Saturday, January 15, 2011

Evolution just the facts Pt. 1

So this is going to be a long post, I figure I need to make up for not posting for a few days. For those who don't know I injured my knee and I know that shouldn't keep me from updating my blog, but it really hurts, and when you are in pain it's hard to think straight.

I looked through Conservapedia... which is nothing but a good source of stuff to debunk, and I thought I would peruse through their article on evolution. I think that I may have stated this already, but I am an anthropology student, and human evolution is one of the cornerstones of that discipline, so I am fairly well versed, though not as well versed in all the topics listed in the article, but I am going to take a stab at it, and look up anything that I do not understand, you know, like an honest person. So without further ado here is Conservapedia on evolution.

Article here

The theory of evolution is a naturalistic theory of the history of life on earth (this refers to the theory of evolution which employs methodological naturalism and is taught in schools and universities). Merriam-Webster's dictionary gives the following definition of evolution: "a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations..." Currently, there are several theories of evolution.

- I don't have a big problem so far, except that there is one theory of evolution which has been added to over time. It started as a way to explain the diversity of life on Earth, and Darwin suggested two mechanisms to drive it. Survival of the fittest, meaning that species that are best adapted to their environment will survive in that environment better than those who are not, and Sexual selection, meaning that when animals mate females are the driving force for certain traits by selecting mates with desirable traits, the best example of this is the peacock's feathers. Since Darwin penned the Origin of Species we have learned a lot about genetics and now understand things like genetic bottle necks and have witnessed speciation in both the lab and in nature.

Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists. In 2007, "Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture...announced that over 700 scientists from around the world have now signed a statement expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution."

 - Two points here: 1. the most vocal are not all atheists, many people accept evolution, including the Pope, and many of them recognize the natural laws and say "God did it." I have no problem with people believing in God guided evolution, though to me it makes us sound a bit like a science experiment, but to each their own. 2. The list, the infamous list... that list is fraudulent. Most of the signers do not have any training in biology, and to see how this list has been debunked see this video.

A 2005 poll by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Social and Religious Research found that 60% of American medical doctors reject Darwinism, stating that they do not believe man evolved through natural processes alone. Thirty-eight percent of the American medical doctors polled agreed with the statement that "Humans evolved naturally with no supernatural involvement." The study also reported that 1/3 of all medical doctors favor the theory of intelligent design over evolution. In 2010, the Gallup organization reported that 40% of Americans believe in young earth creationism. In January 2006, the BBC reported concerning Britain:

"Just under half of Britons accept the theory of evolution as the best description for the development of life, according to an opinion poll. Furthermore, more than 40% of those questioned believe that creationism or intelligent design (ID) should be taught in school science lessons."

- Again a few points to mention. 1. There is no such thing as Darwinism, just like there is no such thing as Newtonianism or Enstinism, so it is no surprise that so many doctors reject it. As for the statement that man did not evolve from natural processes alone... well I hope I'm never treated by one of those doctors, and surprise surprise this poll was completed by the Discovery Institute (for those of you who do not know the Discovery Institute is a think tank for Intelligent Design Creationism), and when trying to view the actual poll results I got a 404 message. Though information from Panda's Thumb, another Creationist website, cites opposite information that 63% of doctors accept evolution link here. You know it's bad when the creationists can't even agree on the numbers... 2. Just because more people believe it doesn't mean that it's true. If 40% of people believed the moon was made of cheese it doesn't make it true... polls are useful in determining what is popular, but not what is true. What this is is a appeal to the majority fallacy see definition here.

The theory of evolution posits a process of transformation from simple life forms to more complex life forms,
which has never been observed or duplicated in a laboratory. Although not a creation scientist, Swedish geneticist Dr. Nils Heribert-Nilsson, Professor of Botany at the University of Lund in Sweden, stated: "My attempts to demonstrate Evolution by an experiment carried on for more than 40 years have completely failed. At least, I should hardly be accused of having started from a preconceived antievolutionary standpoint."

- 1. It has been observed in a lab and in nature, see the much criticized work with fruit flies and even the study of embryos which shows the progression of the embryo with vestigial organs and limbs. It also doesn't say simple to more complex, sometimes simple is better suited to the environment, and more complex organisms die off. Perhaps they are talking about the progression from single celled organisms to multicellular organisms, however, again some multicellular organisms will die off while the single celled organisms thrive. As for the quote there, the actual quote is dated from 1953, and there is nothing to indicate what type of experiment he was working on, and what the results were see here for more information.

The fossil record is often used as evidence in the creation versus evolution controversy. The fossil record does not support the theory of evolution and is one of the flaws in the theory of evolution. In 1981, there were at least a hundred million fossils that were catalogued and identified in the world's museums. Despite the aforementioned large number of fossils available to scientists in 1981, evolutionist Mark Ridley, who currently serves as a professor of zoology at Oxford University, was forced to confess: "In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favour of the theory of evolution as opposed to special creation." The fossil record will be discussed in greater detail in regards to why the fossil record does not support the theory of evolution and why the fossil record is counter evidence to the evolutionary position.

- Finally we get to the fossil record. I like the fossil record and find it very interesting, and what they are saying is wrong. The fossil record absolutely supports the theory of evolution, but since they are going to wait to discuss the fossil record in detail, so will I. Now, this quote from Mark Ridley has been quote mined (taken out of context), here is the whole quote:
"In any case, no real evolutionist, whether gradualist or punctuationist, uses the fossil record as evidence in favor of evolution as opposed to special creation. The does not mean that the theory of evolution is unproven.

So what is the evidence that species have evolved? There have traditionally been three kinds of evidence, and it is these, not the "fossil evidence", that the critics should be thinking about. The three arguments are from the observed evolution of species, from biogeography, and from the hierarchical structure of taxonomy.'

These three are the clearest arguments for the mutability of species. Other defences of the theory of evolution could be made, not the least of which is the absence of a coherent alternative. Darwin's theory is also uniquely able to account for both the presence of design, and the absence of design (vestigial organs), in nature"

In addition to the evolutionary position lacking evidential support and being counterevidence, the great intellectuals in history such as Archimedes, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and Lord Kelvin did not propose an evolutionary process for a species to transform into a more complex version. Even after the theory of evolution was proposed and promoted heavily in England and Germany, most leading scientists were against the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution was published by naturalist Charles Darwin in his book On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, in 1859. In a letter to Asa Gray, Darwin confided: "...I am quite conscious that my speculations run quite beyond the bounds of true science." Prior to publishing the book, Darwin wrote in his private notebooks that he was a materialist, which is a type of atheist.(see: religious views of Charles Darwin) Charles Darwin’s casual mentioning of a ‘creator’ in earlier editions of The Origin of Species appears to have been a merely a ploy to downplay the implications of his materialistic theory. The amount of credit Darwin actually deserves for the theory is disputed. Darwin's theory attempted to explain the origin of the various kinds of plants and animals via the process of natural selection or "survival of the fittest". 

- Now we get to the next logical fallacy used by Conservapedia, which is the argument from authority which has the same problems as the appeal to the majority, just because someone in authority says it, doesn't mean that it is true. Now lets look at some of the other problems, Archimedes, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton all died before The Origin of Species was written, in some cases by centuries, and would not have had any knowledge of evolutionary theory and biology was not well understood in most cases. Lord Kalvin was well known for his academic dishonesty and anything stated by him should not be taken too seriously see here. As for Darwin's religious beliefs, they are irrelevant to the theory, many people who proved that the Earth was round, not flat, were Christian... so that argument is bunk. 2. More quote mining, in the letter Darwin expressed that there were not enough lines of evidence to clearly display his theory, in Darwin's time there were still many missing links in the fossil record and little understanding of genetics, so Darwin was concerned that with so little information and ways to test his theory it might be outside the bounds of science. The last few sentences don't offer anything substantive, other than yeah, Darwin wasn't the only person to come up with the theory, but was the first to publish it, and yes the Origin of Species does discuss the variation seen within plants and animals.

The basic principle behind natural selection is that in the struggle for life some organisms in a given population will be better suited to their particular environment and thus have a reproductive advantage which increases the representation of their particular traits over time. Many years before Charles Darwin, there were several other individuals who published articles on the topic of natural selection. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was a naturalist who supported the theory of evolution. Lamarck's theory of evolution asserted that evolution occurs because organisms are able to inherit traits acquired by their ancestors which is an idea rejected by the current scientific community.

- Lamarck's theory doesn't really say that... his theory is that the giraffe has a long neck because it stretched it's neck to reach the tree tops, and the offspring of that giraffe kept stretching theirs. It is that idea which has been rejected by scientists. It states that acquired characteristics can be passed on, like my father is a skilled carpenter, therefore I should be as well.

Darwin did not first propose in his book Origin of Species that man had descended from non-human ancestors. Darwin's theory of evolution incorporated that later in Darwin's book entitled Descent of Man.

- This is true, but the implications for human evolution were not lost on the readers of The Origin of Species.

As far as the history of the theory of evolution, although Darwin is well known when it comes to the early advocacy of the evolutionary position in the Western world, evolutionary ideas were taught by the ancient Greeks as early as the 7th century B.C. The concept of naturalistic evolution differs from the concept of theistic evolution in that it states God does not guide the posited process of macroevolution.

 - Ok where to begin? Conservapedia doesn't offer any evidence that the ancient Greeks had any concept of evolution, in fact they believed that the fossils found of giant animals were the creatures from myth. 2. I have never heard of naturalistic evolution or theistic evolution... and as stated earlier I have no problem with the concept of God guided evolution, and nor do many scientists.

Theory of Evolution - Mutations and the Life Sciences in General 

Evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote concerning the theory of evolution: "The process of mutation is the only known source of the new materials of genetic variability, and hence of evolution." In regards to the various theories of evolution, most evolutionists believe that the processes of mutation, genetic drift and natural selection created every species of life that we see on earth today after life first came about on earth although there is little consensus on how this process is allegedly to have occurred.  

-  No real problems with this statement, except that there really is only one theory of evolution which employs many processes. There are several theories about how life came about, and this is true, and there is some consensus on how it happened... but abiogenisis is not my strength.

 Pierre-Paul Grassé, who served as Chair of evolutionary biology at Sorbonne University for thirty years and was ex-president of the French Academy of Sciences, stated the following: "Some contemporary biologists, as soon as they observe a mutation, talk about evolution. They are implicitly supporting the following syllogism: mutations are the only evolutionary variations, all living beings undergo mutations, therefore all living beings evolve....No matter how numerous they may be, mutations do not produce any kind of evolution." Grassé pointed out that bacteria which are the subject of study of many geneticists and molecular biologists are organisms which produce the most mutants. Grasse then points that bacteria are considered to have "stabilized a billion years ago!".  

- Uh not exactly. Mutation is one way evolution occurs, but not the only way. If the mutation is favorable it will be passed down. Take for instance, oh I don't know TB, which has become more antibiotic resistant through mutation... which btw also supports the idea that bacteria have not stabilized a billion years ago.

Grassé regards the "unceasing mutations" to be "merely hereditary fluctuations around a median position; a swing to the right, a swing to the left, but no final evolutionary effect." In addition, Harvard biologist Ernst Mayr wrote: "It must be admitted, however, that it is a considerable strain on one’s credulity to assume that finely balanced systems such as certain sense organs (the eye of vertebrates, or the bird’s feather) could be improved by random mutations."

- Wrong... how about the random mutation which was created during the Plague and now makes people resistant, if not immune to AIDS? Granted that does not make a large difference in physiology, but what about the mutations in fruit flies which create spots on the wings? Granted mutations are not the only factor in evolution, but it is a factor.

Creation scientists believe that mutations, natural selection, and genetic drift would not cause macroevolution. Furthermore, creation scientists assert that the life sciences as a whole support the creation model and do not support the theory of evolution. Homology involves the theory that macroevolutionary relationships can be demonstrated by the similarity in the anatomy and physiology of different organisms. An example of a homology argument is that DNA similarities between human and other living organisms is evidence for the theory of evolution. Creation scientists provide sound reasons why the homology argument is not a valid argument. Both evolutionary scientists and young earth creation scientists believe that speciation occurs, however, young earth creation scientists state that speciation generally occurs at a much faster rate than evolutionist believe is the case.

- Yes "creation scientists" believe that, but they are putting huge limits on evolution by making a statement like that, when the case is that the only difference between micro and macro evolution is time. And yes they are right about homology, which points to a common ancestor. Conservapedia states the "creation scientists" have sound reasons... but haven't presented any. and yes young earth creationists state the same thing, but believe it all happened since the mythical flood... please don't lump us in the same category.

Critics of the theory of evolution state that many of today's proponents of the evolutionary position have diluted the meaning of the term "evolution" to the point where it defined as or the definition includes change over time in the gene pool of a population over time through such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati states the following in relation to the diluted definition of the word "evolution":
...many evolutionary propagandists are guilty of the deceitful practice of equivocation, that is, switching the meaning of a single word (evolution) part way through an argument. A common tactic, ‘bait-and-switch,’ is simply to produce examples of change over time, call this ‘evolution,’ then imply that the GTE [General Theory of Evolution] is thereby proven or even essential, and creation disproved. The PBS Evolution series and the Scientific American article are full of examples of this fallacy

- That is what evolution means... it is change over time through processes of mutation, natural selection and genetic drift to name a few. Which is similar to the definition that you provide... for shame Conservapedia.

Biological diversity - evolution contrasted with biblical creation science

Creation scientist Dr. Jonathan Sarfati wrote:
... In contrast, creationists, starting from the Bible, believe that God created different kinds of organisms, which reproduced ‘after their kinds’ (Gen. 1:11–12, 21, 24–25). Each of these kinds was created with a vast amount of information. There was enough variety in the information in the original creatures so their descendants could adapt to a wide variety of environments.

- except that there is no evidence of this in the fossil record, and that all the genetic evidence points to a single common ancestor for all life on Earth. Not to mention that these people never define how they are using the word "information".

All (sexually reproducing) organisms contain their genetic information in paired form. Each offspring inherits half its genetic information from its mother, and half from its father. So there are two genes at a given position (locus, plural loci) coding for a particular characteristic. An organism can be heterozygous at a given locus, meaning it carries different forms (alleles) of this gene... So there is no problem for creationists explaining that the original created kinds could each give rise to many different varieties. In fact, the original created kinds would have had much more heterozygosity than their modern, more specialized descendants. No wonder Ayala pointed out that most of the variation in populations arises from reshuffling of previously existing genes, not from mutations. Many varieties can arise simply by two previously hidden recessive alleles coming together. However, Ayala believes the genetic information came ultimately from mutations, not creation. His belief is contrary to information theory, as shown in chapter 9 on ‘Design’ .

- Well they never define "kind" properly which is very problematic when debating with a creationist. Again they are picking and choosing, evolution happens because of mutation, natural selection, genetic drift etc. Not just descent, or mate preference... there is more to it then what they seem to think and by trying to narrow their focus they are shooting themselves in the foot.

Evolution - Implications of Genetic Code and Processing of Biological Information 

Creation scientists and intelligent design advocates state the genetic code (DNA code), genetic programs, and biological information argue for an intelligent cause in regards the origins question and assert it is one of the problems of the theory of evolution.

- What they are asserting is common design, common designer. This is not a problem for evolution because the rate of change expected from organisms would look very different on the genetic level see this video for visuals. If you watch the video you will see that genetic similarities is not a problem for evolution.

Dr. Walt Brown states the genetic material that controls the biological processes of life is coded information and that human experience tells us that codes are created only by the result of intelligence and not merely by processes of nature. Dr. Brown also asserts that the "information stored in the genetic material of all life is a complex program. Therefore, it appears that an unfathomable intelligence created these genetic programs." 

- Note the use of the word "information"... and just because you say something doesn't mean that it is true.

To support his view regarding the divine origin of genetic programs Dr. Walt Brown cites the work of David Abel and Professor Jack Trevors who wrote the following:

No matter how many "bits" of possible combinations it has, there is no reason to call it "information" if it doesn't at least have the potential of producing something useful. What kind of information produces function? In computer science, we call it a "program." Another name for computer software is an "algorithm." No man-made program comes close to the technical brilliance of even Mycoplasmal genetic algorithms. Mycoplasmas are the simplest known organism with the smallest known genome, to date. How was its genome and other living organisms' genomes programmed? - David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors, “Three Subsets of Sequence Complexity and Their Relevance to Biopolymeric Information,” Theoretical Biology & Medical Modeling, Vol. 2, 11 August 2005, page 8

- Admittedly I am not a geneticist, but I am a university student, so I looked up the article, and found that this information was not cited properly, and that this whole thing was quote mined. They were talking about how things are not random, but what is beneficial stays put and is added to by more beneficial material.

 In the peer reviewed biology journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington Dr. Stephen Meyer argues that no current materialistic theory of evolution can account for the origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms and proposed an intelligent cause as the best explanation for the origin of biological information and the higher taxa. The editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Dr. Richard Sternberg, came under intense scrutiny and persecution for the aforementioned article published by Dr. Meyer.

- Well you cited one source... what about the article by Dr. Meyer? Which volume and issue is it in? What is the name of the article? In their own link they admit that the controversy over the article is that is did not adhere to the publication standards. What happened in this case was academic dishonesty where the article was published through the back door and was not peer reviewed.

Theory of evolution and little scientific consensus

There is little scientific consensus on how macroevolution is said to have happened and the claimed mechanisms of evolutionary change, as can be seen in the following quotes:

- Oh I can't wait....

 When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: "It happened." Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd. -(Simon Conway Morris, [palaeontologist, Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University, UK], "Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold," Cell, Vol. 100, pp.1-11, January 7, 2000, p.11)

- Quote mined. here is the entire quote: "When discussing organic evolution the only point of agreement seems to be: “It happened.” Thereafter, there is little consensus, which at first sight must seem rather odd. Towering majestically over the citadel is the figure of Darwin. In squares and piazzas the other heroes of evolution stand in marmoreal splendor: Bateson, Morgan, Dobzhansky, Simpson, and, just completed, Lewis and Nüsslein-Vollhard. These are the grand architects of the evolutionary synthesis, and together they provide a narrative for everything from the study of variation and the genetic structure of populations to the remarkable rediscoveries of homeotic genes. Given, therefore, this history and the most recent and spectacular advances in molecular biology, it may seem curmudgeonly, if not perverse, to even hint that our understanding of evolutionary processes and mechanisms is incomplete. Yet, this review has exactly that intention. 

- There is a paradox in as much as sensible advances are usually only possible under a severely reductionist program, whereas questions basic to our understanding of evolution demand an encyclopedic knowledge of the science combined with an unprecedented skill in distillation and synthesis. Of these questions, perhaps the most fundamental is to explain the immense diversity of life despite its deep and pervasively similar molecular architecture. 

"“The history of organic life is indemonstrable; we cannot prove a whole lot in evolutionary biology, and our findings will always be hypothesis. There is one true evolutionary history of life, and whether we will actually ever know it is not likely. Most importantly, we have to think about questioning underlying assumptions, whether we are dealing with molecules or anything else.” - Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Professor of Biological Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh, February 9, 2007

- Quote mined. Here is the entire thing: Claims that humans and chimpanzees are essentially identical molecularly, and therefore the most closely related largebodied hominoids (humans/hominids and great apes), are now commonplace. Indeed, in a science in which philosophers (Popper 1962, 1968, 1976; Wiley 1975; Patterson 1978) have long argued that nothing can be proven, only falsified, this hypothesis is so entrenched that any explanation of inconsistency in the data is accepted without question. Witness, for example, the recent scenario that for some millions of years after their lineages split, hominids and chimpanzees continually interbred and produced reproductively viable hybrids (Patterson et al. 2006). For historians and philosophers of science the questions that arise are how belief in the infallibility of molecular data for reconstructing evolutionary relationships emerged, and how this belief became so central, especially to paleoanthropology, which as a paleontological enterprise can only rely on morphology. Part of the answer comes from the history of human paleontology itself.

If it is true that an influx of doubt and uncertainty actually marks periods of healthy growth in a science, then evolutionary biology is flourishing today as it seldom has flourished in the past. For biologists collectively are less agreed upon the details of evolutionary mechanics than they were a scant decade ago. Superficially, it seems as if we know less about evolution than we did in 1959, the centennial year of Darwin's on the Origin of Species." - Niles Eldredge, "Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria," Simon & Schuster: New York NY, 1985, p.14

- Alright, instead of taking this one on myself I'm going to let the people at rationalwiki field it. :

- The important part of that quote is "superficially". That is precisely what DeMyer has done: look at the question of consensus superficially. Whilst there maybe disagreement between scientists on the very precise details of evolution, there is consensus that: 1) it occurred and 2) there is plenty of evidence that it occurred.
In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick published their work on the structure of DNA, and at the time all seemed clear: DNA produces protein, so a change in DNA causes a change in protein, producing different species. However, as more and more research was done, this simple explanation came apart. It became clear that RNA also formed DNA and that most organisms have the same proteins. As Morris said, it has became more clear that proteins are tools that make a different organism depending on where, when and how they are used. The proteins that make a human will not make a human outside a human womb. This has also changed the view of the way evolution occurs. Instead of species changing slowly over time, they remain fixed, changing quickly into new species depending on the environment.
What DeMyer has done is tried to paint science's biggest strength as a weakness in an attempt to sow doubt about evolution. Because scientist are always testing their previous assumption as more information becomes available, hypotheses are overturned and progress is made. What will become of Schwartz's hypothesis is unknown, but it is being heard and tested because he has supported it with research and data, not context-less quotes.

Through use and abuse of hidden postulates, of bold, often ill-founded extrapolations, a pseudoscience has been created. It is taking root in the very heart of biology and is leading astray many biochemists and biologists, who sincerely believe that the accuracy of fundamental concepts has been demonstrated, which is not the case.... Today, our duty is to destroy the myth of evolution, considered as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon which keeps rapidly unfolding before us. Biologists must be encouraged to think about the weaknesses of the interpretations and extrapolations that theoreticians put forward or lay down as established truths. The deceit is sometimes unconscious, but not always, since some people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and the falsity of their beliefs. - Pierre-Paul Grassé - Evolution of Living Organisms (1977), pages 6 and 8

- Again, Lamarkian Evolution has been rejected by scientists, which is what Grasse is arguing for.

Recent clamour to revise the modern evolutionary synthesis

Modern evolutionary synthesis is a school of evolutionary thought which incorporates the concepts of natural selection, mutations, and studies in population genetics.
In 2005, Massimo Pigliucci, in a book review for the prestigious science journal Nature, wrote: "The clamour to revise neo-darwinism is becoming so loud that hopefully most practising evolutionary biologists will begin to pay attention. It has been said that science often makes progress not because people change their minds, but because the old ones die off and the new generation is more open to novel ideas." In July of 2008, Elizabeth Pennisi wrote in the prestigous science journal Science: "Seventy years ago, evolutionary biologists hammered out the modern synthesis to bring Darwin's ideas in line with current insights into how organisms change through time. Some say it's time for Modern Synthesis 2.0."

- So I think what they are doing is accusing evolutionary scientists of attempting to be relevant... but evolutionary science is, and has been since Darwin, always relevant. Neo-Darwinism, on the other hand, as I understand it applies evolutionary theory to human culture in an archaeological context. Ie. the things within cultures that are beneficial will stick around, and the things which are not will not stick around.

Evolutionary Theory and Cases of Fraud, Hoaxes and Speculation‎ 

A notable case of a scientists using fraudulent material to promote the theory of evolution was the work of German scientist and atheist Ernst Haeckel. Noted evolutionist and Stephen Gould, who held a agnostic worldview and promoted the notion of non-overlapping magesteria, wrote the following regarding Ernst Haeckel's work in a March 2000 issue of Natural History:

"Haeckel’s forceful, eminently comprehensible, if not always accurate, books appeared in all major languages and surely exerted more influence than the works of any other scientist, including Darwin…in convincing people throughout the world about the validity of evolution... Haeckel had exaggerated the similarities [between embryos of different species] by idealizations and omissions. He also, in some cases — in a procedure that can only be called fraudulent — simply copied the same figure over and over again.…Haeckel’s drawings never fooled expert embryologists, who recognized his fudgings right from the start. Haeckel’s drawings, despite their noted inaccuracies, entered into the most impenetrable and permanent of all quasi-scientific literatures: standard student textbooks of biology... Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because…textbooks copy from previous texts.... [W]e do, I think, have the right to be both astonished and ashamed by the century of mindless recycling that has led to the persistence of these drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of modern textbooks!"

- Alright, what Haeckel did was wrong, he embellished his drawings because he didn't have complete exemplars, and Gould is rightfully upset about Haeckel's means. However, Haeckel didn't need to embellish his drawings because it was apparent they were common. In modern textbooks photos of embryos are used rather than Haeckel's drawings.

An irony of history is that the March 9, 1907 edition of the NY Times refers to Ernst Haeckel as the "celebrated Darwinian and founder of the Association for the Propagation of Ethical Atheism."
Stephen Gould continues by quoting Michael Richardson of the St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London, who stated: "I know of at least fifty recent biology texts which use the drawings uncritically"
Intelligent design theorist Michael Behe publicly exposed the fraudulent nature of Haeckel's embryos in a NY Times article. It appears as if Stephen Gould was irritated that the fraud was exposed in manner that publicly embarrassed the evolutionary community - namely though a high profile NY Times article.
Creation scientists have written regarding the fraudulent nature of Haeckel's work and how a prestigious German science journal published his dubious work.
Dr. Jonathan Wells published a book in 2000 entitled Icons of Evolution. Dr. Wells contends that "the best-known 'evidences' for Darwin’s theory have been exaggerated, distorted or even faked."
Dinosaur extinction is a major enigma in terms of the evolutionary paradigm and many ill founded speculations have arisen within the evolutionary community. Creation scientists maintain the fossil record, the evidence for the Genesis flood and post flood climate changes offers an excellent explanation for dinosaur extinction.

- As already stated Heackel's embryos were faked, but that doesn't mean that everything has. Every scientific discipline has to deal with fraud in one way or another, but that is why peer review exists, to ensure frauds don't make it far.
- I'm sure we will get to Dr. Wells' "evidence" soon.
- Wow... you are seriously going with the flood as the mechanism which drove the dinosaurs extinct? Aside from the fact that there is no geological proof of a flood, no way the Earth could have had enough water to cover everything, and no proof that dinosaurs and humans ever coexisted. I hate to break it to you guys, but the Flintstones was not a documentary.

Lack of Any Clear Transitional Forms

As alluded to earlier, today there are over one hundred million identified and cataloged fossils in the world's museums. If the evolutionary position was valid, then there should be "transitional forms" in the fossil record reflecting the intermediate life forms. Another term for these "transitional forms" is "missing links".

- yep and there are, thousands, in fact every fossil is a transitional form. 

Charles Darwin admitted that his theory required the existence of "transitional forms." Darwin wrote: "So that the number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great. But assuredly, if this theory be true, such have lived upon the earth."  However, Darwin wrote: "Why then is not every geological formation and every strata full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely-graduated organic chain; and this perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against my theory." Darwin thought the lack of transitional links in his time was because "only a small portion of the surface of the earth has been geologically explored and no part with sufficient care...". As Charles Darwin grew older he became increasingly concerned about the lack of evidence for the theory of evolution in terms of the existence of transitional forms. Darwin wrote, "“When we descend to details, we cannot prove that a single species has changed; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory.”

- There were few in Darwin's time, but before Darwin died Archaeopteryx which is a clear transitional form between dinosaur and bird was found. However, if we are talking about the rarity of fossils, which is where I think you are going with this, absolutely perfect conditions must be present for fossilization to occur. Since in prehistoric times, the Earth was very tropical it is unlikely that much fossilization occurred. For an animal to fossilize it would first need to die, then not be badly scavenged, then need to be in the conditions in which fossilization can occur... they are low acidity, dry or water logged areas.

Scientist Dr. Michael Denton wrote regarding the fossil record:
"It is still, as it was in Darwin's day, overwhelmingly true that the first representatives of all the major classes of organisms known to biology are already highly characteristic of their class when they make their initial appearance in the fossil record. This phenomenon is particularly obvious in the case of the invertebrate fossil record. At its first appearance in the ancient Paleozoic seas, invertebrate life was already divided into practically all the major groups with which we are familiar today."

- Alright, Denton actually believed this, but is now an evolutionary scientist, but let's look at the statement shall we? It's wrong, the first life on earth resembled fish like creatures... mammals and birds did not appear for quite some time afterward.

Creationists assert that evolutionists have had over 140 years to find a transitional fossil and nothing approaching a conclusive transitional form has ever been found and that only a handful of highly doubtful examples of transitional fossils exist. Distinguished anthropologist Sir Edmund R. Leach declared, "Missing links in the sequence of fossil evidence were a worry to Darwin. He felt sure they would eventually turn up, but they are still missing and seem likely to remain so."

- Alright, since I'm an anthropology student I can name many transitional fossils within human evolution. Sahelanthropus Tchadensis (this one might not be related to humans, but does have a formen magnum near the bottom center of the skull indicating that it was likely bipedal). Ardipithecus which has two sub species Ardipithecus Ramidus and Ardipithecus kadabba, living at the same time as Ardipithecus was Parathropus, which were originally thought to be within the Austrolipithicus species, but closer examination makes them a species all on their own. All of those died out and created the genus Homo, which had several members before becoming homo sapiens, first was Homo Habilis, then Homo Ergaster, then Homo Erectus, Homo Heildelbergensis, Homo Neanderthalis, Homo Sapiens... and that isn't all of them. I can also tell you that several of each of these species have been found, and have been subject to testing which prove their authenticity.

David B. Kitts of the School of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma wrote that "Evolution requires intermediate forms between species and paleontology does not provide them…"

- I just told you about human evolution, and that is only human evolution... there are clear transitional forms between reptile to bird, reptile to mammal, and the evolution of the whale is very interesting as well. It progressed from sea to land to sea... modern whale skeletons still have a pelvis... which would not be seen if this animals ancestors had spent their entire time in the sea.

David Raup, who was the curator of geology at the museum holding the world's largest fossil collection, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, observed:
"[Darwin] was embarrassed by the fossil record because it didn't look the way he predicted it would .... Well, we are now about 120 years after Darwin, and knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn't changed much. ... [W]e have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin's time." - David M. Raup, "Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology," Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50 (January 1979): 22-23, 24-25.

- It is possible that the fossil record doesn't look as Darwin had expected it to look, but it is full of transitional forms, and maybe even forms that Darwin had never imagined. The thing is Darwin is not the soul authority of evolution and could not predict everything which would support it. Unfortunately I could not look up this journal to see the exact quote... but it does reek of quote mining.

One of the most famous proponents of the theory of evolution was the late Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. But Gould admitted the following:
The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils...We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.

- This one is quote mined, what Gould was referring to was a certain taxa which did not have much evidence, I believe he was talking about the evolution of non-human primates, but Conservapedia did not list a source for this quote so I could give you the whole thing in context. BTW, Gould hated that creationists used this quote out of context they way they did, and his frustrations are on record.

In a 1977 paper titled "The Return of Hopeful Monsters", Gould wrote: "The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change....All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt."

- Quote mined again, and again Gould was referring to a certain taxa, not the entire record. If anyone has read anything by Gould, which I have, you know that his support of evolutionary theory was complete.

The senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, Dr. Colin Patterson, put it this way:
Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin’s authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils....I will lay it on the line — there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument

- Please cite your source for this. Actually they do, and their source is from Answers in Genesis, a well known creationist website, but there is no direct source for the quote. Candidate for quote mining?

According to Dr. Don Batten, Stephen Gould in 1970s made some admissions that there was a "lack of evidence for phylogeny in the fossils" and that Gould had also claimed a number of that were no indisputable intermediate forms. Dr. Batten states that Gould made these statements when Gould was less concerned about creationists. Dr. Batten also states that "claimed examples of transitional series and intermediate forms received an incisive critique from Gould in the 1970s...."

- again Gould was talking about a single taxa... how many times do I have to say this? Of course Gould was not concerned with creationists because he was unaware that people would take him so completely out of context.

However, Gould's admissions were subsequently widely quoted by creationists. According to Dr. Batton, in 1981 Gould started making intemperate language towards creationists. After having been incessantly quoted by creationist regarding the fossil record, Gould altered his public stance regarding the fossil record and without stating specific examples from the fossil record and using the ambiguous term "larger groups" Gould stated the following in 1981:

- See they admit it!

Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists - whether through design or stupidity, I do not know - as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.

- which is what he meant from the beginning... why is he being criticized for being honest, and honestly frustrated?

In 1980, David Woodruff wrote in the journal Science the following: "But fossil species remain unchanged throughout most of their history and the record fails to contain a single example of a significant transition." The late Ernst Mayr was a prominent Harvard biologist who also served as the director of Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. Mayr was a staunch evolutionist and atheist who maintained that evolution was a fact, yet in 1982 Mayr was compelled to make the following admission regarding the fossil record in relation to the theory of evolution: "Even the fossil record fails to substantiate any continuity and all novelties appear in the fossil record quite suddenly."

- Don't you love how they through out that someone was an atheist as if it is a bad thing? The source for this quote is Evolution 1982, vol 36 (6). pg 1119-1132 Speciation and Macroevolution. This quote from Mayer is taken out of context and the article itself is about the different types of ways speciation occurs, which appears to be an early proponent of punctuated equilibrium.

In 1985, Gould was more specific regarding his claim that there were intermediate forms and asserted that Archaeopteryx was a intermediate form. Also, according to Dr. Batten, in 1994 the following occurred in regard to Gould's stance on the fossil record:
"[Gould] abandoned his earlier position that there are no indisputable examples of transitional fossil series, either inter-specific or between major designs, and has embraced the ‘walking whale’ story as evidence for transformation of one species into another. The evidence for this transition is scant, but Gould uncritically accepts the fanciful description of how Ambulocetus natans walked and swam, as given by Thewissen et al." 

- Gould's stance never changed, and there is abundant evidence for whale evolution which can be seen here.

In 2001, staunch evolutionist Ernst Mayr wrote the following:
Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from one ancestral form to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types often appear quite suddenly, and their immediate ancestors are absent in the geological strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps (saltations) from one type of organism to a different type. This raises a puzzling question: Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution?

- This reeks of quote mining, though I do not have the book that this quote comes from. The problem that evolutionary scientists have when debating with creationists is that whenever we fill in a gap the creationist creates two more. However, I am not going to argue that the fossil record is perfect, because as stated earlier the chances of something fossilizing are rare, so it is not unreasonable to say this.

As mentioned earlier, one of the more famous alleged transitional fossils claimed by evolutionists is Archaeopteryx. Dr. Alan Feduccia, a world authority on birds and an evolutionist himself, has stated the following regarding Archaeopteryx:
Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it’s not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of ‘paleobabble’ is going to change that.

- What Dr. Feduccia was trying to say was that Archaeopteryx's behaviors were similar to a perching bird and was not a ground dweller, not that it wasn't a transitional form. see here for more information.

Creation scientists have a number of arguments against Archaeopteryx being a transitional fossil find

- I'm sure they do, but they are all wrong. Here is some information about Archaeopteryx for your viewing pleasure:

A second famous alleged transitional fossil claimed by evolutionists is Tiktaalik. Creation scientists have a number of arguments regarding the fossil find of Tiktaalik not being a transitional find.

- Again, I'm sure they do, but again they are all wrong. see here for more information.

Alright I'm going to call it there, I'll get back to the rest of the article soon, but I have other homework to do, and as you can see this is getting quite lengthy.

Until Next Time,

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