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Posted by on Aug 26, 2013 in Book Review, Evolution, Science | 16 comments

Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 1 – Part 3

I’ve discovered that Meyer has conveniently divided his chapters into sub-headings, so I’ll be tackling one sub-heading per post.

This sub-heading is called The Cambrian Explosion and the Action of Natural Selection.  Once again, I hope this is a historical discussion, though there is evidence that it is not.  I am constantly amazed by creationists’ conflating Darwin with modern evolutionary theory.  Darwin was a smart guy, but Wallace was well on his way to figuring out the same principles.  Darwin didn’t know anything about DNA, molecular biology, activator genes, etc. etc. etc.

Meyer briefly mentions three of the major tenets of Darwinian evolution (and I”m using the term correctly): variations, heritability, and the struggle for survival.  Again though, this is Darwin’s ideas, not modern evolution, so any arguments made to disprove this are strawmen.  Only attacking modern evolutionary theory will work here… and no matter how much one says “Evolution is wrong”, it still doesn’t mean that creationism is right.  Only positive supporting evidence will do and there isn’t any.

Meyer again talks about macromutations and complains that only variations are within species.  He says,

Only minor variations meet the test of viability and heritability.

That’s a big claim.  And, Meyer refuses to support it.  But let’s talk about this a second.  What does this even mean?

What Meyer is saying, in a complex way, is really that in spite of the thousands of years of variation, dogs are still dogs, wheat is still wheat, and mosquitoes are still mosquitoes.  This is a classic creationist trope.  It was originally used to discredit evolution in support of Young Earth Creationism.

By saying that even over recorded history things couldn’t change, even when we tried, then there’s no way for organisms to change into new species, therefore, a young Earth is supported.

Yeah, it’s crummy logic, but at least it doesn’t have evidence either.

I want to show you something.  This is a visual clue of something that Dawkins has said.  Dawkins says (Greatest Show on Earth, 393 of 8279 on Kindle Edition)

Every individual along the chain [of ancestry] is as similar to its neighbors in the chain as mothers and daughters are expected to be.  And more similar to its neighbors in the chain, as I have also mentioned, than to typical members of the surrounding population.  [emphasis in original]

What Dawkins is saying is that evolution is about populations, not individuals.  Within a population, you can have much greater variation than would be expected between parent and child.  This is trivially easy to show.

Members of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program: National Institutes of Health http://cbmp.nichd.nih.gov/

Members of the Cell Biology and Metabolism Program: National Institutes of Health
http://cbmp.nichd.nih.gov/

Just comparing some basic physical characters, within this small group of people is a huge variation in morphology.  Of course, they are still humans.  That’s not the point of the picture.

The point is that within a population, there is much more variation between groups of individuals than between parent and offspring.  Here’s a discussion on the types of speciation and how this massive variation in population can easily result in a new species (or two or three).

Humans are a poor example to use for this.  Because of our technology, we can overcome physical and biological barriers to interbreeding.  In a way, we’ve supplanted evolution with technology, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Both Dawkins and Meyer agree that evolution is slow and that we wouldn’t expect to see new species (by this, I think that they both mean obviously new species with huge morphological differences) in a person’s lifetime or even in all of recorded history.

Meyer closes this section with a curious statement.

More significant changes to the form and anatomical structure of organisms would, by the logic of Darwin’s Mechanism, require untold millions of years, precisely what seemed unavailable in the case of the Cambrian explosion.

WTF?  Seriously?

The Cambrian time period lasted for well over 60 million years.  Before 580 million years ago, single-celled organism were almost all that existed.  Over the following 70-80 million years, the rate of evolution increased by an order of magnitude (note that this is in dispute and some sources say that the evolution rate was comparable to most of the rest of the rest of the time periods of the Earth).

All present phyla seemed to have appeared within the first 20 million years.  Although, this again is an active area of research and many papers suggest that the modern phyla were present well before this time frame.

Regardless of all the caveats and current research and all that stuff, Meyer is saying that “millions of years” are “unavailable in the case of the Cambrian explosion”.

So, 20-70 million years isn’t the “millions of years” that Meyer thinks are needed here.  What does ‘millions of years’ mean in this case?

I’d like to add at this paper (2006) suggests that the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was between 4 and 6.3 million years ago.  There are a variety of ranges, but these seem to be the most current and used the largest amount of molecular data to generate the date range.

So, the diversification of humans and chimpanzees happened in (perhaps) 1/10th the length of the Cambrian explosion.  I would submit that the evolution of intelligence (something the dinosaurs didn’t do over a hundred million years) was just a great a change as the development of hard shells.

Whales and dolphins went from purely terrestrial mammals to purely ocean dwelling in less than 50 million years.

So, I’m honestly not sure what Meyer’s complaint is here.  Peer-reviewed research shows that massive variation in species (and larger groups) can happen in way less than 50 million years.  Meyer seems to agree, but then says that 50 million years isn’t enough time.

Finally, I’d like to point out the purely arbitrary nature of taxonomy.  I’ve talked about this before, but the whole Linnean system is purely made up.  What is a phylum?  A phylum is a group of organisms that all share a particular character.  That’s all that it is.  Would anyone say that the first organism with that new character should be a new phylum?  No, that’s silly.

But, over time, because that character was so successful (for example, existence of a notocord), it came to have well over 100,000 species within it.  In other words, saying that new phylum appeared in the past is useless without knowing how those various phyla appear now.  And no one can predict what phyla have appeared in the last few years… we won’t know until millions of years down the line when that character is in thousands of species.

Meyer continues to make claims without evidence and without understanding what evolution really is and how it really works.

UPDATE: corrected for plural issues with my Latin and for a slightly better flow.

  • djlactin

    “phyla”/”phylum”

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Yes. Thank you. Edited.

  • Ant

    Wow, I’ve read two posts from this person and already I’ve realized this guy is incapable of realizing Meyer’s argument because his belief in evolution has clouded his ability to consider alternative hypotheses.

    Let’s look at this quote: “The Cambrian time period lasted for well over 60 million years. Before 580 million years ago, single-celled organism were almost all that existed. Over the following 70-80 million years, the rate of evolution increased by an order of magnitude”. It must be nice to assume that without any evidence to support your evolution-based argument. He uses his belief in evolution to support his argument for evolution. It’s circular logic and a clear lapse in logic.

    Also consider “Whales and dolphins went from purely terrestrial mammals to purely ocean dwelling in less than 50 million years.” Once again, no evidence, at least in any form beyond the belief of the the blogger.

    Also: “So, I’m honestly not sure what Meyer’s complaint is here. Peer-reviewed research shows that massive variation in species (and larger groups) can happen in way less than 50 million years.” Thanks for the references… or not.

    In the first post in his discussion about beneficial mutations he invoked the evolutionist’s best friend, the sickle-cell anemia “adaptation”. Yes it’s bad for you, but it prevents malaria! I feel really sorry for people who hold to such tenuous arguments, it shows just how lost they are and incapable of rational thought.

    I’m not got to read any more of this guy’s posts, he’s lost. Oh, and by the way, using “WTF” won’t help your credibility, unless you want to look more like a 12-year old who needs to use such exclamations to make himself feel better.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      I’m sorry, so instead of actually engaging in argument, you just say that I didn’t spoon feed you information that is so common, a 5-second google search will find reams of it. Fair enough, Meyer didn’t seem to do the research either.

      Tell you want, Ant. If you come back, I will provide the links… again. Or you could just search within my blog site here for those links.

      But, if you are so unwilling to educate yourself on basic facts, then you might as well stay away. We wouldn’t any of those pesky facts to interfere with your belief in mythology.

      • Ant

        Trust me, I’ve looked for that kind of information. Sadly, as Meyer’s book does such a good job of demonstrating, it doesn’t exist. Evidence of macro-evolution does not exist in the fossil record or in any other form, and most scientists agree on this.

        That’s actually what “Darwin’s Doubt” is: he was aware of the fact that there weren’t sufficient fossils to demonstrate descent from more primitive life forms. Thus, he doubted his own theory. The fact remains to this day, the fossil record does not provide any evidence for speciation or macro-evolution, and there is every reason to believe that it never will.

        • SmilodonsRetreat

          It’s a darn good thing we don’t depend exclusively on the fossil record isn’t it?

          • Ant

            Ya because if you did you would have nothing to depend on.

            Sadly, again, Meyers points out there are plenty of other reasons to doubt the various incarnations of the theory of evolution.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            No, there aren’t. Claims without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

            Evolution works. If you deny that, then you deny reality. If you don’t deny it, then the denial of things like common ancestry is hypocritical.

          • Ant

            You say that claims without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence, but then right after that you turn around and say evolution works while neglecting the same lack of evidence that exists for it.

            I find it strange, if evolution is true then one wouldn’t expect it to be a problem to find at least SOME transitional fossils in the record, at least some more recent ones. But NONE have been found and definitively proven as transitional fossils. Doubt indeed.

            Beyond the lack of transitional fossils, there ARE definitely other reasons to doubt the theory of evolution, despite your emphatic claim that there aren’t.

            Meyers does a great job of laying out the reasons, if he can’t convince you I know I can’t, so I’m not going to try.

            I hope you can see that you only “believe” that evolution works, evolution is by no means a proven theory. Now when I say evolution I mean speciation, not something like lizards growing slightly longer legs or a beetle species growing a slightly longer proboscis over a couple generations. Now if the beetle turned into a spider… that would be more convincing.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Then you don’t understand what a transitional fossil is. But that’s not surprising if you are a creationist.

            If you consider Meyer to be a good scientist, then you support sloppy research and ignoring evidence that you don’t agree with.

            Speciation has been observed in the wild and in the lab. You are wrong.

          • Ant

            Ok, enlighten me. Honestly I would love to know what these fossils are, and this supposed evidence of speciation in the wild and in the lab.

            Any links I can look at? Truthfully I’m curious to know what you have seen. I’ve looked at pretty much everything at talkorigins.org and talkdesign.org, so don’t bother with those.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Then there’s not much point in talking further with you.

            I mean, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html THe speciation FAQ

            Some more observed instances of speciation: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html

            For more consider the following:

            A Molecular Reexamination Of Diploid Hybrid Speciation Of
            Solanum raphanifolium by David M. Spooner, Kenneth. J. Sytsma and
            James F. Smith, Evolution, 45(3): 757-764 -
            DOCUMENTATION OF AN OBSERVED SPECIATION EVENT

            Chromosome Evolution, Phylogeny, And Speciation Of Rock Wallabies,
            by G. B. Sharman, R. L. Close and G. M. Maynes, Australian Journal
            of Zoology, 37(2-4): 351-363 (1991) – DOCUMENTATION OF
            OBSERVED SPECIATION IN NATURE

            Evidence For Rapid Speciation Following A Founder Event In The
            Laboratory by James R. Weinberg Victoria R. Starczak and Danielle
            Jörg, Evolution 46: 1214-1220 (15th January 1992) -
            EXPERIMENTAL GENERATION OF A SPECIATION EVENT IN THE
            LABORATORY

            Evolutionary Theory And Process Of Active
            Speciation And Adaptive Radiation In Subterranean Mole Rats, Spalax
            ehrenbergi Superspecies, In Israel by E. Nevo, Evolutionary
            Biology, 25: 1-125 – DOCUMENTATION OF OBSERVED
            SPECIATION IN NATURE

            Pollen-Mediated Introgression And Hybrid Speciation In
            Louisiana Irises by Michael L. Arnold, Cindy M. Buckner and
            Jonathan J. Robinson, Proceedings of the National Academy of
            Sciences of the USA, 88(4): 1398-1402 (February 1991) -
            OBSERVATION OF A SPECIATION EVENT IN NATURE

            Speciation By Hybridisation In Heliconius Butterflies by
            Jesús Mavárez, Camilo A. Salazar, Eldredge Bermingham, Christian
            Salcedo, Chris D. Jiggins and Mauricio Linares, Nature, 441:
            868-871 (15th June 2006) – DETERMINATION OF A SPECIATION EVENT IN NATURE, FOLLOWED BY LABOARTORY REPRODUCTION OF THAT SPECIATION EVENT, AND CONFIRMATION THAT THE LABORATORY INDIVIDUALS ARE INTERFERTILE WITH THE WILD TYPE INDIVIDUALS

            And that’s just a sampling of papers from my own files. Note the dates on these.. some are in the 1990s.

            Anyone who tells you that speciation doesn’t happen in the wild or in the lab is lying to you.

          • Ant

            I did some research on the first two articles you mentioned and I’m not going to go any further.

            Every time I ask for some evidence of speciation all I’m shown is some hybridization experiments on plants, which is far from what I would really like to see before I consider it evidence of evolution.

            The wallaby piece was a joke. They didn’t observe evolution in a lab or in the wild, they just assumed that some different wallabies had evolved in the past, which is what biologists have been doing without evidence since Darwin.

            Nice try though.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Nice to know that you aren’t interested in doing your own research or actually learning about the subjects you ask about.

            When I said, “What are examples of specition?”, I did some research. I typed that into google and then checked all the links for peer-reviewed papers. I read them, those that I could get access to, some are older and not even on the internet yet.

            I didn’t just read two or three and say, “Oh well, my position is supported/notsupported.”

            Let me explain this clearly. I can’t teach you. I can provide information. It’s up to you to learn.

            As fr as the rock wallabies, you might want to read it again. Your statement that “The reproductive capacity of laboratory bred hybrids was assessed in relation to their chromosomal heterozygosity.”

            Do you know what a species is? Do you know what it takes for a new one to form? Are you aware that hybridization in plants often results in a new species that is incapable of breeding with previous species (both in the wild and in the lab).

            What it sounds like you want is a cat giving birth to a pokemon. Which is clearly not a requirement of evolution.

          • Ant

            And how many times do I have to say that this information is in no way evidence of evolution. Knowledge of hybridization was strong millennia before Darwin came along. This difference is Darwin tried to explain not how a Wallaby could produce a different Wallaby, but rather how a terrestrial land animal similar to a rat could for instance, evolve into a whale.

            When you hybridization something you produce something that is more or less a combination of two preexisting species. Evolution is supposed to explain how a butterfly can evolve into a bird, not how butterflies can give birth to slightly different butterflies. And there is no evidence of this MACROEVOLUTION, I don’t care how many articles you show me about hybridization experiments with flowers or fruit flies.

            And going back to the wallabies, do you see the part that says “All were chromosomally distinct except for Petrogale xanthopus and P. x. celeris, and all taxa appear to have evolved from an ancestor with a karyotype like that of Thylogale billardierii.” Notice the word APPEAR. They simply assumed it based on the prior assumption of the truth of evolution and then tried to fit some square pegs into some circular holes. This is how all evolutionary theory works, its based on a false assumption and whenever they find something that won’t fit, they MAKE it fit, even when it can’t.

          • Ant

            Ok, enlighten me. I would love to see this evidence of transitional fossils and speciation in the wild and in the lab.

            Any links I can look at? And I’ve already seen everything at talkorigins if you are thinking of that.

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