Monday, February 13, 2012

Everybody Loves A Fake War

Be it a war on terror, a war on Xmas, a war on videogames, many people, Americans especially, seem to love them a fake war. So when I had my creationism video spammed by a creationsit yet again I was not surprised to see that one of the many creationist articles Mogley52 asked me to read was one entitled WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! 

I think I know where this is going, but let’s go ahead and take a look shall we? This might be fun!

Slight disclaimer: although this “article” mostly deals with evolution, it also contains digression into abiogenesis, cosmology and the like. I will have another post for other topics, but for the sake of clarity I will be focusing on this guy’s gripe with the mechanisms of evolution.

There is a war among evolutionists. Most evolutionists are Neo-Darwinian, believing in gradual change from one form of life to another, but a good growing minority of evolutionists believe in Punctuated Equilibrium which teaches life forms changed suddenly from one form into another through massive random genetic mutations caused by massive radiation.

But of course, we’re talking about the “war” between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. For the sake of brevity I will keep this part short, but for a more in depth understanding of the non-issue do read that infamous gradualist’s book Climbing Mount Improbable. All I will say on the subject is that this “war” really is not being waged. Every reasonable scientist understands both mechanisms and no one is exclusively in one camp or the other, it’s just a matter of which occurred more frequently and why. Either way the evolutionary process of random mutation and non-random selection remains undisputed, it’s just a matter of how quickly it certain events came about and how long a species went without evolving.

Imagine a fish with part fins, part feet with fins evolving into feet. What survival benefit would there be? The fish couldn't use its fins or its feet, and there are no fossils showing such a creature existed. They only exist on automobile bumper stickers!

Automobile stickers aside, there are plenty of fossils that demonstrate this elegant transition from fins to the tetrapod leg, and I will be happy to explain.

First of all, we are not looking at fish that magically jumped out of a pond and started to walk on the bare land. We are looking at a boggy environment; one where the distinction between where the land ends and the water begins is not so well defined as the edge of a swimming pool. This indistinct boundary gave several different niches, and not just the two of “water” and “land”.

The most watery niche would have been happily populated by swimming vertebrate fish, let’s call them species A. However, getting closer to the shore, there was a niche that was more murky, more shallow, and probably containing more debris from the vegetation that grew closer to the land. The original species A  would not have been able to inhabit this niche, there being too much crap in their way to swim properly, but a fish with slightly sturdier limbs would have been more adept at moving around the murkiness and pushing itself around the debris. Why would it want to? How is this advantageous? Well, perhaps this area is a great place to hide from predators, if their predators were also free-swimming creatures that would have had a difficult time getting around in the shallows. Maybe there’s a whole bunch of food that the animal likes to eat caught in these shallows, food that other weaker-finned individuals can’t get to. Either of these would give these animals with stronger fins a selective advantage over ones without, therefore natural selection could begin its work selecting for that trait.
Some time passes and now this murky niche is well populated with these sturdier-finned fish, now called species B. Getting closer to the shore, there is yet another niche just waiting to be populated, one with even more shallow water and larger debris, rocks and other such inconveniences. This new niche is still too hard to manage for our species B, but fish with even sturdier limbs could get around it, propping themselves up over the rocks and crap in order to slither past the large debris and into more protected pools with more food. This would again be advantageous, and natural selection would select for such a trait. We now have something that can be called a “half-fin half-leg” in our species C, because while it is still not strong enough to support the weight of the animal on dry land, it is still much more of a leg than the fin we started out from, being able to at least propel the animal over stones and wood in the water.
We have now arrived at the edge of the water. Guess how much food and protection being able to leave it would give! We now have all the makings of a good limb, it having gotten stronger and sturdier over evolutionary time, it just needs a bit more support. This new species of animal probably still reproduced and lived in the water, but it was able to make brief expeditions onto the land, much like modern amphibians do today.
What is the discussion between gradualism and punctuated equilibrium here? It has more to do with how quickly these events came about, how constant the rate of evolutionary change was over time. It does not have anything to do with the mechanism itself that I have described, which has evidence to support it. Not the least of which are transitional fossils:

Evolution is possible only if there’s information (genes) directing it. Only variations of already existing genes are possible, which means only limited evolution and adaptations are possible. Nature has no ability to invent new genes via random mutations caused by random environmental forces.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence that random genetic mutations caused by unthinking environmental forces such as radiation can or will produce entirely new genes for entirely new traits. Mutations only produce more variations of already existing genes. For example, mutations in the gene(s) for human hair may change the gene(s) so that another type of human hair develops, but it'll still be human hair!

Well that really depends on what you mean by “invent” and “new” now doesn’t it!

Genetic duplications happen often for a varitey of different reasons. Sometimes an error in the copying mechanism of DNA causes large chunks of it to be copied twice, and in these chunks of duplicated DNA there can be a gene that actually has a function caught inside. Now the organism has more copies of a gene than it needs to make an adequate amount of protein needed for its survival, so a mutation in this copied gene that might have been fatal to the organism can in fact happen in this duplicated gene with no harm done, seeing as the animal still has enough of the original protein to survive. This allows for more mutations in this gene to be passed on, since the animals containing them are not adversely affected and therefore can reproduce as well as the next guy. Occasionally, these mutations can cause the gene to create a different protein, one that folds in a different way and therefore can have a different function, and this new protein can give the animal that has it a selective advantage. One great example of this happening is seen in the Lenski experiments. Another is seen with the evolution in the lab of bacteria being able to digest nylon. When this happens, the mutated gene in question is referred to as a “new” gene, because it codes for a new protein that has a new function. As you can see, it is very possible indeed.

Because mutations are accidents in the genetic code caused by random environmental forces they're almost always harmful. They damage the genetic code similar to how the random energy from an earthquake damages a building. Even if a good mutation occurred for every good one there would be hundreds of harmful ones with the net effect, over time, being deleterious to the species, even causing extinction. Even "neutral" mutations will become harmful when enough of them accumulate and are passed on. Mutations may also trigger the duplication of already existing traits.

Actually, they’re almost always neutral, but even if they were almost always harmful this argument still makes no sense.

Let’s say that for every hundred mutations 99 are harmful and 1 is beneficial. Let’s say that mutations like these occur in 1 out of 10 animals. If you have a population of 1000 animals, 100 of them will have mutations. That means that 99 of those will die, and 1 will have a trait that is selected for by natural selection. Well, what the hell is the problem here?! You still have 901 animals around to mate and have babies, the ones born from the parent with the advantageous gene will be more likely to have more babies in the future, evolution by random mutation and natural selection happens. Random mutations are just that, random. The individuals that have the beneficial ones are not constrained by the ones that have harmful ones, they are free to evolve and mutate independantly of one another.

What about "Junk" DNA? The latest science shows that "Junk DNA" isn't junk after all! It's we who were ignorant of how useful these segments of DNA really are. Recent scientific research published in scientific journals such as Nature has revealed that the "non-coding" segments of DNA are useful, even essential, in regulating gene expression (how, when, and where in the body genes are expressed) and various intracellular activities. Just because these segments don't code for protein doesn't mean they're not useful or that they don't code for something else.

Gee, I wonder why he didn’t give us the reference to that revealing Nature article? Oh that’s right, because it doesn’t exist. I think he’s vaguely referring to recent discoveries in microRNAs and the like, but that doesn’t mean that there our genomes are still not largely composed of junk DNA. It just means that they have discovered a function for another teeny tiny percentage of our genome.

Many people have wrong ideas of how evolution is supposed to work. Physical traits and characteristics are determined and passed on by genes - not by what happens to our body parts, as Darwin believed. For example, if a woman were to lose her finger this wouldn't affect how many fingers her baby will have. Changing the color and texture of your hair will not affect the color and texture of your children's hair.

No asshole. The father of the Inheritence of Aquired Characteristics was Lamarck, not Darwin, and his hypothesis has been refuted as false since the 1800s. Catch up.

At this point he does gripe on about human evolution, but seeing as he links to another article where he supposedly talks about that in more detail, I’ll skip it here in order to approach it exclusively in another post.

Just a few more words from our friend before concluding this ever-growing response:

A true transitional form wouldn't survive. It would be unfit for survival. Remember the example of the fish with part fins, part feet? Natural selection would have eliminated any such forms of life, if ever they even got to that point!

Well yes, I do remember explaining how well those transitional forms got on! So let’s continue:

DO EYES CARRY SCARS OF EVOLUTION? Read this fantastic Internet article by biologist and creationist Brian Thomas. Thomas refutes every argument of a "flawed" design for the eye, and explains how and why the so-called flaw is actually the best thing for the eye.

Sorry, quoting a creationist’s internet dribble is not the same as giving a scientific source for your argument. But hell, if we’re allowed to link to people talking on the internet as opposed to hard scientific papers, I’ll let NonStampCollector explain the "scars of evolution" the human eye posesses.

He then goes on to whine about how real famous scientists wont talk to him. None of it is relevant to the topic at hand, but this little lie and argument from authority still stuck out:

Einstein didn't believe in a personal God like Christians do, but he did believe science pointed to the existence of an all powerful and intelligent Creator!

HA! Bullshit! Besides, even if it was true, so the fuck what? There were very intelligent people once upon a time that believed that the Earth was flat, but that doesn’t make it any more true today than it did back then, regardless of how smart or famous the person that believed it happened to be.

Let’s conclude now shall we?

I have given lectures defending scientific creationism before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. At the end, I opened up for comments, questions, rebuttals. Very few of the evolutionist science faculty criticized what I had to say, and, when they did, I successfully answered them.

OK, I may not be part of the faculty at my university (yet?) but I’ve answered you. I’d like to hear your “successful reply”.

Until then, I’ll take a look at the other articles he quoted on my video, try to put them in some kind of rational order by topic and rebut in the most concise and clear way I can. If anything I said was too concise and you would like further explanations please feel free to comment and ask me to elaborate.


  1. Internet Rule #1 - don't feed the trolls.

    The arguments you refuted are on a par with the statement "my grandfather wasn't a monkey, and therefore, Evolution didn't happen."

    Ignore him, and he'll go away.

    1. I didn't ignore him and he still went away, because he had absolutely zero argument.

      While he was definitely a troll, for every troll like him there are 100 genuine creationists who believe these arguments because they have been done the injustice of being raised in ignorance, bad science and misinformation. When I respond to these trolls my response is for those curious third parties out there, not for the person I'm responding to.