Difference between revisions of "Talk:Counterexamples to Evolution"

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Just a brief comment - Aschlafly, you seem to suggest that autumn foliage is designed to be beautiful. That is totally subjective and personally I dont find autumn foliage particularly striking. One mans beauty is another's ugly. Secondly, in regards to consciousness, many species of chimps use tools and show morality also parrots have self awareness also and can recognise themselves in mirrors. I dont think wearing clothes has anything to do with self awareness either [[User:PatWills|PatWills]] 15:12, 26 October 2008 (EDT)
 
Just a brief comment - Aschlafly, you seem to suggest that autumn foliage is designed to be beautiful. That is totally subjective and personally I dont find autumn foliage particularly striking. One mans beauty is another's ugly. Secondly, in regards to consciousness, many species of chimps use tools and show morality also parrots have self awareness also and can recognise themselves in mirrors. I dont think wearing clothes has anything to do with self awareness either [[User:PatWills|PatWills]] 15:12, 26 October 2008 (EDT)
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: No, PatWills, autumn foliage ''is'' beautiful.  Maybe you deny that 2+2=4 too.  You do have free will.  But you're not going to persuade anyone here by insisting that autumn foliage is not beautiful.  It is, and it disproves evolution.
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: As to animals, they don't dress themselves.  They really don't.--[[User:Aschlafly|Aschlafly]] 15:18, 26 October 2008 (EDT)

Revision as of 14:18, 26 October 2008

The neck of the giraffe is a great counterexample, BrianCo!--Aschlafly 13:54, 23 November 2007 (EST)

How so? I don't get it. In what way does the giraffe's neck say anything one way or the other about evolution? Humblpi 04:35, 15 February 2008 (EST)

Refutations

Ummm...this is a dangerous topic to take up, but it's my area of expertise, so what the hey. Most, if not all of the examples in the article can be explained from an evolutionary standpoint.

1) Beautiful autumn foliage is an adaptive response of plants to conserve energy during relatively low-production months. They actually resorb energy during fall, so the cost-benefit analysis works in their favor. This is one reason there is no seasonal loss of foliage in the tropics, which have a near-constant energy pool.

2) Molecular evidence places whales and dolphins in the same clade as cows (Artiodactyla). The presence of vestigal limbs is very strong evidence for this theory, as well.

3) There is a plausible pathway to the development of the eye, including numerous intermediate structures that were much simpler and less effective. Indeed, the vertebrate eye is quite flawed (blind spot, image inversion), as one of the tenets of evolution would predict (the idea that natural selection can function only on existing structures).

4) I would be willing to bet that there is an explanation for the evolution of blood clotting, but I need to do some book work first. Off the top of my head, I can't think of one, so in the interest of vigorous science, I concede that point for now.

5) The swarming of jellyfish is a response to an influx of planktonic life brought on by the full moon...the predators follow the prey.

6) The timing of cicada species has to do with the availability of reliable energy sources and reliable mates. The somewhat arbitrary time periods highlight the underlying randomness of mutations.

7) I'm not sure whether point seven is referring to the ability of birds and butterflies to navigate, or their migrative lifestyle, but there is an explanation for both. Migration is an adaptive trait to allow exploitation of otherwise inhospitable regions, and the navigative abilities evolved as a response. Humans and other mammals actually possess a rudimentary ability to detect the magnetic field...a holdover from our own migratory days.

8) The neck of giraffes is a textbook example of sexual selection.

9) The gaps in the fossil record can be explained by the sheer difficulty of creating fossils. Probability argues against having fossils of everything.

10) Feathers could have evolved from scales, and there is molecular evidence for this.

11) Point eleven simply makes no sense...I have never heard anything like this concept in my years of studying biology. I think it may just be poorly written, but I can't understand the point well enough to refute it.

I have sources (often many) for all of the above, but I have to rush to rehearsal now, so I'll add those later.--Thinker 16:47, 24 October 2008 (EDT)

I think lists like this are simplistic, but here's some responses.
  1. "Beatiful autumn foliage is an adaptive response of plants to conserve energy during relatively low-production months" is story-telling. It doesn't explain how evolution could have come up with the idea. The rest of your point applies equally well to creation: God designed it to have a good cost-benefit ratio.
  2. Being in the same clade does not mean that there is an identifiable ancestor. Vestigial organs are due to a degradation, whereas microbes-to-man evolution requires innovation.
  3. The "plausible pathway" explanations are not plausible at all, taking great leaps in complexity (e.g. starting off with an extremely complex "light-sensitive spot". The vertebrate eye is not a flawed design at all. What's wrong with image inversion? That's a natural consequence of using a lens. As for the blind spot...
    Ophthalmologist Peter Gurney gives a detailed response to the question ‘Is the inverted retina really “bad design”?’ He addresses the claim that the blind spot is bad design, by pointing out that the blind spot occupies only 0.25% of the visual field, and is far (15°) from the visual axis so that the visual acuity of the region is only about 15% of the foveola, the most sensitive area of the retina right on the visual axis. So the alleged defect is only theoretical, not practical. The blind spot is not considered handicap enough to stop a one-eyed person from driving a private motor vehicle.[1]
  4. No comment.
  5. That makes sense. When you back that up with a source, I'll remove that one.
  6. The first part about energy and mates doesn't appear to explain it at all. The second part about mutations is story-telling.
  7. As for No. 1.
  8. Selection only selects from something that is already there. The question evolution has to answer is, how did it get there in the first place?
  9. That's an ad hoc rationalisation. It doesn't explain why the gaps are so systematic between different basic kinds of creatures.
  10. What molecular evidence? Molecularly, they are quite different.
  11. I agree that it makes no sense. I'll remove that one.
Philip J. Rayment 00:51, 25 October 2008 (EDT)
P.S. you had a typo in your first point. I wouldn't mention it except that I know you are fussy about such things!

Before responding, let me establish one thing that I should have said much earlier. My refutation of these points is not intended to prove evolution or disprove any "competing" theory. My goal is only to show that evolution can explain how these things came to be, and thus that they cannot be used as examples of failures in evolutionary theory.

Another related disclaimer: my claims are made from a background of evolutionary biology, so the reader should feel free to mentally insert "according to evolutionary theory" when appropriate.

I would first like to take these point by point as concisely as possible.

1) All origins theory is story-telling. The burden of proof is then upon the story teller to show that their explanation is plausible, and the different camps go about this in different ways. Evolutionary biologists do so by establishing a possible mechanism and doing controlled field studies to see if that mechanism actually works in the way we expect it to. If it does, then it's plausible enough to serve as an explanation, and more importantly, it can be used as a predictive tool. And that's all evolution really cares about...whether or not it happened is really irrelevant to our predictive capability. The fossil record (ie history) comes into play only when something is unexpected, because it shows us that our tool may be flawed and we need to fix it, or maybe get a new one (if you pardon the analogy).

2) Being in the same clade does imply a common ancestor in the same way that being in the same human family implies a relationship. To continue the analogy, assume for a minute that we have two siblings separated at birth. They think they are related, and a DNA test shows that they are, but they have no proof of a common parent without their actual living parents. However, the chance of common ancestry is high enough that there is no reason to reject the assumption (by the way, the analogy is flawed, but it captures the essence of scientific proof: assumptions based on plausible possibilities, based on past research and questioned more intensively when contrary evidence comes to light there is no such thing as certainty in science).

3) I will try to find a good copy of the proposed pathway for the development of the eye, but I know that there is no implausible leap in complexity over the hundred or so proposed structures in the lineage. But keep in mind, as I mentioned in 1, just because evolution can explain something a certain way doesn't mean it happened that way...biologists are constantly redoing our own version of history. Rather, I intend merely to show that these points are not evidence against biology. This one will have to wait until Monday, when the library is unlocked.

4) Is outside my area of expertise, and I will not mock those who know what they're talking about by bungling up an explanation here.

5) Sources for 5:a) Hickman et. al., Integrated Principles of Zoology, 13th ed. 2006. McGraw-Hill publishing, Boston, MA b) Solomon et al., Biology, 6th ed. 2005, Thomson-Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA c) numerous lectures and individual observation...not a source per se, but they at least serve to tell that I'm not making it up.

The fact that those are all biology texts should give a critical thinker pause, but again remember that I merely want to refute these points as evidence against evolution, not prove evolution itself.

6) I actually recieved another explanation from another CP member that does a better job explaining it, so I'm going to use that one and throw out my own esoteric and very involved explanation. Many predators reproduce in regular intervals. 13 and 17 are prime numbers, and so are not divisible by any other number. This means that the predators are not able to sync their reproductive cycle with that of their prey. It's an adaptive function, but that explanation serves equally well for both evolution and ID. It does, however, show that evolution is able to explain that point.

7) Once again, I assert that all origins theories are story-telling and that that argument doesn't hold weight when applied across the board. The fact is that the explanation I provided is plausible and there is evidence to support that it happened (just to name one: Larkin et. al. "Evidence for widely dispersed birds migrating together at night", Journal of Integrative and Comparative Biology, 48:1)

8) The neck of the giraffe was already there as part of the basic chordate body plan (the origin of that plan is still hotly debated in comparative biology, and there are three or four very good theories that can explain the evidence). All traits exist in a normal distribution; that is, among the ancestral giraffe population, some individuals had longer necks. Male giraffes compete for mates, and those with longer necks are more effective competitors (they win more fights), thus sexual selection selected those individuals with longer necks, resulting in a textbook example of sexual directional selection (Kardong et al. Vertebrates, 4th ed. McGraw Hill publishing, Boston, MA, 2006). Evolution would be in trouble if giraffes didn't have the same number of neck bones as all other chordates...it couldn't explain that.

9) Let me change my tack, then, because my previous argument does seem rather ad hoc. Instead, I will refer to my analogy from 2: lack of an ancestor in the records does not imply that one didn't exist if such existence is highly likely. Moreover, one of the ways to test evolution is the prediction of intermediate forms, and these hypotheses are confirmed with the discovery of said intermediates. I will also say that the gaps in the record are constantly being filled in: a fossil called Diplognathus was recently discovered which confirmed a somewhat odd explanation for the derivation of ear bones (that's just one example). (Kardong et al. Vertebrates, 4th ed. McGraw Hill publishing, Boston, MA, 2006)

10) The molecular evidence of which I speak refers to the nuclear material found within the cells creating scales and feathers, and within the proteins which make up the scales and feathers themselves. For starters, they are molecularly identical, both being composed primarily of keratin. Furthermore, all versions of a different protein have very slight variations, both in terms of the protein themselves and in the DNA which codes for them. The sheer size of both molecules mean that the chance of a similar variation occuring by chance is negligible, so similarities in variation imply common ancestry (similar to the "twins separated at birth" analogy). The variations in keratin are very similar between birds and reptiles, implying a common descent (Glenn et. al. "Evolutionary relationships among copies of beta keratin genes from several avian and reptilian orders" Journal of Integrative and Comparative Biology, 48:4)

And I think that is more than enough talk on that for now...I need a break. All I will do is close with saying once again that I do not claim these are proofs of evolution or "disproofs" of other theories. I merely claim that the specific points in the article can be explained plausibly by evolutionary theory and thus can't be used as counterexamples. --Thinker 12:34, 25 October 2008 (EDT)

Your comments above range from concepts like "there must be an evolutionary explanation" to "the burden of proof is on someone else."
The point here is simple: one counterexample disproves the theory of evolution. Accept that logical truth, or go no further and admit that you will adhere to evolution no matter what logic dictates.
It only takes one counterexample. Number one in the list -- beautiful autumn foliage -- is enough. The foliage existed before man does, and beauty does not help the trees in the slightest. The theory of evolution is confounded by the beauty, and the best it can say is it happened by chance. But such beauty does not happen by chance.--Aschlafly 15:39, 25 October 2008 (EDT)
In principle it only takes one counterexample. In practice, it's not that simple. Suppose that we have a hypothesis that water always boils at 100 degrees Celsius. We run 100 tests to see if that's true. One test shows water boiling at 97 degrees. Does that one counterexample disprove the hypothesis, or do we accept that perhaps that particular test has another explanation (e.g. somebody botched the test, or it was the only one of the hundred tests not performed at sea level)? And that was for a very specific hypothesis. Evolution is not a specific hypothesis, but, at best, a whole series of hypotheses. Finding a counterexample to one hypothesis does not mean that the whole idea of evolution needs to be discarded. At worst, evolution is a conceptual framework, not actually a series of hypotheses at all. Again, a single counterexample is not justification for rejecting that conceptual framework. Of course there are plenty of counterexamples to evolution, so we don't have to put all our eggs in one basket and say that one is enough. Philip J. Rayment 02:17, 26 October 2008 (EDT)
It does take only one counterexample...and my point is that none of the proposed points actually follow through as counterexamples.
The idea of beauty being a derived characteristic has no place in evolution, because beauty is not a biological characteristic; beauty is a human aesthetic...it just so happens that the pigments in plants reflect certain photons which trigger specific neurons in our brains. Such beauty can happen by chance, and nature abounds with examples (the collection of specific coral species into a visually appealing reef, for example, is almost totally random). So no, evolution is not confounded by beauty.
And also, the idea that the cooperation of two or more entities implies co-evolution is simply not true. First of all, the example of the flagellum as irreducible complexity (and any similar examples) rely on the idea of gross change, and ignore the gradual improvement of existing structures. Additionally, irreducible complexity assumes a goal, which is itself a logical fallacy. What I mean by that is that IC assumes that without missing parts, something will not work in that role. But that assumes that there is a goal in mind! If we remove that assumption (which doesn't agree with evolutionary theory), then evolution can give rise to structures like the eye and flagellum by modifying existing structures that work fine in other roles. And that is why, from the evolutionary perspective, points 11 and 13 are not legitimate counterexamples. Furthermore, the eye, flagellum, and many symbiotic relationships are far from ideal if you do an ecological cost-benefit analysis. But evolution favored and led to them because they work well enough.
A specific point of number 13 can be addressed in more detail: the symbiosis of complex plants and nitrogen-fixing bacteria allowed the rapid dispersal of these plants, because it conferred on them a massive evolutionary advantage. Primitive plants, such as mosses, do not have these bacteria, but they are still able to survive. They are simply not as effective at it, which is why they are not the dominant plant form.
As for the evolution of consciousness, I'm glad that was brought up, because it's a very interesting topic on its own. The current evolutionary standpoint is that consciousness is an evolutionary adaptation allowing an organism to better predict its environment. This is in response to pressures related to the massive and very rapid dispersal of humans across a number of different environments. This is an elegant solution because it explains why humans are the only animal to definitively display consciousness: only humans displayed such a rapid dispersal across varied environments. From the perspective of the gene, this was an evolutionary mistake (and the evolutionary model predicts it can make mistakes), because now their "survival machines" have the capacity to rebel against their own genes (after Dawkins, 1976).
Again, I completely accept that one counterexample is sufficient for a falsification, we just have not yet presented a point that cannot be explained by evolutionary theory. And on that line of falsification, anyone practicing physics is practicing a debunked field, because there are many things that physics can't explain, such as mass. Hmm...that statement makes me a little uncomfortable...perhaps there's a problem with my logic. --Thinker 17:47, 25 October 2008 (EDT)
You write that "beauty can happen by chance." That's plainly false. You won't be able to identify anything strikingly beautiful, such as autumn foliage, that is known to happen by chance. Indeed, chance is the antithesis of beauty.
When presented with a counterexample, it's unsatisfactory for you to shrug your shoulders and say the equivalent of "it must have just happened by chance." If you're going to do that, then Jesus Himself could appear to you this evening and you could respond the same way and try to brush it off. Rather, you should admit beautiful autumn foliage cannot be explained by evolution, and admit that remarkable beauty is not the product of pure chance.--Aschlafly 18:26, 25 October 2008 (EDT)

Responding to Thinker...

"All origins theory is story-telling": In making that claim, you've just asserted, without foundation, that the biblical account, which claims to be the eyewitness account of creation by the Creator, is just a made-up story.

"The burden of proof is then upon the story teller to show that their explanation is plausible": True. Which is where evolution hopelessly fails. It comes up with superficially-plausible-sounding stories, which are often simply not at all plausible when looked at closely.

"...that's all evolution really cares about...whether or not it happened is really irrelevant to our predictive capability.": Huh? Evolution is a claim about what actually happened. Atheists use evolution to argue that the Bible is wrong (because they can see the contradiction). Whether or not it happened is very relevant.

"Being in the same clade does imply a common ancestor...": But the claim was that it doesn't identify a common ancestor, which would be some sort of test that the implication is true. Further, being in the same clade only implies a common ancestor if evolution is true. If life was created by God, it implies no such thing. So the argument is circular, because it assumes evolution in order to support evolution.

"Rather, I intend merely to show that these points are not evidence against biology.": Perhaps this was a mis-type on your part, but I've seen it before, so in case you meant it that way, these are arguments against evolution, not biology. The two are not synonymous.

Regarding No. 5, could you provide quotes from those sources, please?

"It's an adaptive function, but that explanation serves equally well for both evolution and ID. It does, however, show that evolution is able to explain that point.": No, it doesn't serve well. Evidence of things working well is evidence of good design. Evolution's job is not to explain why things are the way they are, but how they came to be the way they are. You are providing evidence of why cicadas have reproduction cycles based on prime numbers, not of how evolution would produce that. The same applies to your response to No. 7.

"All traits exist in a normal distribution; that is, among the ancestral giraffe population, some individuals had longer necks.": It's not a simple matter of the length of the neck bones. The neck of a giraffe comes complete with valves to stop massive fluctuations in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink and raise it up again. Where did those valves come from to get selected? Furthermore there is no fossil evidence of giraffes with short necks.

"Moreover, one of the ways to test evolution is the prediction of intermediate forms, and these hypotheses are confirmed with the discovery of said intermediates.": Except that these intermediate forms are almost entirely lacking.

"scales and feathers ... are molecularly identical, both being composed primarily of keratin.": Two different types of keratin. And from this article:
‘At the morphological level feathers are traditionally considered homologous with reptilian scales. However, in development, morphogenesis, gene structure, protein shape and sequence, and filament formation and structure, feathers are different.’ A.H. Brush, ‘On the origin of feathers’, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 9:131–142, 1996.

"The sheer size of both molecules mean that the chance of a similar variation occuring by chance is negligible, so similarities in variation imply common ancestry": Or a common designer.

"The idea of beauty being a derived characteristic has no place in evolution, because beauty is not a biological characteristic; beauty is a human aesthetic.": Yes, that's the point. Evolution can't explain beauty, because it's not a biological characteristic. However, I think that autumn leaves are a poor example, as the reason for their colour can be explained as simply being a natural consequence of them dying. A better example is the beauty of a peacock's tail[2].

"...the example of the flagellum as irreducible complexity (and any similar examples) rely on the idea of gross change...": No, they don't. They rely on there being no feasible intermediates that can produce the structure.

"...and ignore the gradual improvement of existing structures.": No, they don't ignore such gradual development; they argue against it.

"IC assumes that without missing parts, something will not work in that role.": No, it argues that without the missing part, it will not work in any role.

"If we remove that assumption (which doesn't agree with evolutionary theory), then evolution can give rise to structures like the eye and flagellum by modifying existing structures that work fine in other roles.": Hand-waving story telling.

"Furthermore, the eye, flagellum, and many symbiotic relationships are far from ideal if you do an ecological cost-benefit analysis.": Oh? The eye can detect a single photon. How do you get any better than that?

Philip J. Rayment 02:17, 26 October 2008 (EDT)

Mr. Rayment again brings up excellent points, and I'm actually going to let many of them stand unanswered (largely because to do so would start a cycle of the same arguments over and over again). I think this talk page could be very useful to someone questioning evolution as it is now, and there's not much more I can add without getting needlessly technical.
But before I leave it, I want to address three specific points:
1) Evolution should not be used by anyone to try and "disprove" creation. Something should be proved or disproved only on terms of its own merit, independent of other theories.
2)I did mean to say "evolution" rather than "biology". However, as evolution is one of the core tenets of modern biology, underminging evolution would be just as damaging to science as undermining Genesis would be to Biblical inerrancy (I am referring here to another debate in which Mr. Rayment and I have been involved). Perhaps this sheds light on why many biologists, myself included, are so staunch in our defense of the theory.
3) In regard to your final point. a) The chordate eye cannot detect a single photon, and in fact needs many photons to be activated. But that is just nitpicking. b) The cephalopod eye is far better in terms of capability and "logical design". In fact, the cephalopod eye is often considered to be one of the best in nature. Furthermore, many other organisms, such as mantis shrimp (which have many times the visual acuity of vertebrates) have eyes which are arguably superior to ours.

And unfortunately, I think that is as much as I will be able to add before I must return to work. However, I think I have at least clarified some of the points of evolutionary biology, and hopefully this talk page will be helpful to anyone trying to get more information on the debate.--Thinker 11:36, 26 October 2008 (EDT)


Consciousness

Excellent new point!--Aschlafly 16:27, 25 October 2008 (EDT)

Bat counterexample

Superb again!--Aschlafly 20:31, 25 October 2008 (EDT)

You appear to be unaware of the greater than 150 species of bats that do not echolocate: the megachiroptera, which represent two subfamilies and 41 genera. Even one counterexample would disprove the theory that bats cannot fly without sonar. --Brossa 21:15, 25 October 2008 (EDT)

Reversion explained

"Thinker", please take your own name to heart: there is no such thing as "relative truth," and hence the reversion of your edit.--Aschlafly 15:10, 26 October 2008 (EDT)

Some Comments

Just a brief comment - Aschlafly, you seem to suggest that autumn foliage is designed to be beautiful. That is totally subjective and personally I dont find autumn foliage particularly striking. One mans beauty is another's ugly. Secondly, in regards to consciousness, many species of chimps use tools and show morality also parrots have self awareness also and can recognise themselves in mirrors. I dont think wearing clothes has anything to do with self awareness either PatWills 15:12, 26 October 2008 (EDT)

No, PatWills, autumn foliage is beautiful. Maybe you deny that 2+2=4 too. You do have free will. But you're not going to persuade anyone here by insisting that autumn foliage is not beautiful. It is, and it disproves evolution.
As to animals, they don't dress themselves. They really don't.--Aschlafly 15:18, 26 October 2008 (EDT)