Saturday, November 26, 2016

There have been a few days (OK many days) I have spent on newspaper, or magazine on-line discussions. I have focused on creationist bullshit as we might expect. I have not posted blog notes of these various discussions as they are largely repetitive. I was particularly irritated this morning by a comment about “refuting evolution” by a nitwit creationist following a post on RawStory. His comment and my replies follow.

Ahh, the silliness of the evolutionists is still alive and well, I see. For those (apparently few) readers who are interested in learning why the idea of evolution (descent with modifications from some common ancestor) is total nonsense, I offer the following:
1. There has never been one experiment during which investigators turned non-life into life. Therefore, the Law of Biogenesis (life comes from life) has never been proven wrong. So any assumption that sometime in the past "life evolved from non-life by natural means" is just an assumption.

2. There has never been one experiment during which investigators changed single-celled life into multi-cellular life. So any assumption that sometime in the past "multi-cellular life evolved from single-celled life by natural means" is, again, just an assumption.

3. A careful look at each of the so-called "mechanisms of evolution" will show that not one of them individually can change one type of organism into another type of organism, nor can any collection of them, working together, change one type of organism into another type of organism - with the needed additional genetic information and new body plans. So any assumption that "these mechanisms at some time in the past have changed one type of organism into another type of organism" is, again, just an assumption.

4. The ability of an organism to change is limited by the information in its gene pool, so change has limits. Therefore, any assumption that sometime in the past "a population of organism A has evolved by natural means into a population of organism B, a different type of organism", is, again, just an assumption.

5. Over time and in natural situations, organisms in a population mate and reproduce offspring that revert to the mean and are stronger the closer they are to the mean set of traits of the population. Offspring with sets of traits that are further away from the mean, and thus are closer to the edge, of the population are weaker. (Good examples come from canines.) So instead of having what evolution requires - organisms getting stronger as they approach the edge of their gene pool, really strong organisms ready to be pushed through their genetic boundary by really strong mechanisms, which together will magically create new genetic material and body plans so as to turn these "old" organisms into "new and different" organisms - what we really have are strong organisms near the center of their gene pools that resist being pushed to their gene pool boundaries, weak organisms near the gene pool boundaries, mechanisms that (a) simply cannot push organisms over their gene pool boundary and (b) cannot give the "old" organisms the new genetic material and new body plans, which actions are required to turn the "old" organisms into "new and different" organisms. So assumptions that all this has happened sometime in the past by natural means are, again, only assumptions.
6. The scientific conclusion that evolution simply cannot happen and therefore has not happened. Any assumption that evolution actually has happened goes against this evidence and therefore is anti-science.

7. As this evidence shows evolution to be NOT POSSIBLE, unless this evidence can be refuted - REFUTED - then any "evidence" purporting to show that evolution has occurred has simply been misinterpreted.
Anti-science assumptions and faulty interpretations are weak reeds indeed upon which to base a comprehensive scientific theory about origins. And the unshakeable blind faith in this nonsense which is displayed by the evolutionist zealots is nothing short of amazing.

Regarding point #1
Charles Darwin noted (29 Mar 1863) to American botanist Joseph Hooker, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter."

We do of course study both of these topics today. The origin of life, "abiogenesis" has taken on two different paths; the study of how life originated here, and the study of synthetic life.

For general readers on abiogenesis I suggest

Deamer, David W.
2011 “First Life: Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began” University of California Press

For synthetic life, see the technical literature starting with;

‘Minimal’ cell raises stakes in race to harness synthetic life"

Then work back with particular attention to the work by Prof. Jack Szostak of Harvard University.

Regarding point #2
"Experimental evolution of multicellularity"
William C. Ratcliff, R. Ford Denison, Mark Borrello, and Michael Travisano
January 31, 2012, vol. 109 no. 5
From the Abstract:
"Multicellularity was one of the most significant innovations in the history of life, but its initial evolution remains poorly understood. Using experimental evolution, we show that key steps in this transition could have occurred quickly. We subjected the unicellular yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to an environment in which we expected multicellularity to be adaptive. We observed the rapid evolution of clustering genotypes that display a novel multicellular life history characterized by reproduction via multicellular propagules, a juvenile phase, and determinate growth. The multicellular clusters are uniclonal, minimizing within-cluster genetic conflicts of interest. Simple among-cell division of labor rapidly evolved. Early multicellular strains were composed of physiologically similar cells, but these subsequently evolved higher rates of programmed cell death (apoptosis), an adaptation that increases propagule production. These results show that key aspects of multicellular complexity, a subject of central importance to biology, can readily evolve from unicellular eukaryotes."

Regarding point #3,

This creationist word salad by Mr. McCabe is basically meaningless. The most limited version of Darwin’s fundamental insight is that evolution proceeds by “Decent with modification acted on by natural selection.” Darwin himself was utterly ignorant of genetics, and his notion of hereditary “distributed gemmules” was totally wrong. This has of course been remedied today.

The only clue as to what Mr. McCabe might be looking for is “… change one type of organism into another type of organism - with the needed additional genetic information and new body plans.”

Of course we do have that evidence. We have reconstructed the evolution of many “body plans” and organs from direct genetic studies, and by paleontology. These data are mutually coherent and independent. See;

Ivan R Schwab
2011 “Evolution's Witness: How Eyes Evolved”  Oxford University Press

Teaford, Mark F., Moya Meredith Smith, and Mark W.J. Ferguson
2000/2006 “Development, Function and Evolution of Teeth” Cambridge University Press

Hands and fingers;
Shubin, Neal
2008 “Your Inner Fish” New York: Pantheon Books

(For a taste of the technical literature)
Boisvert, C. A., Mark-Kurik, E., & Ahlberg, P. E. (2008). The pectoral fin of Panderichthys and the origin of digits. Nature, 456(7222), 636-638.

Regarding point #4;

This is another example of an ignorant man pretending knowledge. There was a key development in evolutionary theory that took place in the 1930s. It was the realization that individuals do not evolve; they live or die, they reproduce or not. Alternately called the “Neo-Darwinian synthesis,” or preferably, “population genetics,” this joined together genetics and evolutionary theory. It is populations that evolve, not individuals.

While it is true that there is a range of expression even within individuals, it is the larger population variations that matter in evolution. Let me give an example. If an individual had genes for running very fast they might be “superior” if running fast was an advantage. But, if that individual were to have a crippling disease their “advantage” will be inferior to another individual with a genetic resistance to crippling diseases. Since both gene groups are hypothetically present they will eventually be found together. We also know that there are “lateral” transfer of genes across species by hybridization, and directly by retroviral insertions.

Mr. McCabe seems ignorant of how genes evolve within a population. The most common example is simple duplication of a gene. This allowed the greater production of a gene product with zero risk of function loss. We know that not only single genes but chromosomes and even entire genomes have undergone duplication. There was a new advantage for duplication. This created “free” genes that could mutate randomly which generated new gene products, and sequences. This is a power natural tool to increase genetic information. We also know now that there is a powerful class of genes which act to control the regulation of other genes. The homeodomain, homobox, or Hox genes control the structural expression of all the other genes. Even slight mutation in these DNA sequences can have profound effects. For a general reader’s introduction to these topics, see;

Coyne, Jerry A.
2009 “Why Evolution is True” New York: Viking Press

Carroll, Sean B.
2006 “The Making of the Fittest” New York: Norton

Regarding point #5
What Mr. McCabe is poorly trying to describe is “regression to the mean” (and canines are a terrible example). This idea was first proposed by Francis Galton in 1886, "Regression towards mediocrity in hereditary stature," Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 15 : 246–263.

For this to be applied as a counter argument to population genetics, McCabe must be absolutely certain that there can be no environmental change on geological time scales. He must also prevent any population/species from ever migrating from one sort of environment to another. He must always demand that all-and-any members of a species have exactly equal chances to reproduce with any other.

These are the necessary assumptions for Mr. McCabe. Unfortunately for him we already know they are all false.

Species distributed across a landscape easily form isolated subpopulations which take different evolutionary paths. We know this by direct observation in nature. This sort of evolution is “allopatric speciation.” There is also a selection advantage to use the same habitats as a parent species, but in different ways. This is known from direct observation, and we call this “sympatric speciation.” “Peripatric speciation,” also known as “founder effect” is the result of small populations becoming isolated either by migration, or disaster.

Unfortunately for Mr. McCabe we know all of these events have happened, and are happening by direct observation in nature, and experimentally.

Regarding pseudo-points #6&7;

These are not evidence based claims. They are delusions. They are not “amazing” they are sad and dangerous. They are the sort of non-thinking that is blocking scientific research politically, and preventing urgent environmental and medical research. People like Mr. McCabe are contributing to the deaths of millions of people.

But we can at least refute claim #6 with direct observation of new species evolving in nature, in at-large population experiments, and in small scale laboratory experiments. Published examples are over a century old. This also points out the futility of trying to educate religious fanatics. The published evolutionary evidence of new species emerging from their parent populations is over a century old. The delusional creationism of Mr. McCabe is current.

“I have collected some examples of speciation that are handy to have available when a creationist claims there are none….”