Sunday, December 30, 2012

Questions Answered- Jacob Abdo asks "Hasn't Evolution been proven wrong?"

This "Questions Asked" is in response to a Jacob Abdo from Twitter. During our short conversation he made several criticisms of evolution and science which were clearly borne from ignorance of the topic in question i.e.-

This is the first of his revealing messages. That he thinks that men came from monkeys.

We didn't

Ok, well MOST of us didn't....

But then again neither did Monkeys!  We both have a common ancestor.  Huge difference.

Here's another;

This is just nonsense and the kind of thing that drives me crazy. If you are going to criticize something, then PLEASE have the courtesy and intellectual honesty to read up on the topic instead of just trying to find arguments against it.  There is nothing wrong with trying to falsify something. That is the highest form of science. But to start with a proposition (that evolution is wrong on divine grounds) and then seek things to confirm it is intellectually dishonest because you are not seeking truth, you are merely bolstering your argument with no concern for reality. You simply can't debunk something that you don't understand.

In this tweet he is seen conflating evolution with abiogenesis. Evolution explains the diversity of life, not it's origins. Although abiogenesis has demonstrated that life from non-life is possible and has a number of different hypothesis on the topic, there is no single accepted one. Not that it matters, as all that you need to do is demonstrate that it is possible.

In any case, I digress.  I am just making my first point which I hope that he will take to heart. Do not criticize science that you don't understand.  You lack the foundational knowledge to do so, and only come off looking like you have an agenda ... which is true. His agenda is to keep faith in his god and deny all science that seems to disagree.

(A point on this is that science doesn't care about god. It makes no comment on it at all.)

These are the tweets of contention.

I will first say that no one worships Darwin (or if they do, they are ridiculous) and further no one says that everything he said was right.

There were definitely points upon which he was wrong. He had no idea how the traits were passed on to the offspring. It has only been in the modern era that we have discovered DNA and understood more fully the passage of the allele. No one disputes that. So to say that Darwin has been proven wrong is partially (although only in the detail not the idea) correct.

Evolution, however, is still unfalsified.

That is because it is correct. It is accepted universally by natural scientists all over the world and on the basis of mountains of evidence.

I said this to him and he responded with a link to his source of information.

I hate answering to whole pages of information as answers to questions, but this is a reasonably civil and polite person and just seems to be working on a wealth of misinformation on the topic.  So, just this once ... I will answer to the best of my ability.

I am not going to post the whole narrative of the page, but I will address some of the clear and willful misrepresentations of the science by the author of this page.

Before I begin, I hold no animosity towards Jacob.  The author of this page though is a disgusting representative of his religion and of science. I say this because as I read his article I see common arguments and unscientific propaganda.  These are easily researched falsehoods. He has made zero effort to ensure that what he is saying is true.


That is disgusting in a forum of supposed scientific conversation and such people deserve no respect. They are manipulating the informational authority that real scientists have in order to bolster support for his ideas.  They are using scientific terminology in order to garner respect and support from the scientifically illiterate.


In any case ... on to the post.

I will address three main points:

First, that there is no fossil evidence to show slow and gradual change in species as they speciate;

Second, that the Cambrian Explosion is a major problem to the theory; and

Third, (and I can't believe that people still have to address this) irreducible complexity and Michael Behe.

Ok, here we go ...

"There is no fossil evidence to show gradual change in species to demonstrate speciation"

The first thing to understand here is that fossilization is an extremely rare event.  It is to be expected that we won't have a complete fossil record of every species at every stage of it's evolution from the beginning of time. That is an unreasonable thing to demand. What I am assuming is that this question is referring to  "transitional forms". The problem with looking for transitional forms is in definitions.

I call this the "Issue of ignorance" or the "Kirk Cameron Crocoduck Connundrum"
Very often what the under-educated (on the topic of evolution) are looking to see are animals that have half-formed parts.

Fish with legs, or birds with scales or things like our crocoduck friend here ...

I'm working on a powerful tail for swimming until next June, then WATCH OUT!
These amalgams of species simply don't exist, nor would we expect them to. In fact, if we ever discovered something like this, the theory of evolution would come into serious doubt.

Evolution happens in much much smaller stages, and the forms that scientists see as "transitional" are merely species in a time where we can most clearly see the step from one function to another. 
Put another way, a transitional fossil is any fossilized remains of a life form that exhibits traits common to both the ancestral group and it's derived descendant group.

The page he linked quotes Darwin as a method of falsifying his own theory;

"The number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, [must] be truly enormous. Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graded organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory."

The issue with using this quote is that they have no follow up.  Darwin explains (as they say in the article) that this is due to the imperfect fossil record and the rareness of the fossilization event. What they FAIL to mention is that not only does the fossil record begin to fill the gaps as the science matures, but transitional forms ARE found. 

The discovery of Archeopteryx was of particular importance (found in 1861, just two years after the aforementioned quote) because it seemed to confirm his theory. Archaeopteryx is a classic transitional form between birds and dinosaurs. Since then MANY transitional forms have been discovered and any question about the evidence in reference to "transitional forms" is made either out of an ignorant view of what transitional forms are and how evolution manifests, or out of an intellectually dishonest attempt to garner support from the scientifically illiterate/gullible.

The thing to note about these transitional fossils is that they always appear in order of sequence in the fossil record. If one ever appeared out of sequence, then that would be a major blow to the discipline but they never do.  

Not once.

This is what we would expect to see if evolution manifested as scientists say it is. If it were not happening like this, gradual change from one species to another (speciation) then we would expect to find overlap. That never happens. 

Without going into too much depth here I am pretty sure that we can lay that criticism to bed. 

On to the next point ...

"The Cambrian Explosion is a problem for the Theory of Evolution"

It is a sad state when arguments such as this still exist.  The last argument was born from a simple and easy misunderstanding of the science. This one is borne from a willful neglect to study it.

Science is wrong if I don't hear it!
Punctuated Equilibrium has explained the existence of the Cambrian Explosion and it's place in the story of evolution for almost 40 years now.

"it is as though they were just planted there, without any evolutionary history"-R Dawkins

 These claims are simply untrue. 

The most rudimentary research into the Cambrian Explosion reveals this so, once again, Mark Hartwig seems to be caught in what would appear to be a barefaced misrepresentation of the science.

So in reference to the point that there is no evolutionary history to these Cambrian fossils, this is partially true. There have been very few Pre-cambrian fossils but this is explained by two factors.

One:  Fossilization is, as we mentioned previously, a very rare event.

Two:  Pre-Cambrian species were invertebrates which would leave very little in the way of fossil record.

The mitigating truth here is that there are NO Pre-Cambrian transitional forms. There are a number of transitional forms found from the pre-Cambrian period and more are being discovered all the time.

Anomalocaris is one. It is the precursor to the arthropod family.

I don't think that there is any need to go further into something that has been known since the 1940's.

Time to catch up on your reading Mr. Hartwig.

Here is a link to a very short article on the Pre-Cambrian fossil record.

Now we get to the last, and most ridiculous of arguments ...

Irreducible Complexity

And gravity works with invisible strings tying everything down ...

This one is a problem of definitions and has been debunked time and time again. It is an argument that was first proposed by Micheal Behe, and was debunked about 3 minutes later.  It is actually a bit of a silly posit.

It is based on a false premise. Behe states that evolution is simply impossible because there are forms that could not have evolved because they are irreducibly complex. By which he means, the removal of any single part makes that form non-functional.

His basic misunderstanding of the science is explained here, but I will explain in shorter terms. \

Behe's posit is based on the false thinking that scientists claim evolution works by a gradual and step-wise addition of parts. It is culminated in the thought that any gradual evolutionary precursors to an irreducibly complex system would be non-functional.

There is one fatal flaw in his argument.

He thinks that evolution only works by adding "parts".  It can also work by subtracting or changing parts.

This completely debunks his claim that there are irreducibly complex forms.

Forms do NOT have to have the same function as they evolve and evolutionary precursors do not have to have common functions with current ones.

As organisms evolve, functions can change with the addition (or subtraction) of new parts. This changing function is where Behe falls flat. He feels that if the function wouldn't remain with the subtraction of a part, then the organism is irreducibly complex. (Not to mention that evolution manifests as small and gradual changes, and the addition of a whole part would be a large change. Invalidating his argument again.)

I'll give you an example of how evolution can work in ways that Behe would decree impossible (there are better examples in the link I provided, but I will use this one for simplicity).

This has been called the Mullerian Two Step and it goes like this:
1. Add a part
2. Make it necessary

First take a stone bridge. We'll call it the "Evolutionary Precursor Bridge";

Next, we'll add a stone and call it our "Transitional Bridge";

Then we'll take away the middle stone and call it the "Irreducibly Complex Bridge";

But is it really irreducibly complex?

Clearly not. The middle stone just became superfluous, so it was evolved out of the equation giving our bridge the appearance of irreducibly complexity.

So Jacob, there is your answer to the link of information that you sent.

If you actually read my article as you expected me to read yours (well, not REALLY yours as you didn't write it) then you will understand that your claims about evolution are false.

BUT don't be sad.  The truth of evolution has no bearing on your God or your religious belief. Evolution is an area of knowledge that makes no comment on God at all and has nothing to do with atheism.

So, Jacob, continue to believe if you want but try not to be ignorant of science in the process.

It only takes away from the validity of anything you say when you do and it makes you look like this guy


P.S. Next time you tweet a response, please don't send links. Otherwise I will just start sending encyclopedias in response. Use your own 140 words please.

*thanks to for the example graphics.

I got a response from Jacob this morning. It saddened me because it looked like he might actually interested in learning the science behind evolution. Sadly this is not true. While he promised to read it, and I felt that I had laid things out in terms that were easy to understand, this was his response.

Learning is hard!
This is sad.  I had actually taken the time to address the article he linked (and I really DO hate "link warriors") but I had hoped for more. His blog is all about technology so I guess that swayed me to think that he might be open to actual science.

OH! I can't forget to include this one.

It's just a theory, just like gravity, and umm, math...
"Only a Theory".... ugh....

If only he had sent THAT little willfully and nonsensically blind statement first, I might not have wasted my time...


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