Saturday, August 13, 2011

The dishonesty of an evolution fan.

I recently had an exchange with an evolution fan that highlights some serious problems with evolution.  First the idiot asked the question “So do you think evolution occurs?” I responded with a comment saying that his question was overly broad and he needed to get more specific if I was going to answer the question.

My point was that evolution is a very broad subject with some parts that are very well established and other parts are pure speculation.  His question is a kin to a theist question of “Do you believe in what the bible says?”  It was an obvious attempt to paint me as one of those evil creationists and a video he made after the exchange confirmed my suspicion.

First he attempted to send me a video he had made where he tried to lay out ground rules for talking about evolution.  In the video he made claims that evolution is an absolute certainty and it was unacceptable to even suggest that the theory was wrong.  Then he started demanding that any challenge to evolution had to be made with an alternative explanation that was supported by evidence.

I tried to point out to him that I was not claiming anything.  I was just pointing out that some parts of modern evolutionary thinking are well established and others have no supporting evidence what so ever.  Needless to say, he was not very happy with that response.  For him it was a simple black or white question and no shade of gray was acceptable.

When he asked what parts of evolution I disagreed with, I listed a few of the most common objections.  For example, classifying fossils by their morphology is many times claimed to be evidence of evolution.  I tried to point out that for evolution to be valid there would have to be a demonstrated genetic relationship between the fossils and that once the fossils get old enough, you don’t have any genetic material to compare.

He even admitted that we cannot get genetic information from the older fossils.  But that didn’t stop him from asserting that they where still evolutionarily related.  When I pushed him to show how two different species with similar body shapes had to be evolutionarily related he continued to fall back on “Well they have similar morphology”.

As I pushed him with the difference between an ancestral relationship and a simple classification relationship he began to go off the deep end.  Obviously I was trying to get him to demonstrate that there was a genetic relationship between the fossils he claimed where related and he couldn’t do it because he had already admitted that there was no genetic material to compare.

This gets at a big flaw in evolution theory.  The assumption that similar body shapes must mean there is some kind of genetic relationship.  While this may be an assumption that is stronger than most claims, it is by no means an absolute certainty.

If two species developed in the same environment and used similar strategies to move around and collect food, it only makes sense that they would develop similar body shapes.  While it may be possible for them to be genetically related, that is by no means a certainty.  Assuming the genetic relationship when it has not been demonstrated with a comparison of the genetic material is intellectual dishonesty at best.

As I pushed him to show the parent/child relationships that supported his claim that the species where genetically related he began to claim that ancestral relationships where irrelevant and the shape of the fossils was all that mattered.  He claimed that we are not talking about parent/child relationships we are talking about a comparison of species.  So how does evolution work without reproduction?

So he was trying to assert that offspring from one species was not relevant to an evolutionary relationship with another species.  Of course he never proposed any mechanism by which the evolutionary relationship could be accomplished without the genetic relationship.  But I guess he thinks the rocks on a bottom of a fast flowing stream are evolutionarily related because they have similar shapes.

The point here is that the genetic relationship required for evolution to be correct has never been demonstrated with fossils of any significant age.  Making the assumption that the genetic relationship is present when no comparisons have been made is the worst kind of scientific fraud that can be created.  We call it fabricating evidence.

If he would simply admit he has no genetic evidence of the relationship between the species he claims are evolutionarily related there wouldn’t be a problem other than his claim of the certainty of evolution.

Besides his assertion that evolution was a certainty, when it clearly is not, he claimed that any objection to evolution must be backed up with evidence.  Never once did I make a claim that would require any evidence to support it.  All I was saying is that the evidence used to support evolution was not sufficient to justify a claim of certainty.

This is no different than a claim that the evidence used to support the teachings in the bible is not sufficient to support the existence of a god.  His response was very similar to a typical fundamentalist theist’s demand that an opponent must produce evidence that a god doesn’t exist.

When I brought up the reality that the vast majority of the population does not accept evolution, he started to claim science is not a democracy.  But still he claimed that there was a consensus in the scientific community that evolution was correct.

So how is that any different from a theist claiming there is consensus in the theist community that god exists?  If it’s not a democracy than the number of scientists that agree with the position is simply not relevant.

His excuse for his claim was that just because the general population doesn’t understand evolution doesn’t make it wrong.  However I was not claiming it was wrong. I was claiming was that all of it is not supported by the evidence. Once again, how is this any different than theists claiming that just because most people don’t understand the bible doesn’t make the bible is wrong?

Simply put, he seems to be having an identity problem.  I was stating that the evidence does not support evolution.  In other words, I don’t find the evidence convincing enough for me to accept all of evolution.  He on the other hand is saying that yes the evidence is sufficient.  So tell me how is his assessment of the evidence in any way relevant to my assessment of the evidence?

He believes evolution is supported by the evidence.  I don’t believe it is supported by the evidence.  We have a simple disagreement about what to believe.  I am asking for him to present evidence that will convince me and he even admits he cannot provide the evidence I am asking for.

So this all boils down to him asserting I am wrong and that I am claiming evolution is not correct when all I am doing is saying the theory is not convincing.  Doesn’t his position sound an awful lot like a fundamentalist theist position that demands you believe the same way they do?

He is abandoning all pretenses that his position is based on evidence and raising it to the level of what can only be described as a religion.  He is demanding that I accept his religion and claiming that because I don’t I am wrong.  He does this while claiming he follows the scientific method that only accepts ideas that are supported with evidence.  Yet he admits he has no evidence to support a particular aspect of his position.

In effect, he is throwing a temper tantrum because somebody didn’t agree with the stupidity that he pushing.  In all actuality is he really pissed because his argument is so weak and he as invested a great deal of his self worth into the assertion that his position is correct.

He claimed he has no vested interest in the correctness of his position yet he is willing to go to great lengths to show I am wrong.  The old saying is “I think he protests too much”.  My question is “Why does he feel such a need to show I am wrong simply because I disagree with him?”

To me it looks like he is engaging in a high school level say the right things to be in the cool crowd type of behavior. The actual correctness of what he is saying is no longer relevant.  If it pleases the crowd he wants to be popular with, it’s correct and if not, it must be wrong.

His final act was to block me so I could not post responses to his comments.  I guess I just do too much damage to his self esteem.

8 comments:

  1. I am by no means trying to get in an argument with you, but I am curious that when you say you don't believe "all of evolution". What parts do you believe and why are some aspects of evolution believable and some are not? To me evolution is one all-encompassing process that works off itself and the evolution of one species is related to the evolution of all others.

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    1. Primarily the extrapolation of the common ancestor theory to claim that ALL life is related in genetic relationships. A more realistic idea is that life formed many times in many places meaning that all life forms are not related through evolution. This would make for a forest of life and not a tree of life. Given different unrelated species evolving in a similar environment it's not that far out that they would evolve to have to have common shapes meaning homology studies that claim they are generically related are simply speculation.

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  2. As an amateur evolutionist, I am overall impressed by the thought you've put into the matter, and in many places I agree with you, but it's a topic that fascinates me and I think I can answer some of your questions better than your friend could. I'm sorry about the wall of text; I suck at being brief (this is part 1.) I also hope I'm not being too vocab-heavy or too slow. It's hard to tell.

    A central point in your argument was that fossil evidence is not enough to describe lineage, because morphologies can converge if two organisms have a similar lifestyle (niche.) This is true to striking extremes: take a look at the sugar glider of Australia (a marsupial) and the flying squirrel of North America (a rodent.) There are, similarly, examples of convergent evolution documented by the fossil records (although the vast majority of organisms do not fossilize, so it's understandable that we don't have as perfect an example as the squirrel/sugar glider.)

    When a researcher found a one-hoofed, quadruped, herbivore fossil in South America, he was excited to have found the ancestor of the horse. Based on evidence from current plate tectonics and various geological structures (I'm no geologist, so I can't specify) we know that South America was its own island at the time of the evolution of the Litoptern, so its descendants were isolated from the other continents. After all, the horse and its cousins (zebra, donkey...) are the only one-hoofed animals around. However, additional fossil evidence has shown that this fossil, now called a litoptern, is actually only distantly related to the true ancestors of horses, kalobatippus. The single hoof (in both cases derived from the middle finger) is an analogous structure; both arrived at it independently. We can follow the evolution of true horses as it happened, more or less at the same time, in North America.

    Let's stick with horses: yes, we have an example of convergent evolution leading to "false ancestors," but how do we know that? Well, we have a LOT of fossils. If we find similar fossils in about the same area dating from around the same time, it's reasonable to assume that they are related. In fact, to a certain extent, it's more likely than the opposite. Like with the sugar glider and the flying squirrel, animals evolve similar morphology because of they occupy a particular niche, or way of life. Two animals in the same niche rarely coexist for long because they compete so directly, and animals don't evolve into a niche that is already filled--there simply isn't a selective push in that direction. So yes, it's possible that in the space of, say, five million years, a ready-made four-legged single-hoofed grazing mammal popped up and took over from the previous horse-like grazer, but then where are its transitional fossils? How did it gain the strength to usurp the previous grazers? Where did it find the time, and how did it do so without leaving a trace? Surely it's more likely that the two are related.

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    1. You seem to be missing a very important point. The question is not one of evolution in each of the various trees of life within a forest of trees of life. The question is about the supposed connection of the roots of those trees.

      There is a big difference between all life forms being related to some other life forms and being related to ALL other life forms.

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  3. Part 2... Oh, me. Sorry.

    So if we continue in that way, chaining up toward the present through fossils that are sometimes plentiful, sometimes scarce, certainly not discovered in order but, once put together, likely to be related, we can follow a single lineage quite a ways. Of course, we need fossil evidence for that kind of dating. Fossil-making conditions are rare, but a million years is a really long time, and we aren't hoping for specimens of every species. After all, this lineage is a messy tree of species going extinct, species changing into others, incomplete skeletons that are very hard to place... but we don't need every ancestor of the horse and every cousin to that ancestor (those cousins who, for the most part, went extinct.) We just need enough that it's more likely that the next fossil is related to this one than that it's something entirely different. The more fossils we have, the more certain we are that they are related to the previous ones and to the next ones, although maybe not directly.

    Had we found another horse-like fossil from the same time period wandering around Africa, we would have to consider yet another species other than litopterna and kalobatippus which might be a potential horse ancestor. But we haven't. Instead, we have these gradually more horselike fossils, spreading through North America to South America and Eurasia; becoming extinct in the Americas (we can assume, since we find no more fossils of that kind,) and changing, but not untraceably, from their American ancestors. So we find horses, zebras, asses, and various extinct species all throughout the Old World, each with a traceable path to their American roots.

    Equines are fairly new, though, so how do we know for older species? Well, often, we don't. And often, when looking at records of older species, scientists acknowledge that. Fossils become fewer as we go farther back in time, so it's much harder to tell. Therefore we don't know independent lineages so well, we find it harder to put dates on things, etc. We just know that at some point, the only mammals were small and rodent-like, so they must be our ancestors. And at some point, there were giant insects, much larger than those of today. We know that there was a time before flowering plants, but we don't know which of those species led to our modern angiosperms. Fossils are great for the most recent history, but they do fail us pretty quickly.

    Instead, we use genetics. It's hard to date things using genes because various DNA segments evolve at different rates; we're still working on that. Fossils, with the grace of layers and radioactive dating, make it a lot easier to put dates on things, but they are harder to link together, especially since so many are incomplete. Genetics fills the gap. We can look at select ubiquitous genes in various mammals, let's say, and assume that those which have the most similar genes, on average, are more closely related. Through this method we find consistently that horses are closer to zebras than they are to camels (but isn't that obvious?) We also find, less obviously but just as consistently, that humans are closer to rabbits than we are to Labradors.

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    1. First of all you don't have any DNA from any species more than a few hundred thousands years ago. DNA is not physically able to survive for very long on geologic time scales.

      In addition the fact there are common genes in lots of species only shows that those genes are useful. The more common they are across more species only means they where more useful especially at earlier stages of development.

      You are spending all your effort trying to explain later periods of geologic time and avoiding any talk about earlier periods.

      The laws of chemistry and physics would tend to cause similarities in the sequences of DNA base pairs just as it would similarities in morphology. You are speculating those similarities are caused by genetic reproduction.

      While substrantually similar full genomes of two species does tend to indicate common ancestory, as the percentage of common full genome drops, so does the likelyhood of common ancestry.

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  4. and part 3:
    Charles Darwin did not know about the origin of life, and admitted as much. We also don't know much, but we do know more. Evolution's founding father didn't know if life was "breathed into many forms or into one," but neither did he know about DNA, proteins, or indeed even Mendelian genetics, although the last was contemporary. Nevertheless, we are now fairly certain that life only had one source. True, the further back we go, it becomes gradually harder and harder to find a link between, say, eagles and shiitake mushrooms. But this is a gradual slope. If life had evolved more than once, there should reach a certain point--say, between animals and fungi--where suddenly there are no consistent similarities in genotype. If, continuing this example, fungi evolved independently from animals, and so did plants, then fungi should show no more similarities to animals than they do to plants (and, perhaps because of morphological similarities, actually lean towards plants.) Yet genetics show that fungi are indeed closer to animals--by the same method that found that zebras are more like horses than they are like camels.

    Ultimately, no matter the differences in chromosomes, proteins, or size, all life shares, more or less, the same genetic code--nucleic acids--and the same method of carrying out instructions--proteins. There is no intrinsic reason for this convergence that would make life, independently started, head in that direction. DNA, for example, is composed of a phosphate, a sugar (deoxyribose) and a base, all repeated millions of times. Only the base carries information; the rest provides structure and could be anything else at all. In fact, the bases themselves could very easily be completely different. Yet they aren't. In all life forms we find the same five bases: cytosine, guanine, thymine, and adenine (which is sometimes replaced by uracil--but even within a single organism, including yourself!) Proteins are similarly convergent in all bacteria, archaea and eukarya (us).

    Finally--no, science is not a democracy, and honestly, neither is theology. God is real or he isn't; if it turns out that Yahweh is the true God, but everyone suddenly becomes Hindu, Yahweh is still real. Likewise, evolution is true regardless of how many people believe it. However, the fact that many scientists ascribe to it is quite telling because scientists actively try to disprove things, whether or not they can. If someone ends up proving evolution, or genetics, or even the smallest part of either, wrong, then he or she is a great scientist. But we can't prove things right, just "fail to prove them wrong while pointing out how hard [we] tried" (Richard Dawkins.) Scientific consensus on a scientific matter isn't final, but it's telling, just like theological or spiritual consensus is telling. Yes, if you ask theists, they will tell you God is real, but that's like surveying women and asking them their gender; it's inherent. But if you ask them which God, will they be so united?

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    1. You have absolutely no evidence life only started once. That is an assumption based on accepting the theory of evolution.

      An equally likely scenario is life started many times in few million year period early in geologic time. After 100's of million years of separate evolution in an environment as consistent as what we find on the earth, we find lots of similarities.

      Stating gradeschool descriptions of DNA doesn't support your position. There are plenty of reasons a common mechanism for making proteins would always work the same way.

      By the same argument as yours, because so many theists believe in a god, that would make god more likely than not. The fact science would change it's mind if new evidence is presented is no different that how religious groups would react if new evidence was presented about a god's existence.

      But just like religious group, evolution fans thrive on the lack of evidence they are wrong. They seem to ignore the lack of evidence showing they are correct.

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