jason Rosenhouse's blog. I see that both of us had a number of things to say about Berlinski, among other things.

      By the way, I don't see why Prof. Moran should give you the heave ho here. IMHO, you are one of the best commentors here, for what that might be worth. AFAIK, he's pretty lenient; the only folks who, to my knowledge he has given the heave ho to are Anthony McCarthy and John Kwok.

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    8. People banned on Sandwalk ...

      Joe (Joseph) Bozorgmehr (Atheistoclast)
      David Roemer
      John Witton and various aliases
      Dennis Markuze (Mabus) and various aliases
      Pépé
      Douglas Dobney
      John Kwok
      Dominic Nikel

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    9. I guess that Anthony McCarthy took a hike before he could be given the heave ho.

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  8. Berlinski is like a cross between William F. Buckley and Mr. Blackwell. He doesn't really care about, or even write about, science. He's attacking your lack of fashion sense, or he's offended by the color of your tie, or some other shallow vapid thing, but he does it with an eccentric, bizarre vocabulary that is supposedly euro trash intellectual, but is actually just a bunch of jargon words whose meaning he doesn't know.

    At random moments he will throw in the word "reticulated" where it absolutely positively does not belong. He's been told before it doesn't mean what he thinks it means.

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    1. At random moments he will throw in the word "reticulated" where it absolutely positively does not belong. He's been told before it doesn't mean what he thinks it means.

      Inconceivable!

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    2. I am old enough to get that joke.

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    3. I'll give you the Wm. Buckley comparison, where he sometimes throws out big words, and a few ambiguities. Whoops, I just pulled a 'Berlinski' myself.

      From 'The Deniable Darwin':

      "In its most familiar, textbook form, Darwin's theory subordinates itself to a haunting and fantastic image, one in which life on earth is represented as a tree. So graphic has this image become that some biologists have persuaded themselves they can see the flowering tree standing on a dusty plain, the mammalian twig obliterating itself by anastomosis into a reptilian branch and so backward to the amphibia and then the fish, the sturdy chordate line - our line, cosa nostra - moving by slithering stages into the still more primitive trunk of life and so downward to the single irresistible cell that from within its folded chromosomes foretold the living future.

      This is nonsense, of course. That densely reticulated tree, with its lavish foliage, is an intellectual construct, one expressing the hypothesis of descent with modification.

      I counted seven or eight big words, but regarding 'reticulated', the Farlex online Dictionary defines it as:

      1. To make a net or network of.
      2. To mark with lines resembling a network.

      and the intrinsic verb: To form a net or network.

      Maybe he should have used 'squiggly' instead ...

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    4. obliterating itself by anastomosis...

      Anastomosis is another word he doesn't understand but loves to use notwithstanding. A nice example of pseudointellectualese.

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    5. Although Piotr is Polish, and English is not his native language, I wonder how long it would take him to find Berlinksi's blunder here.

      Berlinski: What am I to make of the claim that science and Christianity are in opposition to one another. I would need to hear the claim reticulated properly.

      [video debate: Berlinski vs. Hitchens, time stamp 4:36]

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    6. Hoo-Lee-Fukk berlinski is a blithering nut. Hahahahahaha..

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    7. If you don't reticulate your claims clearly, they will be obliterated by a nasty Moses.

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    8. Berlinski rocks... whether he's euro trash intellectual or not ;-)

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  9. The reason this book has been well received is because the previous ones were.
    The people have spoken.
    A excellent case is made using the presumptions that evolutionism uses.
    Fossil sequences and the descent of complexity.
    So ID folks find complexity where it should not be in the geology .
    No evolving complexity means unlikely it ever did evolve.
    The fossils have spoken.
    To this YEC in fact they are silent and these data points connections are speculative and unrelated to biological evidence.
    But what do we know?
    Oh yeah the bible!

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    1. 'Presumption'
      Concise Oxford Dictionary:
      "taking for granted, thing that is or may reasonably be taken for granted"
      Did Robert Byers really understand what he wrote? Should the question for him not be Understandest thou what thou readest?

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    2. You know booby, if you keep lying, you won't get to heaven. Remember the commandment that says something about bearing false witness.

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    3. I understand presumption means to think some point is a fact.
      Whether that fact is true or not.
      So using the geological presumptions of fossil placement in time and so descents of complexity are the presumptions used by ID researchers.
      I think i got it right.

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  10. Didn't Berlinski describe Matzke as 'sleek with satisfaction' in a recent essay? When I read him I get the momentary feeling that I'm reading a witty thoughtful writer, but thats last less than a second. So many of his terms, metaphors, similes just don't work. They're....off. I assume he's a good writer when he takes the time (and has an editor) I was planning on eventually reading one of his non-ID math books.
    Someone should write a "Berlinski Text Generator" The format and program would be easy...but you'd have to spend a long time digging obscure words out of the dictionary

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    1. If you read carefully a lot of it is just air, and a lot of it contradicts what he just said earlier. E.g. are cladists lazy or impressive students of detail? Do cladograms represent real structure in the data, or just arbitrarily made up?

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    2. Yes, I've noticed that. I suspect that in the weeks and months between essays he accumulates a series of witticisms. When it comes time to write an essay he fits the essay to the witticisms, not the other way around. Thats why so many of them aren't apt. So if a contradiction allows him two witticisms/puns/similes etc rather than one, why not go for it!
      RW

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  11. I do a lot of reading about paleontology, but I'm certainly no expert. I'm amazed how IDists can hand-wave tens of millions of years--"It all happened so fast! Clearly, not enough time for those demonic darwinistic processes to occur!".

    My thanks to Dr. Prothero for writing an excellent review and my thanks to you for bringing it to my attention. If nothing else, the review has caused me to add both Dr. Prothero's book and Valentine and Erwin's "The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity" to my wish list.

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  12. Does this new discovery have any bearing on any of the Meyer's central arguments?

    Two Billion Year Old Fossils Point to Early Terrestrial Life
    http://www.sci-news.com/paleontology/science-fossils-early-terrestrial-life-01249.html

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  13. No. If it isn't an animal, Meyer doesn't care about it. He doesn't care that not a single plant phylum is known from the Cambrian explosion, or that they trickle in much later. It's all about animals, because of course god created animals and plants (oddly, other taxa are never mentioned) on separate days. And this thing looks rather like a fruiting body to me; thus, he doesn't care.

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  14. A simple response to Prothero's review:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/07/darwin_defender_1074791.html

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  15. @Chris and Piotr:

    "I wonder if Alethinon61 was so excited by that hard-hitting comment that he felt compelled to share it, slightly modified, with us; or if Sean K. Garrigan was so pleased with his own comment that he felt compelled to adopt a pseudonym and share it, slightly modified, with us a full day after originally posting it?"

    Neither, actually. I'm merely a forgetful old guy who sometimes repeats himself, especially when speaking about the same subject. I think that many of us are subject to this failing, thought, aren't we?

    Sean K. Garrigan a/k/a Alethinon

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