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Theory, Prediction and Converging Lines of Evidence, Part 3

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April 5, 2012 Tags: History of Life

Today's entry was written by Dennis Venema. You can read more about what we believe here.

Theory, Prediction and Converging Lines of Evidence, Part 3

Note: One of the challenges for discussing evolution within evangelical Christian circles is that there is widespread confusion about how evolution actually works. In this (intermittent) series, I discuss aspects of evolution that are commonly misunderstood in the Christian community.

In the last two posts in this series we have described a number of lines of evidence for whale evolution to illustrate two things: the incredible predictive power of evolutionary theory, and how a wide array of evidence from multiple disciplines converges to support it. In this post, we continue to explore how whale evolution is supported by converging lines of evidence, briefly comment on how multiple lines of evidence also support human evolution, and discuss how Christian anti-evolutionary approaches offer scientists less, not more, predictive power.

Whale evolution: tying a few remaining threads together

In our first post on whales, we noted that an evolutionary understanding of their origins from terrestrial ancestors raised certain questions:

Instantly this prediction raises a host of uncomfortable questions: where did their hind limbs go? How did they acquire a blowhole on the top of their heads when other mammals have two nostrils on the front of their faces? How did they transition to giving birth in the water? What happened to the teeth of the baleen whales? What happened to the hair characteristic of mammals? and so on. In some ways, evolutionary thinking about whales creates more difficulties than it appears to solve.

And yet, these difficulties are the stuff of science. If indeed our “educated guess” of terrestrial, tetrapod ancestry for whales is correct, the evidence will show that these transitions, challenging though they may seem, did indeed occur on the road to becoming “truly cetacean”.

Of this list, we’ve tackled all but a few: the transition from nostrils to blowholes, and the transition to birth in a water environment. The first has some good lines of evidence that speak to it, while the second remains more of an open question. As with studies on hind limb loss, the combined approaches of embryology (studying the development of modern whales from fertilized eggs) and paleontology (looking for relatives of modern whales in the fossil record) provide some clues as to how these features came to be in modern whales.

From nostrils to blowhole, and other details

Numerous whale species in the fossil record support the notion that the nostril-to-blowhole transition arose slowly. Earlier whales in the fossil record have nostrils at the tip of their snouts, and several later species are known with nostrils progressively further back on the skull. Some of these species have been discussed here previously and provide some “snapshots” of the process over large spans of time.

In addition to these observations, embryology yields still more clues. During early embryogenesis, modern cetaceans look like a typical mammalian embryo: four limb buds (as we have discussed previously) with distinct digits visible, a tapering tail that extends past the anal opening (the characteristic mammalian “post-anal tail”), and two nares (the technical term for nostrils) on the front of the face. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to distinguish whale embryos from other mammals at this point, even humans, unless one knew about small differences to look for. Later in development, however, things are markedly more whale-like: the digits are no longer discernable in what are now clearly flippers, the tail is no longer slender and tapered but is developing projections that will become flukes, and the nostrils have migrated to the top of the head to form a blowhole. Fascinating images of cetacean developmental stages that illustrate these transitions in dolphins can be seen at the Digital Library of Dolphin Development and are well worth exploring. Taken together, paleontology and embryology provide independent lines of evidence that these features arose over time as gradual modifications to a more typical mammalian body plan.


Dolphin embryos show hindlimb buds in early stages of development.

Giving birth: from land to water?

One area of whale evolution that remains less well understood is the transition from birth on land (the ancestral state, since whale ancestors are terrestrial) to birth in the water. One key difference between cetaceans and land-dwelling mammals is giving birth tail first, instead of head first. The discovery of one early whale, Maicetus, has provided evidence that early amphibious whales retained land-based birthing, though this interpretation has be challenged by other experts in the field. The evidence comes from one fossil specimen that appears to have a near-term fetus positioned for head-first birth inside it. While the evidence is suggestive and intriguing, other interpretations have been put forward (such as the possibility that the second, smaller skeleton was actually a recent meal, and not a fetus). Future work, with additional specimens, will hopefully shed more light on this issue.

Et tu, Homo?

While these posts have used whale evolution as an example to illustrate the predictive power of evolution and the converging lines of evidence that support it, human evolution stands on an equally strong footing. From genome comparisons, to shared pseudogenes, to embryology (did you know you once had a post-anal tail, for example?) to the abundant fossil record of transitional forms that blur the distinctions between humans and other primates, these and other converging lines of evidence continue to support human evolution - and cause consternation for anti-evolutionary approaches.

The scope of the evidence and the challenge for Christian anti-evolutionism

As we have seen, the strength of evolution as a scientific theory does not rest in any one piece of evidence, but rather in the numerous pieces from multiple disciplines that fit together in a cohesive way, mutually reinforcing one another. One aspect of Christian anti-evolutionary materials that I find frustrating is that the broad sweep of evidence for evolution is avoided in favor of focusing in on specific, isolated details in an attempt to refute them individually. This approach fosters the misleading impression that evolution, as a theory, stands or falls on the interpretation of small experimental details. In reality, evolution as a theory is supported by a vast array of data from many independent fields, and any attempt to refute evolution will fail scientifically unless it addresses that vast array. As such, Christian anti-evolutionary approaches do not offer a significant scientific challenge to evolution. Rather, they merely create an impression of evolution that does not do justice to its true strength.

If Christian groups wish to supplant evolutionary theory with a different approach they feel is more consonant with their theistic convictions, the challenge is to offer an explanatory framework that is more useful to scientists than evolutionary theory. To date, all such models offer scientists less that is scientifically useful, not more. The reason Christian anti-evolutionary approaches are absent from the mainstream scientific literature is not because scientists are theologically or philosophically biased against them, but rather because they offer little in the way of useful tools for making accurate predictions about the natural world. Scientists are pragmatists, by and large: they go with what works. Evolution, as a theory, has worked, and worked exceptionally well, for over 150 years – a fact that even scholarly young-earth creationists concede. Any contender for its place as an explanatory framework in biology will have to work even better, while also accounting for everything evolution already explains so well. That’s a tall order for any model, and one that, to date, anti-evolutionary approaches have not come close to fulfilling.

In the next post in this series, we’ll turn our attention to one such anti-evolutionary argument - the Intelligent Design concept of irreducible complexity - and examine some recent evidence for how irreducibly complex structures arise through evolutionary processes.

For further reading:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maiacetus

Gingerich PD, ul-Haq M, von Koenigswald W, Sanders WJ, Smith BH, et al. (2009) New Protocetid Whale from the Middle Eocene of Pakistan: Birth on Land, Precocial Development, and Sexual Dimorphism. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4366. Available online.

The Digital Library of Dolphin Development

Bajpai S, Thewissen, JGM, and Sahni, A (2010) The origin and early evolution of whales: macroevolution documented on the Indian Subcontinent. J. Biosci 34 (5); 673 -686.


Dennis Venema is professor of biology at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia. He holds a B.Sc. (with Honors) from the University of British Columbia (1996), and received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia in 2003. His research is focused on the genetics of pattern formation and signaling using the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model organism. Dennis is a gifted thinker and writer on matters of science and faith, but also an award-winning biology teacher—he won the 2008 College Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers. He and his family enjoy numerous outdoor activities that the Canadian Pacific coast region has to offer. Dennis writes regularly for the BioLogos Forum about the biological evidence for evolution.

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GJDS - #68926

April 9th 2012

The difficulties stem from the generalised nature of proposals such as evolution, which speak to the entire planetary system, geological/astronomical events over billions of years and bio-chemistry of extremely complicated systems. Various disciplines may seek similarities and make observations that they derive a systematised understanding; the problem stems from the fact these are then not used as a basis for a scientific law, but instead, they turn to a mega-theory such as evolution to explain their observation.

Achieving a critique, an insightful analysis, of such a ‘proven theory’ and seeking to claim a proven scientific basis for such an exercise, is equally daunting. I think it unreasonable, however, to place the onus on disproving such a theory. Instead, science requires theory, speculation, and hypothesis, to be able to withstand criticism.

To start at the beginning, the origins of life. A review of the subject discusses speculation that borders on scientific absurdity; by this I mean a circular argument that states the premise is correct and put in data to show the premise must be correct. To quote, “..a new paradigm positing that the synthesis of organic building blocks and the emergence of life itself took place not in the “primordial soup” of the traditional hypotheses but in the vicinity of undersea hydrothermal vents, at high temperature and under extreme pressure.” In commenting on a theory of emergence, the writer also states, “According to this ambitious theory, the growth of organization and complexity in physical, chemical, biological, and social systems follows a general, though as-yet unknown, principle on a par with the universal laws of nature. Considering the origin of life as a quintessential process of emergence, Hazen suggests that uncovering “the missing law” should advance origin-of-life research.”Search for Life’s Beginnings, Review by Iris Fry, Science, 312, p 1140, (2006)”.

Selection and gradual mutations, or change, are heavily predicated on extremely complex biochemical mechanisms, and the work in the field of genetics and phenotypes. It is here that we are confronted with mega-astronomical statistics that cannot be handled by randomness, and we now have non-random events, onto which they superimpose a ‘random’ selective process. This again smacks of circularity. For systems which are so complexity, and in the absence of proven scientific laws that provide the needed insights, we simply cannot make definitive statements. Reduction or analysis to a simple system is negated by the nature of the systems studied. Space does not permit further discussion points, but I think sufficient uncertainty is presented to make any scientific proof for Darwinism questionable.

As a scientist practicing outside the bio-disciplines, my observation is that the clinging to the outmoded Darwinism may prove an impediment to progress in this area. I would be more inclined to a view that spouses deterministic ecological systems that do not require a mega-view of all things, requiring billions of years, and proof that ‘pops’ up every time difficulties are encountered with the theory. Instead a rigorous approach to understanding the aspects of our planetary system that are uniquely suited to sustaining life, would provide us with insights that would be testable and would thus be based on the tenets of the scientific method. After we have at least a working understanding of these matters, we may be in a position to speculate on events in the distant past.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #68943

April 11th 2012

GJDS wrote:

As a scientist practicing outside the bio-disciplines, my observation is that the clinging to the outmoded Darwinism may prove an impediment to progress in this area. I would be more inclined to a view that spouses deterministic ecological systems that do not require a mega-view of all things.

I think that I agree with you.  I would replace “deterministic” with “teleological ecological systems.”  Many might think that they are the same, but they are really not. 

As a non-biologist I wonder if you might be interested in a discussion about the differences between the scientific approaches of biology and physics that has begun in the forum about David Wilkinson and would care to comment in that forum. 

 

 

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Jeff - #68938

April 10th 2012

“The reason Christian anti-evolutionary approaches are absent from the mainstream scientific literature is not because scientists are theologically or philosophically biased against them, but rather because they offer little in the way of useful tools for making accurate predictions about the natural world.”

A couple of thoughts:

First, a major point in the author’s argument is that evolutionary theory is superior to anti-evolutionary theory because the former is more “useful” than the latter.  However, it seems to me from this article that predictons based upon evolutionary theory are only “useful” in the sense that they appear to provide further evidence for evolutionary theory itself.  Here is how it works: Evolutionary scientists look at an existing species, they make a prediction about this species on the basis of evolutionary theory, and when the prediction is proven accurate, then the scientists conclude: “See, evolution is real.  That was useful.”  I imagine I would not be far from the truth in suggesting that for every instance in which evolutionary theory makes an accurate prediction, there are numerous instances where predictions based on evolutionary theory prove to be erroneous, in which cases evolutionary theory is not helpful at all.  So this argument seems quite weak, if not a little misleading.

Contrary to the author’s claims about the usefulness of evolutionary theory, Dr. Marc Kirschner, Chair of the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, is quoted as saying, “In fact, over the last 100 years, almost all of biology has proceded independent of evolution, except evolutionary biology itself.  Molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, have not taken evolution into account at all.”  So much for the argument from usefulness.

Secondly, when this author states that theological and philosophical bias have nothing to do with the exclusion of anti-evolutionary approaches to science from mainstream journals, I am afraid that my worst fears about the BioLogos website are confirmed.  This is a degree of naivette bordering on absolute blindness, and any Christian who understands the influence of sin upon the minds and hearts of men cannot but be alarmed to hear this attempt to assure the Church that unregenerate scientists are really out there objectively trying to understand the world without any theological or philosophical bias against anti-evolutionary voices. 

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GJDS - #68954

April 11th 2012

I could not use the reply button so I am adding this comment.

 Roger A. Sawtelle wrote “ I would replace “deterministic” with “teleological ecological systems.” 

As I understand it, teleological deals with purpose and perhaps utility. By deterministic, I mean we start with a determined, or given, system, which is the planet, and in this way our observations and theories can be tested - the central feature would be the extreme complexity of ecological systems. It seems to me that the entire planet needs to be modelled as a unique system that supports life. However, I add that my field is chemistry, and thus I am inclined to view ecological systems as highly inter-related systems that defy the usual simplifications chemists may use. For example, we study the active centres of enzymes, then consider the secondary structures, and perhaps venture into tertiary interactions with the bio-system. This need to simplify causes us to loose information. With our increasing computer capabilities, scientists who study ecological systems may be able to consider ‘complete’ systems in their entire complexity. A daubting task, but a necessaary one, in view of the need to understand life processes.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #69308

April 14th 2012

GJDS wrote:

thus I am inclined to view ecological systems as highly inter-related systems that defy the usual simplifications chemists may use.

Thank you for your comment.  Please forgive the slowness of my response.

This is a point that needs to be made.  Ecology goes beyond the reductionism and simplication, which does have its place, practiced in more traditional scientific disciplines.  Thus Darwinist evolutionary biology gets bogged down in genetics and overlooks the dynamics of Natural Selection.

In my view teleology is needed to understand and analyze this complexity.  It is the difference between giving everyone a detailed list of instructions on how to win a ball game, and bringing a team together where each person knows the particular role to play or task to fulfill to win the game.  The difference between see the world as a group of unrelated atoms and seeing it as interrelated molecules, organisms, and systems of many kinds.  

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GJDS - #69309

April 14th 2012

Thanks for your response. In my view teleology is needed to understand and analyze this complexity.

 The discussion stimulates interest in broad matters for scientists but very often these become embroiled in matters that pertain to the Faith in Christ and of God. I feel I should make two points. Firstly I do not see such a conflict since I do not depend on science for my faith. In short, Paul in his epistles teaches us “but test everything; hold fast to what is good;” this also means what is demonstrated to be true, which includes science.

My comments stem from a view I have formed that Darwinism exceeds the limits of a hypothesis and its proponents make unreasonable claims. These include the way life has originated, amongst other matters. I do not doubt the sincerity of evolutionary biologists and I am inclined to think that they do not have a better working hypothesis, so they continue with the theory as the only choise they have (or they regard as the best available to them).

On seeking a purpose in a process that relies on random mutations, non-random selection, while acknowledging the interrelated aspects of the current ecology that we are beginning to comprehend on this planet, my response (practicing one of the exact sciences) is that this amounts to seeking laws (or fully testable theories, and by this I mean in a laboratory in which all variables are defined) for the complex phenomena we are discussing. In short, evolutionists are saying to me they have a theory without scientific laws. I know this is incorrect as I am sure they do not mean this. However, when claiming insights into neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and even theology, then it is reasonable that evolution be subjected to scrutiny that is beyond that of a working hypothesis. 

My suggestion of a deterministic ecology is a very general one, and only has merit in the sense that it seeks to understand what is now, in a totality that may equal the stance of evolution, while dealing with a system that can be fully explored according to the scientific method. A sound theory should be developed in this way, and then its applicability to events covering millions and billions of years considered a posteriori. Biologist and others would still make their sometimes fascinating insights, and if others feel these impacts are on other areas, including matters of faith, then the data can be made fully accessible and arguments tested. For example, the following quote from a work on evolution seems to me to make the point that fundamental tenets of Darwinism are questioned, but instead of seeking alternative theories, they modify the present one out of convenience rather than seeing opportunities for a new outlook, “The key to understanding the development of complex structures, they say, is seeing that body parts as seemingly different as eyes and elbows are formed from the same basic molecular mechanisms. Thus, ……. the metabolic building blocks of life functions can be rearranged and linked in novel ways with less chance of fatal variations than random mutation of DNA would allow. One piece of evidence they offer is the frequency of periods of “deep conservation” following evolutionary anatomical changes, where conventional theory would argue for continuous mutation and change.” Again, general arguments can be constructed against random mutations, but alternative theories are not put forward by those who work in this area. It is not so much for other disciplines in science to do this for biologists.

I trust this opinion intersts others such as yourself.

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melanogaster - #69325

April 16th 2012

“My comments stem from a view I have formed that Darwinism exceeds the limits of a hypothesis…”

I’m sorry, but this is word salad. The suffix “-ism” refers to an ideology, not a hypothesis. Moreover, there is so much evidence (you can’t even be bothered to address evidence, predictably) supporting Darwin’s hypotheses that they are now theories. So yes, it far exceeds the limits of a hypothesis, but not in the direction you are claiming.

“… and its proponents make unreasonable claims.”

Then you should separate the proponents from the theory—that is, if you have any understanding of scientific epistemology.

“These include the way life has originated, amongst other matters.”

Why don’t we contrast your understanding of the evidence supporting the RNA World hypothesis (almost, but not yet, a theory) with reality?

“…my response (practicing one of the exact sciences)…”

And which science might that be? And precisely what data do you produce that are more exact than DNA sequences, which I predict you’ll never address as the major evidentiary support for modern evolutionary theory?

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GJDS - #69328

April 16th 2012

Please let me begin by saying I am interested in a civilised discussion and not an agressive exchange.

My background is as a research chemist, PhD in organometallic chemistry and subsequent research includes studies of iron/ruthenium -porphyrins as models of heme, binding of various gases on the Ru centre of these complexes, catalytic activity, and more recently SE-QM and ab initio DFT computer molecular modelling of catalytic systems for coal gasification. My present interest include remdial measure to reduce emissions of Greenhouse gases.

My interest in evolution has been sporadic, starting from my student days (many years ago) and more recently motivated by public statements such as those of Dawkins and others on theology, ethics, and origins. My view has been that when I asked questions from advocates of Darwin’s theory, the answers have, to me, been unsatisfactory - this is particularly in the context of negating belief in God, or claiming that the origin of life theory or proposition has been proven, in the way I understand scientific proof. You may be aware that many theories in Chemistry were held with vigour in the past, but were then abandoned because chemists would vigorously question and test them. Even now, an interesting debate may grow if the question, “is there a molecular structure at the quantum level were to gather pace?” I do not see such questions as threatening, but rather stimulating.

Thus I do not offer scientific comments on anyones elese research - rather I read papers in such journals as as Nature and The Philosophy of Science, by evolutionists, who discuss such things as randomness, non-random selection, similiarity in biology, the abundance of fossils, emergence and the origins of life 3.5 billion years ago (based it seems of the ratio of carbon isotopes) and from these try to understand where proof may be found. From my perspective, I cannot see more then speculation. Obviously others may have a different view.

When I supperimpose these matters on notions put forward on bigger question by those who argue from an evolutionist persepctive, I conclude what they ascertain may be inadequate.

My suggestion as a non-evolutionist biologist has been ,“you chaps are bright. Why have you not come up with something better? Why not develop a model of the planet earth as an inter-related ecological system and when this has been sufficiently understood, begin to piece together the past based on a coherent and testable model of life processes.”

Again I state, this is in the context of asking the big questions. 

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melanogaster - #69337

April 17th 2012

“Please let me begin by saying I am interested in a civilised discussion and not an agressive exchange.”

Then I would suggest that you tone it down a lot. Discuss ideas and evidence, not -isms and proponents and what people SAY. Can you do so in a civilized manner?

“My background is as a research chemist…”

So please answer my straightforward, quite civilised question: precisely what data do YOU produce that are more exact than DNA sequences, which I predict you’ll never address as the major evidentiary support for modern evolutionary theory?

“My present interest include remdial measure to reduce emissions of Greenhouse gases.”

That’s nice. What data do you produce that are more exact than the most prevalent evidence supporting modern evolutionary theory?

“My interest in evolution has been sporadic, starting from my student days (many years ago) and more recently motivated by public statements such as those of Dawkins and others on theology, ethics, and origins.”

Sorry, but I don’t see a single mention of evidence there, so I don’t see anything to support your claim of interest in evolution.

“My view has been that when I asked questions from advocates of Darwin’s theory,…”

There you go again! You’re interested in a less-than-civilised debate, not evolution! Where’s your interest in the evidence?

“… the answers have, to me, been unsatisfactory…”

Then why not look for the evidence and examine it for yourself?

“You may be aware that many theories in Chemistry were held with vigour in the past, but were then abandoned because chemists would vigorously question and test them.”

No, my friend, none were ever abandoned because chemists vigorously or weakly questioned anything. They were only abandoned because real, civilised scientists produced real evidence from real empirical tests. Whatever happened to your uncivilised stipulation of all variables being defined, btw?

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melanogaster - #69338

April 17th 2012

“Even now, an interesting debate may grow if the question, “is there a molecular structure at the quantum level were to gather pace?” I do not see such questions as threatening, but rather stimulating.”

I see the pretense that science has more to do with debates than evidence as deeply dishonest and uncivilised.

“Thus I do not offer scientific comments on anyones elese research - rather I read papers in such journals as as Nature and The Philosophy of Science, by evolutionists, who discuss…”

They discuss? Don’t they present evidence in Nature? Why are you misrepresenting research, which produces hard evidence, as mere discussion?

“… such things as randomness, non-random selection, similiarity in biology, the abundance of fossils, emergence and the origins of life 3.5 billion years ago (based it seems of the ratio of carbon isotopes) and from these try to understand where proof may be found. From my perspective, I cannot see more then speculation.”

Obviously, that’s because you aren’t looking at the evidence! Why haven’t you mentioned the sequence evidence—terabytes of it?

“When I supperimpose these matters on notions put forward on bigger question by those who argue from an evolutionist persepctive, I conclude what they ascertain may be inadequate.”

Why are you going on about arguments and discussions while ignoring the evidence?

“My suggestion as a non-evolutionist biologist has been ,“you chaps are bright. Why have you not come up with something better?”

My suggestion to you is, “Why don’t you examine the evidence, particularly the sequence evidence? Even worse, why do you pretend that this evidence doesn’t even exist? Why will you pretend, if coerced into acknowledging its existence, that it represents nothing more than vague “similarity”?

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GJDS - #69339

April 17th 2012

I suppose your attitude must be addresses - when I see chemists become detectives who gather your evidence to progress the frontiers of our discipline I will take you “civilised” approach seriously. Since you have this unquestioned certainty and evidence that will convict anyone who questions your assumptions of this over-reaching theory, why not do the civilised thing and provide say a 100-200 word summary that would make your position unassailable and absolute?

Surely this is not unreasonable. You need to be reminded that you are providing this to the world as proponents of your certain position. My position is simply to ask questions if I am sufficiently interested. Perhaps you may wish that I drop everything else, because your theory is so earth shattering and all science will cease if some doubt various tennets; so we drop everything to go through your terabytes of evidence - but hubris is the only term that comes to mind.

For the record, I do not think that evolutionary theory is bogus - nor am I in a huff and puff over it. I have taken part in these types of discussions more because of public statement from people like Dawkins, who I feel is a disgrace to the sciences - not because he has an opinion to proclaim, but rather he, and it seems you, has taken upon yourselves the mantle of science for all sorts of things (e.g. The God delusion, science provides proofs against religion, and God only knows what else).

I will continue to work in my area and perhaps become bored fairly soon with discussions from evolutionists about beginnings, origins, what is good and true and how they are the source of all knowledge, evidence, proof, and so on. In any event, I wish you well and if your goal is to find more evidence, please be succesful at this.

I remind you that I would welcome your summary that would convince sceptics like me that you have proven with such certainty your theory of evolution.

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melanogaster - #69340

April 17th 2012

“I suppose your attitude must be addresses - when I see chemists become detectives who gather your evidence to progress the frontiers of our discipline I will take you “civilised” approach seriously.”

You’re not making any sense. We are discussing YOUR aggressive attitude, from which you pontificate about others allegedly failing to control conditions. My civilised request remains evaded: precisely what data do YOU produce that are more exact than DNA sequences, which I predict you’ll never address as the major evidentiary support for modern evolutionary theory?

“Since you have this unquestioned certainty and evidence that will convict anyone who questions your assumptions of this over-reaching theory, why not do the civilised thing and provide say a 100-200 word summary that would make your position unassailable and absolute?”

Because that would be silly. Evidence is what convinces, not rhetoric. That’s why you are scrupulously avoiding evidence. That’s why the IDcreationist movement is about rhetoric and about avoiding producing new evidence.

“Surely this is not unreasonable. You need to be reminded that you are providing this to the world as proponents of your certain position.”

I and thousands of other hardworking scientists provide evidence, which you ignore while arrogantly and petulantly demanding rhetoric instead.

“My position is simply to ask questions if I am sufficiently interested.”

False. You’re making claims and silly demands, not asking questions.

“Perhaps you may wish that I drop everything else, because your theory is so earth shattering and all science will cease if some doubt various tennets; so we drop everything to go through your terabytes of evidence…”

Wow. The distortions you employ here are fascinating. First, it’s not my theory. If you actually knew anything about modern evolutionary theory, you’d know that it’s really a set of theories. Second, my point is that you can’t even bring yourself to acknowledge the existence of the strongest evidence set, much less look at even a sample of it. Your attempt to portray this as a demand that you go through all of it is anything but civilised.

“I have taken part in these types of discussions more because of public statement from people like Dawkins,…”

My point is that you are not interested in evolution as you claimed to be. Your attempts to make this about Dawkins just confirm that!

“… who I feel is a disgrace to the sciences - not because he has an opinion to proclaim, but rather he, and it seems you, has taken upon yourselves the mantle of science for all sorts of things (e.g. The God delusion, science provides proofs against religion, and God only knows what else).”

Precisely how does it seem that I have done so? I am a Christian.

“I remind you that I would welcome your summary that would convince sceptics like me that you have proven with such certainty your theory of evolution.”

I remind you that this is a parlor trick designed to take attention from the evidence, where it belongs, to rhetoric.

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