Mar 27 2017

More on Bird Evolution

bird_evoThe fossil evidence for the evolution of birds is currently one of the greatest evolutionary stories we have to tell. It is also a home run for the predictive value of evolutionary theory and is a devastating blow to any denial of common descent.

Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859. At that time the fossil record was sparse, although it was enough to establish that the forms of living things was changing over geological time. One of the most dramatic gaps in the fossil record at the time was between birds and other vertebrates. It was believed that birds must have evolved from some type of reptile, but the most recent common ancestor was not known.

This was a great test for the new theory of evolution. If evolution were true then birds must have evolved from something else, and therefore the gap between birds and their closest non-avian relative should eventually be filled in by future fossil finds. If evolution is true, those creatures must have existed.

If, on the other hand, some version of creationism were true so that was created close to its current form, then there would not have to be any creatures filling in the morphological space between birds and their closest relatives. Birds would not have any relatives, they would be an isolated group unto themselves.

Now, of course, creationism does not require anything (like evolution does). Because life was magicked into existence by an omnipotent being, it could take any form desired. In that way creationism (there are many forms of creationism, but using the loose definition that life was created and did not entirely evolve through natural processes) is not falsifiable. God could have made life to look exactly as if it had evolved.

But what we can say is that if evolution were true we would find plausible bird ancestors. If evolution were not true and instead life was created, we would not have to find plausible bird ancestors. In fact it would be quite a coincidence if we did – given the infinite possibilities why would God choose the one that mimics an evolutionary history?

Feathered Dinosaurs

In  1874 the Berlin Specimen of Archaeopteryx was discovered, with a description published in 1884. This one fossil was a stunning victory for evolutionary theory – it is a beautifully preserved specimen looking like a small theropod dinosaur with clear feather impressions. On close examination it is a wonderfully transitional specimen, pretty much as close as you can get to half bird-half dinosaur. (To be pedantic, birds are now considered a clade of dinosaurs, but I will use the term dinosaur here to refer to non-avian dinosaurs.)

Creationists were not impressed (even though they should have been). They dismissed archaeopteryx as a one-off, a species unto itself that doesn’t prove anything. Duane Gish actually argued that the species was either a dinosaur or it was a bird, but it was not transitional – you could argue it was either because it has features of both.

This was a classic example of filling in a gap in the fossil record and just creating two more gaps. Then something wonderful happened – paleontologists hit upon several fantastic fossil layers from the time that birds evolved producing many well-preserved specimens. Over a few decades the evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs became overwhelming. Scientists not only discovered a plethora of early birds, and half-birds, but they began to discover specimens showing that theropod dinosaurs had feathers.

Over the weekend I went to the Peabody Museum. They have an entire display on feathered dinosaurs, and it is impressive. The evolution of birds went from a complete mystery in the time of Darwin, to one incredible fossil species, to thousands of specimens fleshing out in detail the evolution of birds from dinosaurs. You might say that God, in a fit of whimsy, created Archaeopteryx which just happens to look like a transitional species. But it would take more than whimsy to create an entire series of species clearly documenting the evolution from theropods to birds.

Take a look at the graph above (source here for larger image). There is actually a sequence where more and more bird features appear over time, until you get to fully modern birds.

The Latest Find – Eoconfuciusornis

To give just one example of how robust and detailed this evidence is, let’s take a look at a recent publication: Exceptional preservation of soft tissue in a new specimen of Eoconfuciusornis and its biological implications. This is a specimen from the beginning of the bird branch, which is still primitive but shows clear adaptations for flight. Because there is good preservation of soft tissue scientists can look at some specific features, specifically the skin folds or patagium.

Birds evolved skin flaps in addition to feathers to help them fly.

This fossil helps show how bird wings evolved. The propatagium (the flap of skin that connects the shoulder and wrist) and postpatagium (the flap of skin that extends off the back of the hand and ulna) evolved before the alular patagium (the flap of skin connecting the first digit to the rest of the hand), which is absent in Eoconfuciusornis.

So Eoconfuciusornis has two of the three skin flaps that aid in flight. This is what paleontologists have found over and over again – primitive birds have some, but not all, of the adaptations for flight.

This is exactly why bird evolution is such a great test case. Flight is complex and requires a host of adaptations. However, you can sort-of fly, or fly but be a terrible flyer, and this would still have an evolutionary advantage. Once a species does fly, however, then there is tremendous selective pressure to become better and better at flying. So we would expect to see early specimens that could probably just barely fly, and then over time more and more adaptations come into existence that fine tune anatomy for flight.

That is exactly what we find. There are so many flight adaptations that there are multiple opportunities to see specific evolutionary changes over time. Now that we have a robust fossil record of feathered dinosaurs and early birds  this is exactly what we see.

The fossil evidence for the evolution of birds from theropod dinosaurs is now overwhelming. It is also very important that all of this evidence was discovered after evolutionary theory was proposed. This evidence is therefore a stunning example of the predictive power of evolutionary theory – it predicted that exactly this kind of evidence would be discovered.

The notion that life just happened to look this way is transparently absurd. Still there are those who deny this evidence, mostly through ignorance, but occasionally through active denial. I would like the story of this stunning line of evidence to become better known by the public, for the benefit of those who are not immune to evidence.

 

 

111 responses so far

111 Responses to “More on Bird Evolution”

  1. SteveAon 27 Mar 2017 at 9:00 am

    “However, you can sort-of fly, or fly but be a terrible flyer, and this would still have an evolutionary advantage.”

    There’s a strip of woodland that adjoins our back-garden, and I once saw a magpie there whose behaviour illustrated this point quite well. The magpie kept climbing a tree trunk, then would turn around when it had got about 8ft up, and jump back down again. I imagine it was hunting something in the leaf litter (perhaps it had disturbed a nest of mice) and was climbing up the tree to get a bird’s-eye-view, then pouncing down on whatever it saw. Regardless of its motives, the dense brush prevented the magpie extending its wings properly, so it would run up the tree trunk using its legs (obviously), but also pump its half extended wings to give it a push as it climbed. On the way back down it would use its half-extended wings to guide its fall as it dived to the ground.

    Very easy to imagine a proto-bird using its flappy arms to do something similar.

  2. TheGorillaon 27 Mar 2017 at 10:18 am

    If birds are so smart then why are they birds?

  3. arnieon 27 Mar 2017 at 10:55 am

    Gorilla,
    Perhaps to counter-balance the creationist, anti-science ignorance and prejudices of homo sapiens?;-)

  4. michaelegnoron 27 Mar 2017 at 11:20 am

    So Gould’s ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ takes a hit. If you find “transitional forms”, evolution is proven. If you don’t find transitional forms, PE is proven, which is evolution. Either way, the dogma is upheld.

    If birds indeed evolved gradually from dinosaurs, then creationists are wrong and ID and Darwinists are right. ID has no problem with (gradual or sudden) evolution. ID proposes that biological structure and function manifests evidence for intelligent agency–teleology. It is indifferent to special creation or gradual evolution.

    That is the salient scientific question– is there evidence for teleology (design) in living things? It’s not a question addressed by dinosaurs gradually becoming birds.

    And if you accept the premise that Darwinian evolution must manifest transitional forms in the fossil record, then you must (logically) take the absence of transitional forms in many lineages (ie punctuated equilibrium) to be evidence against Darwinian evolution.

    Unless of course you consider any evidence at all to be supportive of Darwinian evolution, which is pretty much the way it works out.

  5. chikoppion 27 Mar 2017 at 11:21 am

    If birds evolved from dinosaurs then why are there still dinosaurs!

    Erm..wait a minute. I’ll get back to you…

  6. Willyon 27 Mar 2017 at 11:47 am

    Dr. Egnor: You have just shown that you have NO grasp of what evolution is, nor do you understand what PE is. Here’s one clue to get you started: PE does NOT say there will not be transitional forms; indeed, transitional forms are REQUIRED because PE is nothing more than a tweak on the original Darwinian idea of gradual change over time.

  7. Steven Novellaon 27 Mar 2017 at 11:48 am

    Michael – You apparently don’t understand punctuated equilibrium.

    Punctuated equilibrium simply means that species do not evolve at a smooth continuous rate over time. Rather, they fairly stable for most of their existence (at equilibrium with their environment), but this stability is punctuated by relatively short periods of relatively rapid evolution.

    I emphasize “relatively” because everything here depends upon scale. A species may be stable for 1-2 million years, but then speciate over 5-10 thousand years.

    But there is no one pattern to evolution, as it is dependent on history and the situation. Some species will gradually change over time if there is persistent selective pressure.

    With bird evolution, we see adaptive radiation of many groups of dinosaurs with feathers. Each species may be stable over a million years or two, but if you back up further the overall pattern is change over time in multiple directions. One of those directions leads to modern birds.

    So yes, if we look at the fossils over 100 million years or so and follow the line that led to birds, we see “gradual” change, acquiring more and more characteristics that will later become typical of modern birds. If you zoom in to just 1 million years you will see that individual species can be stable over this time.

    The evidence is overwhelming for common descent. Special creation is indeed falsified unless you try to rescue it with the ad hoc reasoning that God, for some strange reason, made the history of life look like it evolved.

    ID could be compatible with special creation or common descent, depending on your beliefs. You can certainly believe that life evolved, and therefore common descent is real, but that the path of evolution was intelligently controlled. There is no evidence or logic to support ID, and all the arguments for it have been soundly shot down by scientists.

    Further, if you look at the full picture of the fossil evidence, and we now have a good one for bird evolution, then you can say that we don’t see one lineage evolving in one direction as if by plan. We see animals evolving in many directions. There doesn’t appear to be any plan or direction, just finding different solution to adapt to local conditions.

    Regarding your statement that the lack of transitional species would falsify common descent, this would be true if we failed to find any transitional fossils despite having a fossil record complete enough that we should have found them. You are trying to make a gap argument, any gaps in the evidence are evidence of absence. But that makes no sense. We have found as many transitional species as you might reasonably predict given the completely of the fossil evidence. As we find more fossils, we find more transitional species. Because we have not yet found every single one does not mean common descent is falsified. I suspect you know this.

  8. MosBenon 27 Mar 2017 at 12:19 pm

    If life were intelligently designed, why would so many species have gone extinct over the last several billion years? Why put all that work into guiding the evolution of a species for millions of years only to have it die out?

  9. pdeboeron 27 Mar 2017 at 12:37 pm

    “That is the salient scientific question– is there evidence for teleology (design) in living things? It’s not a question addressed by dinosaurs gradually becoming birds.”

    Evolutionary scientists don’t give a flying dinosaur fuck about this question.

  10. pdeboeron 27 Mar 2017 at 12:42 pm

    Confuciusornis is a very bird looking dinosaur. Very cool.

  11. bendon 27 Mar 2017 at 12:51 pm

    How anyone can look at a cassowary and not be convinced that birds are dinosaurs is beyond me.

  12. michaelegnoron 27 Mar 2017 at 1:19 pm

    [PE does NOT say there will not be transitional forms; indeed, transitional forms are REQUIRED because PE is nothing more than a tweak on the original Darwinian idea of gradual change over time.]

    PE says that there will be no transitional forms found in the fossil record, because the evolution was so rapid. Translated into honest (non-Darwinian) language, PE says that the absence of fossil evidence for evolution is evidence of evolution by PE.

    [Evolutionary scientists don’t give a flying dinosaur fuck about this question (teleology).

    It’s the question Darwinists care about the most, because Darwinism allows them to intellectually fulfilled atheists.

    Nobody with an IQ over 50 would consider ‘things happen and survivors survive’ to be an actual scientific theory, unless it was doing some unrelated heavy lifting- in this case, Darwinism (supposedly) provides a way around the teleology that is obvious in nature.

  13. Willyon 27 Mar 2017 at 2:10 pm

    I find it quite rich that one of the “stars” of the constellation known as the Discovery Institute has such a poor understanding of evolution. It is clear that Dr. Egnor doesn’t decide based on evidence, but instead just hunts for “ammo” to defend his pre-conceived notion of what is true. Facts be damned.

  14. Steven Novellaon 27 Mar 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Michael – you are just demonstrating your own lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory, and you are playing disingenuous word games.

    First – what is a transitional fossil? It depends on context, but usually scientists mean that it represents an evolutionary space between two other groups. It does not represent some impossible chimera, or a creature caught in the act of evolving with a half-formed structure. That is a creationist fiction that no scientist believes exists. Creatures are viable and are fully formed as whatever they currently are.

    PE absolutely predicts there will be transitional fossils. There still needs to be connections between groups. The only difference is, with PE you see species as stable over time in the record. Speciation events are relatively rapid, which means capturing a speciation event is rare (but not unheard of). Whereas gradualism predicts slow continuous change.

    Perhaps you are confusing speciation event with transitional fossil. That is the kind of mistake someone almost completely ignorant of evolutionary theory can make.

    See how you have twisted the various evolutionary concepts to make your clever but utterly vacuous criticism?

    There are many fossils that are clearly transitional between dinosaurs and birds – they fit into the evolutionary time and morphological space between these two groups. They are transitional – whether or not that transition was gradual and continuous or rapid and discontinuous.

    Teleology is “obvious” in nature only if you already believe in it. It is a superficial and uninformed casual assessment. When scientists actually studied nature they found it to be messy and pretty much the opposite of teleological.

  15. Steven Novellaon 27 Mar 2017 at 3:25 pm

    ME – ‘things happen and survivors survive’

    That is a summary of your own ignorance of evolutionary theory, not an accurate statement of the theory itself. That is also a bit of nonsense that has been debunked for about a century.

  16. chikoppion 27 Mar 2017 at 4:03 pm

    [michaelegnor] It’s the question Darwinists care about the most, because Darwinism allows them to intellectually fulfilled atheists.

    “Darwinists.” Ha! How dare they not find evidence of supernatural determination. They must be hiding it so that they can continue to feel smug. Yes, that is clearly their motivation.

    Nobody with an IQ over 50 would consider ‘magic’ to be a reasonable answer to interject where there is no need and no evidence to support it. Unless, of course, it served to fulfill their narrative of possessing divinely inspired insight and rightfully deserved indignation.

    Well, you caught us. We all actually think birds exist because they were always “supposed to” exist. How silly would it be to think otherwise! Now you can retire to bask in your hard won victory and nurse that persecution complex. Hooray!

  17. Lightnotheaton 27 Mar 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Once again ME’s intellectual gymnastics are laid bare. Hard to think of a more obvious example of starting with a position and then looking for arguments to support it.

  18. bachfiendon 27 Mar 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Steven,

    We’ve had this ‘discussion’ before regarding Punctuated Equilibrium. PE is nothing more than a different name for allopatric speciation. It doesn’t mean than species originate in short times, in geological terms. All it means is that one species is replaced by another different species, which is very similar, in a short time geological terms.

    What happens is that a large interbreeding population is divided into two or more separate populations, by some geographical barrier (perhaps accidental migration to a new habitat such as the Galápagos Islands or general climate drying with formation of a new desert splitting the original species’ range into two) one of which is large and widespread and at least one of the other populations is smaller and less extensive in area.

    The fossils we discover are from the large extensive population, just because there’s so many more of them. The fossils don’t change over time, because evolution doesn’t proceed as quickly in large populations over large areas. The conditions the population is exposed to are so varied, there’s no consistent set of conditions directing whatever variations are present towards a single optimum.

    We don’t discover the fossils from the small isolated population, because there’s no few of them, and they’re so restricted in area. But evolution occurs much more easily in this population, because the entire population is exposed to the same conditions, so natural selection is continually directing the population towards an optimum.

    Evolution in the small isolated population need not be rapid. In fact, it’s likely to be both slow and progressive as Darwin proposed.

    And then there’s a sudden episode of climate change, a major volcanic eruption, a major bolide collision, whatever, producing a new global climate which favours the small isolated new species over the large widespread old species, and the new species takes over rapidly (in geological terms) from the old species (which goes extinct). So the fossils we discover rapidly change from the old ones and are replaced by the new ones – in geological terms.

    I hate the term Punctuated Equilibrium. All it’s doing is giving a different name to something that has been known for decades – allopatric speciation – as if it’s something original and novel. And it was known, well before Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’, that geological strata can be arranged temporally by the fossil species contained within with abrupt changes. Think the English geologist William Smith.

    The term Punctuated Equilibrium ought to be dropped. It has no explanatory power. It is almost as useless as Irreducible Complexity or Intelligent Design.

  19. MikeBon 27 Mar 2017 at 5:04 pm

    bachfiend, lovely comment. It voices much of what I’ve thought about PE, but then who am I to go against the Mighty Gould?

    This passage from Darwin made me think we’d all been “punc’d” by the PE people: It ain’t new.

    With animals and plants that propagate rapidly and do not wander much, there is reason to suspect . . . that their varieties are at first generally local; and that such local varieties do not spread widely and supplant their parent forms until they have been modified and perfected in some considerable degree. According to this view, the chance of discovering in a formation in any one country all the early stages of transition between any two forms, is small, for the successive changes are supposed to have been local or confined to some one spot. . . . [this would] greatly lessen the chance of our being able to trace the stages of transition in any one geological formation.// It is a more important consideration . . . that the period during which each species underwent modification , though long as measured by years, was probably short in comparison with that during which it remained without undergoing any change.

    Read that carefully. That’s just punk eek.

  20. RickKon 27 Mar 2017 at 5:11 pm

    ME said: “So Gould’s ‘Punctuated Equilibrium’ takes a hit. If you find “transitional forms”, evolution is proven. If you don’t find transitional forms, PE is proven, which is evolution.”

    Wow, that was either ignorant or dishonest to a degree that is surprising even for you, Michael. PE does not say there are no transitional fossils. You’re just pontificating from your posterior and making things up to avoid debating what PE actually says.

    ME said: “things happen and survivors survive”

    That wasn’t clever 100 years ago. It wasn’t clever any of the previous 20 times you’ve said it. And it is tediously un-clever now. I know grooves wear deep in an aging brain, but you really should try to get your wheels out of that rut. As Steve said, it just makes you look ignorant. But then again, you take real pride in ignorance, don’t you Michael? You own it. You’ve gone to pains to make ignorance your personal motto. So in that regard, you’re the perfect advocate for the Discovery Institute.

  21. Fair Persuasionon 27 Mar 2017 at 5:26 pm

    What did Archaeopteryx eat as a regular diet. It is the only bird which had teeth.

  22. edamameon 27 Mar 2017 at 5:50 pm

    So in the world according to Egnor, a beautifully preserved transitional form of an extinct species undermines the case for evolution. 🙂 Yep, it makes perfect sense.

    ‘Punctuated equilibrium’ might seem an artifact of narrowly paleontological thinking. But there is truth to be found there: the rate of evolution is not constant over time. Selection pressures are not constant over time. Genetic drift can cause extremely rapid evolution after catastrophic population bottlenecks. Etc etc etc. Intelligent design theori

    Some people cannot see evolutionary change without unthinkingly, reflexively filtering it through the distorting lens of intelligent design theory. It’s more automatic than the patellar reflex for them.

    Meanwhile, real science continues.

  23. Steven Novellaon 27 Mar 2017 at 6:14 pm

    bachfiend – I agree with everything you said. i understand that is what we are mostly talking about. I see PE more of how the fossil record looks – stability over time, then new species suddenly dominating in the fossil record. They did not necessarily evolve suddenly, or even quickly, but they can quickly dominate, as you say.

    But it does contain the point that a large population can be stable for millions of years.

  24. Willyon 27 Mar 2017 at 9:31 pm

    C’mon, Dr, Novella. Fess up. You pay “Dr. Egnor” and “hardnose” to provide demonstrations of how people who reject science behave and “think”, dontcha?

    Dr. Egnor: You’d be flat wrong about PE saying there would not be transitional forms to be found. You are the perfect example of how one can be competent in one field and utterly ignorant in other fields.

  25. Nitpickingon 28 Mar 2017 at 7:11 am

    Dr. Egnor has to be trolling. Really, this guy works at a prestigious university–the same one that Massimo Pigliucci used to teach at, in fact. He’s literally walking distance from Richard Leakey’s office! He cannot, cannot, be this ignorant.

    Ernst Mayr found the Punctuated Equilibrium hype frustrating because he felt it was just a restatement of ideas he had put forth decades earlier, and all Gould and Eldredge had really added was a catchy phrase.

  26. michaelegnoron 28 Mar 2017 at 7:19 am

    Steven:

    [… But there is no one pattern to evolution, as it is dependent on history and the situation.]

    The theory of punctuated equilibrium was developed specifically to account for the absence of transitional fossils in many lineages. PE may be true, or it may be false. My point is simple: when you cite a fossil record that has putative transitional forms (dinos-birds), and accept a fossil record without transitional forms (PE), you are making an argument whose logical structure is”whatever the evidence, evolution is true.”

    Now it may be that dino-bird evolution and PE are both true. But if they are both true, then their truth cannot be demonstrated from the fossil record, because their antithesis- that there are no dino-bird transitional fossils and that there are transitional fossils of species otherwise believed to evolve by PE, would also be supported by the evidence.

    Accepting both gradual evolution and PE makes Darwinism unfalsifiable by the fossil record.

  27. BillyJoe7on 28 Mar 2017 at 7:45 am

    You can lead a horse to water…

  28. Nitpickingon 28 Mar 2017 at 8:02 am

    Give Dr. Egnor credit: his point really is simple.

    It’s not correct, but simple it is.

  29. Steven Novellaon 28 Mar 2017 at 8:25 am

    Michael – you are simply wrong. That is not why PE was developed, because there is no absence of transitional fossils in the record. The point is to account for apparent stability over time, punctuated by geologically sudden changes in the fossil assemblage. This has nothing to do with transitional fossils – you simply misunderstand the theory, despite the fact that it how now been explained to you in detail.

    Further, you completely ignored my point about time frame. Everything depends upon how long a time frame you are talking about.

    You are further making another mistake, one you often make (and have made with neuroscience, for example) and that is confusing details about how something works with the question of whether or not it is true.

    Gradualism vs PE is not about whether evolution happened, but what the pattern of evolution looks like over varying time scales. That’s it. Similarly, it is absolutely not about whether or not transitional forms exist, but will they be gradual and continuous vs intermittent and sudden.

    But I suspect you will not be budged from your simplistic and incorrect narrative that evolution cannot be falsified by the fossil record. It absolutely could have been – we could have failed to find any transitional connections between major groups despite extensive searching. There could have been fossils hopelessly out of sequence, with no pattern of nested relatedness. Horses in the Cambrian.

    There are, in fact, and infinite number of possible patterns to the fossil record that would have falsified evolution. What we found was within a small range of possible patterns that are compatible with evolution, which include both gradualism and PE. Again, those are details, not the big picture, which you completely miss.

  30. arnieon 28 Mar 2017 at 10:21 am

    “You are further making another mistake, one you often make (and have made with neuroscience, for example) and that is confusing details about how something works with the question of whether or not it is true.”

    I, and I’m sure many others, have noticed that repeated tendency in ME. I wonder if there might, unfortunately, be an expectation of him here, given his reputed success in a culturally very prestigious medical-surgical specialty to expect a higher level of complex, abstract, nuanced reasoning capacity on his part. Instead, in his assertions and arguments and off-the-mark responses to others’ arguments, we consistently find very concrete, compartmentalized, literal, simplistic, black-and-white, all or none mode of reasoning and communicating.

    There seems to be a sense here that he should somehow be capable of doing “better” and understanding more nuance, complex, logical and “big picture” arguments and explanations. Perhaps we should alter our expectations to what we consistently get and recognize these are stylistic cognitive differences probably a result of both nature (evolution) and nurture. And, very importantly, those dominant cognitive features are not incompatible with being a knowledgeable, competent, practitioner and teacher of neuro-surgery.

  31. edamameon 28 Mar 2017 at 10:57 am

    Dr Egnor seems to be morphing into Duane Gish. Please someone send him a textbook explaining why we do not expect to find every transitional species in the fossil record. This was covered freshman year for me.

    The problem is as Dr Novella pointed out evolution is definitely falsifiable, and it has survived every attempt, been a predictive and explanatory engine that no other theory can approach in magnitude. Unlike the days when Gould/Eldredge published the PE theory, we now have reams of molecular data that only has further confirmed the predictions of evolutionary thinking, broadly construed.

    Dr Egnor you need a better target, maybe string theory? That’s still in its early stages why don’t you pick on something that isn’t so thunderously-well empirically supported? This is boring. You’ve got nothing.

  32. Willyon 28 Mar 2017 at 11:22 am

    My nominee for the most uninformed statement on this thread “… species otherwise believed to evolve by PE,…”

  33. RickKon 28 Mar 2017 at 2:58 pm

    arnie said: “There seems to be a sense here that he should somehow be capable of doing “better” and understanding more nuance, complex, logical and “big picture” arguments and explanations.”

    I was absolutely guilty of thinking this. But extended exposure to Michael has just lowered my assumptions of the intellectual skills required for neurosurgery.

  34. BillyJoe7on 28 Mar 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Neurosurgery is a manual skill rather than an intellectual skill like neurology.
    That’s why he gets emasculated every time he comes here.

  35. bachfiendon 28 Mar 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Michael,

    Punctuated Equilibrium is a fact. The geological record shows that species are often, even usually, replaced by species which are very similar. One particular trilobite which was common and widespread abruptly goes extinct and is replaced by another trilobite, which morphologically is very similar, and which is also very common and widespread, for example.

    But facts are trivial. It’s the underlying theory which explains why the facts are true that are important.

    There are two theories explaining why Punctuated Equilibrium is true. The first is that evolution at times can occur very rapidly, within hundreds of generations instead of thousands or tens of thousands of generations, if the conditions affecting the species change rapidly enough, which is a very short period in geological terms, represented by a very short thickness in the sedimentary column. ‘Transitional’ fossils, representing intermediates from one extinct species to the species which replaced it, are present in the geological column, but they’re few and difficult to find.

    The second theory explaining PE is that one species can go extinct and be replaced by a different, but very similar species, very rapidly in geological terms, as a result of allopatric speciation. One species, which is common and widespread, is divided into at least two separate reproductively isolated populations by some geographical barrier – one being still common and widespread and the other being localised and much less common. The fossils in the geological column come from the common and widespread species. In the meantime, the localised population is slowly evolving in response to slow gradual changes in its surroundings, accumulating major changes, including in its morphological appearances, forming a new species, but because it’s localised and much less common it doesn’t show in the geological column. And then there’s some major climatic change – a major volcanic eruption or a major bolide collision for example – not suiting the common species but favouring the other much less common species, and the first goes extinct and disappears from the geological column and is abruptly replaced by an apparently new species.

    The second theory is the correct one. Speciation, the formation of new species, is a very slow process. Polar bears and brown bears are obviously different species. The genetic evidence is that they began to diverge around 115,000 years ago. There’s major morphological differences between the two species which can be recognised at a glance.

    But polar bears and brown bears are capable of mating not only in captivity but also in the wild to produce fertile offspring. By the most common definition of species, they’re still the same species, despite diverging thousands of generations ago and accumulating major morphological differences.

    This is just one species demonstrating that evolution is slow and progressive.

    Steve Novella noted that Punctuated Evolution demonstrates that populations can be very stable for millions of years. This doesn’t mean that the population has stopped evolving during the millions of years. All it means is that their morphological appearance hasn’t changed significantly over millions of years, which might be dependent on a few dozen genes. It doesn’t mean that the other thousands or tens of thousands of genes haven’t changed significantly, producing major biochemical changes. If you had the hypothetical time machine and were able to go back and gather a sample of the species from when it first appeared and a sample from just before it went extinct, there’s no reason for thinking that the two samples would be capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

    It’s sometimes claimed that humans have stopped evolving, because their morphology hasn’t changed for 200,000 years. In actual fact, humans are still evolving and will continue to evolve. One example is the evolved genetic ability of humans to consume milk as adults, which is extremely unusual in mammals, which leaves no evidence in the fossil record.

    The fossil record is very good evidence that evolution is true. But there’s other very evidence that it’s true, such as genetics and biogeography. It’s the consilience of evidence that shows that evolution is true.

  36. arnieon 28 Mar 2017 at 5:36 pm

    RickK,,”I was absolutely guilty of thinking this. But extended exposure to Michael has just lowered my assumptions of the intellectual skills required for neurosurgery.”

    BJ7….”Neurosurgery is a manual skill rather than an intellectual skill like neurology.
    That’s why he gets emasculated every time he comes here.”

    You got it! And immeasurably more succinctly written than my piece! LOL (And I don’t think any of us are suggesting he isn’t very bright. May very well be, but his ways of thinking about things probably lend themselves much better to his career [and ideological] choice than some others options.) All this is partially speculation, of course, based only on a couple of years of reading his numerous comments here.

  37. Willyon 28 Mar 2017 at 10:07 pm

    The best part of this is that we know Dr. Egnor is checking in regularly and ignoring things until his dander gets too fired up. That’s when he makes himself known–and embarrasses himself. Well, I’d actually bet he isn’t embarrassed cuz he doesn’t have the wisdom to be embarrassed.

  38. edamameon 29 Mar 2017 at 8:56 am

    This ad hominem against Egnor as neurosurgeon is silly. Do you realize how hard it is to become a neurosurgeon? Evaluate arguments.

  39. arnieon 29 Mar 2017 at 9:31 am

    Edamame……Large straw man you’re responding to. No one said it isn’t very hard to become a neurosurgeon. It is, and I’ve witnessed it first hand. I was referring to modes of cognition, exemplified by ME’s ways of thinking, that are much more compatible with a career in neurosurgery than some other career options and intellectual pursuits that require other kinds of cognitive skills not exemplified in his comments on this blog.

    I’m sorry you didn’t understand that distinction. Neither, apparently, does ME. I’m not criticizing him for that but am calling him out for his apparent sense of superiority over, and disdain for, those on this blog who’s points of arguments exemplify different cognitive skills than his own. Using good critical thinking skills and good judgment and mechanical skills in one area, does not necessarily translate over to a capacity for good critical thinking skills in other areas.

  40. Willyon 29 Mar 2017 at 11:48 am

    Well put, arnie.

    I’d like to add that Dr. Egnor’s smugness (people who disagree with him are “criminals”, have IQs lower than 50, etc.) and his apparently intentional unwillingness to understand other’s arguments and corrections makes him an easy and “popular” target on these threads.

    Look above at the several attempts to make clear to him that he doesn’t understand evolution and PE, yet he just plows ahead as if he does. I mean, really, “evolve by PE”!?!?. This kind activity is repeated on every thread he posts to and it just plain gets old. He deserves the scorn that is heaped on him.

  41. chadwickjoneson 29 Mar 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Dr. Egnor, let me help you out a little…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium#Saltationism

    It’s right there under the heading Common misconceptions.

    Wow…

  42. RickKon 29 Mar 2017 at 5:33 pm

    The “ID” that Egnor advocates (preaches) does not stand for Intelligent Design. He uses those words, but they’re not descriptive of his approach, his reasoning or his past comments.

    The “ID” that Egnor and his Discovery Institute promote is “Ideological Design”. Michael Egnor has clearly stated that a universe without a designer is unthinkable to him. He has said that if the universe is not designed by a deity, then the moral absolutes he requires to validate himself are meaningless. He does not accept that human moral instincts can be the “mere” products of biological and social evolution. He’s only able to accept a universe where his views align with and are backed by a universal creator.

    So, to maintain harmony with his ideology and keep his divinity-approved self-image intact, when discussing evolution, Michael assumes a designer. His “ID” is “Ideological Design”, not “Intelligent Design”.

    And that is why his arguments for a designer are so much more ideological than intelligent.

    Yes, it is hard to become a neurosurgeon, but apparently intellectual honesty, the ability to present a coherent argument and the moral courage to put facts and reason ahead of personal ideology are not relevant to success in the profession.

  43. arnieon 29 Mar 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Willy and RickK, I agree fully with both of your comments except Willy, your last sentence doesn’t quite sit right with me. Perhaps he has earned scorn in return for his scorn for the rest of us, but at the very least, I think scorn for scorn is a waste of emotional energy as well as an unsatisfying dip down to his level of relating and communicating. And, who knows, if we knew his entire history intimately, we might even be able to muster up as much sympathy, or empathy, as scorn. Understand, I’m not offering him an excuse for his behavior, no way! Just admitting my limited knowledge relating to him.

    Rick, I’m sure we’ve all noticed that “the ability to present a coherent argument and the moral courage to put facts and reason ahead of personal ideology” isn’t, unfortunately, always essential to success in many careers, including professions. I do think they are relevant in the sense that I, personally, wouldn’t go to any professional whom I suspected of lacking those qualities you list.

  44. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 9:09 am

    To my interlocutors in the Darwin Youth:

    Pretty funny. I am quite open to Steven’s claim about dino-bird evolution. I’m not a YEC. My point is simple and obvious. It seems that claims that gradual evolution and PE can’t both be based on the fossil record; the presence or absence of transitional fossils for any particular claim of lineage are mutually exclusive. To tout transitional fossils as evidence for evolution, and the absence of transitional fossils as evidence for evolution (PE), sort of rigs the game. Evolution by Darwinian processes wins no matter what the evidence.

    And when I point that out, all hell breaks loose. My character and credentials and sanity are cast into doubt.

    It’s almost as if I pointed out a flaw in your religion…

  45. mumadaddon 30 Mar 2017 at 9:12 am

    Michael,

    Perhaps you could make this easier for everyone.

    “the absence of transitional fossils as evidence for evolution (PE)”

    Who, either on this blog, this thread, or communicating science anywhere, ever, is touting the absence of transitional fossils as evidence for evolution?

  46. SteveAon 30 Mar 2017 at 10:59 am

    michaelegnor

    Since you’re not a YEC and appear to think PE and gradualism are mutually exclusive, can you say which one is favoured by the ID model?

    Does god treat evolution as a protracted game of chess (gradualism) or is he/she prone to fits of enthusiasm (PE), like occasionally picking up a PS4 to play Dying Light when he/she has an hour or two of downtime?

  47. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 12:04 pm

    [Who, either on this blog, this thread, or communicating science anywhere, ever, is touting the absence of transitional fossils as evidence for evolution?]

    Transitional fossils at the species level are rare (as admitted by Gould http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html); “transitional” fossils are found mainly between larger groups. This is of course a problem for a theory (Darwinism) advanced to account for origin of species (not origin of larger groups). PE is the bit of hand-waving proposed to account for this evidentiary catastrophe–there are no species-to-species transitional fossils because–‘golly, everlution happens so durn fast we can’t see ’em!’

    PE (which means essentially ‘the absence of transitional fossils between species’ is touted as an important aspect of evolutionary theory.

    Ergo, the absence of transitional fossils is touted as evidence for evolution.

    That would be in answer to “Who, either on this blog, this thread, or communicating science anywhere, ever, is touting the absence of transitional fossils as evidence for evolution?”

  48. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 12:40 pm

    You really should go back and re-read the link you provided.

  49. ScubaSharkyon 30 Mar 2017 at 12:49 pm

    “Transitional fossils at the species level are rare.”

    Note, ‘rare’ not ‘non-existent’ as your argument continually presupposes.

  50. edamameon 30 Mar 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Dr Egnor but there are transitional fossils, as predicted by Darwin. There is no catastrophe for evolutionary theory. Then when they are found, you just say “Well but where are the transitional forms between those!” The evidence for human evolution is actually really strong, we have multiple transitional species from H Habilis to H Sapiens, to the point where creationists will argue among themselves about whether a fossil should be classified as a human or an ape!

    Also, you are acting as if paleontology is the source of evidence that exists. The fossil record is a coarse shadow of evolutionary history: it reveals very little about mechanisms. There’s molecular biology which lets us construct phylogenies much more accurately because we don’t have to rely on intuition about the gross anatomical features that individuate species (see ‘The Role of Chromosomal Change in Plant Evolution’).

    And we have observed speciation en media res in plants (see ‘Rapid Concerted Evolution of Nuclear Ribosomal DNA in Two Tragopogon Allopolyploids of Recent and Recurrent Origin’), insects (see ‘Genetic differences between host races of Rhagoletis pomonella’), and other groups.

    Of course we have the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria which has happened in your lifetime, Dr Egnor.

    We could easily fill a book.

    The confluence of evolutionary biology with paleontological data, molecular evidence, ecological data, is unprecedented. The only catastrophe is the amount of nonsense people confidently spout about evolution when they clearly haven’t done their homework, don’t know the most basic research that people have devoted their lives to, and should be embarrassed, but instead for some reason crow as if they have a serious contribution to make to the discussion.

  51. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:32 pm

    [Of course we have the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria which has happened in your lifetime, Dr Egnor.]

    Yea. Bacteria that aren’t killed by antibiotics proliferate, whereas bacteria that are killed, die.

    The profundity of evolutionary theory makes my knees shake.

    [We could easily fill a book]

    http://comicbook.com/

  52. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:35 pm

    @chadwick:

    [You really should go back and re-read the link you provided.]

    Do you have a point, or are you just my reading tutor?

  53. BBBlueon 30 Mar 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Punctuated
    > > > >

    Gradual
    > > > >

    Just a difference in temporal pattern that requires no reinterpretation of evolutionary principles, correct?

  54. BBBlueon 30 Mar 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Sorry, my illustration did not turn out as planned.

  55. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:42 pm

    [The fossil record is a coarse shadow of evolutionary history: it reveals very little about mechanisms. There’s molecular biology which lets us construct phylogenies much more accurately because we don’t have to rely on intuition about the gross anatomical features that individuate species (see ‘The Role of Chromosomal Change in Plant Evolution’).]

    Actually, the molecular “evidence” is a clusterfark–a bush rather than a tree–while “evolutionary theory” predicted a tree. But the traditional Darwinian paradigm prevails– ‘no matter what the evidence, Darwinism predicted it!’

  56. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:44 pm

    [Sorry, my illustration did not turn out as planned]

    Nor has the evidence. No matter. Darwin was right, no matter what!

  57. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:47 pm

    [“Transitional fossils at the species level are rare.”

    Note, ‘rare’ not ‘non-existent’ as your argument continually presupposes]

    English interpretation of “‘rare’ not ‘non-existent'”:

    ‘The evidence, taken as a whole, refutes our theory.’

  58. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 1:53 pm

    [And we have observed speciation en media res in plants (see ‘Rapid Concerted Evolution of Nuclear Ribosomal DNA in Two Tragopogon Allopolyploids of Recent and Recurrent Origin’), insects (see ‘Genetic differences between host races of Rhagoletis pomonella’), and other groups.]

    A hundred and fifty years of research, tens of millions of species, a handful of “observations” perhaps consistent with the hypothesis.

    Ergo, it’s proven!

    Facty.

    That must be why, whenever any scientist makes a claim that a theory in any discipline is true, he says “it’s a proven as Darwinism!”. (They say that all the time.)

  59. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Wow.

    The punctuational nature of punctuated equilibrium has engendered perhaps the most confusion over Eldredge and Gould’s theory. Gould’s sympathetic treatment of Richard Goldschmidt, the controversial geneticist who advocated the idea of “hopeful monsters,” led some biologists to conclude that Gould’s punctuations were occurring in single-generation jumps. This interpretation has frequently been used by creationists to characterize the weakness of the paleontological record, and to portray contemporary evolutionary biology as advancing neo-saltationism. In an often quoted remark, Gould stated, “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.” Although there exist some debate over how long the punctuations last, supporters of punctuated equilibrium generally place the figure between 50,000 and 100,000 years.

    Punctuated equilibrium is often portrayed to oppose the concept of gradualism, when it is actually a form of gradualism. This is because even though evolutionary change appears instantaneous between geological sedimentary layers, change is still occurring incrementally, with no great change from one generation to the next. To this end, Gould later commented that “Most of our paleontological colleagues missed this insight because they had not studied evolutionary theory and either did not know about allopatric speciation or had not considered its translation to geological time. Our evolutionary colleagues also failed to grasp the implication(s), primarily because they did not think at geological scales”.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium

  60. mumadaddon 30 Mar 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Michael,

    You’d have a point if there were NO transitional fossils AND the fossil record was the only evidence (or way exceeded all other lines) for evolution by NS. Yes, Gould is taking evolution by NS as already established (which it was and is) and modifying the theory to fit the evidence.

  61. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 2:16 pm

    [… Gould stated, “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again…]

    It’s damn infuriating, obviously. We should stop quoting Darwinists.

    [“Punctuated equilibrium is often portrayed to oppose the concept of gradualism, when it is actually a form of gradualism…“Most of our paleontological colleagues missed this insight because they had not studied evolutionary theory…”]

    So it seems that ‘most professional paleontologists’ saw the same problem with PE that “creationists” did.

    They just need to study more “evolutionary theory”…

    Like Winston Smith needed to study more history.

  62. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 2:22 pm

    [… modifying the theory to fit the evidence]

    But I thought that NS was already facty! Do you mean to say that survivors don’t survive?

    “modifying the theory to fit the evidence” means ‘implicitly acknowledging that the theory failed to predict the evidence (massively failed: transitional fossils between species are vanishingly rare), and thinking quickly how to cover up the failure with new hand-waving (‘everlution happens so quick ya can’t see it!’).

  63. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Oh brilliant one, Dr. Egnor… Clearly, my point is you that you obviously have trouble comprehending what you’re reading. You linked to an article that of course proves that you don’t fully grasp what Gould was saying. Instead you make up your own definitions and weave an incredible mesh of crap without evidence.

    Nearly everyone in this thread has tried to explain what it is that you’re missing, but you dismiss it, much like a child would. You simply keep repeating yourself as if that eventually makes it true. You’ve been around the wedge enough to know better.

    Stick to your day job.

  64. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 2:45 pm

    @Chadwick:

    Here’s what Gould is saying:

    ‘There’s a hole in the evidence for Darwin’s theory big enough to drive a truck through, so we made up a little theory to try to cover up the hole by saying that the reason for the lack of transitional fossils was that evolution was just too darned quick to see.’

    ‘But now these *#**## creationists are using my arse-covering ad hoc little theory against me, so now I have to make up new stuff. When will it ever end? Aarrrghhh…!’

  65. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 2:50 pm

    @mchaelegnor

    Did you think that would come off as clever? How many times does it have to be pointed out to you that your understanding of PE is incorrect? It’s Gould’s theory. He’s telling you that you are interpreting his theory, and its relation to phyletic gradualism, incorrectly.

    Whatever. Be wrong and continue to put forth meaningless strawman arguments against “Darwinists.” None of it gets you any closer to providing evidence for evolutionary determinism.

  66. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, is that what he’s saying? Just a little theory, nothing more than a hunch. I’m having trouble hearing you through all of that incredible lack of evidence you have. Nice work, sir. You really stuck it to the ‘Darwinists’…

    Keep on keepin’ on.

  67. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 3:00 pm

    @chadwick:

    [… all of that incredible lack of evidence you have]

    Actually, you’re the one who lacks the fossil evidence. That’s the motivation for PE– the scandalous lack of transitional fossils in speciation.

    I’ve just been sufficiently impolite to point it out.

  68. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 3:06 pm

    @michael

    Well, fortunate for the rest of us folks that aren’t blinded by our own personal hunches– that’s still not what PE says. Again, you’re wrong. Sorry bro, that’s simply your motivation.

  69. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 3:15 pm

    @chad:

    Here’s what PE says (Cliff Note version):

    1) Evolutionary theory predicts transitional fossils between species.
    2) There ain’t no transitional fossils between species.
    3) So we made this up: evolution at the species level happens real fast.
    4) You can’t prove it or disprove it, but this is evolutionary biology, so that’s ok.
    5) Accept it or shut up.

    That’s the theory. All the rest is commentary.

  70. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 3:20 pm

    @mike

    Thanks, I would have never figured that out on my own. I just can’t believe it– right there, this whole time. All the proof I needed that evolution isn’t true.

  71. Fair Persuasionon 30 Mar 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Archaeopteryx lived around 150 million years ago. It was a bird/reptile which was more flapper than glider. It lived in a dry climate and did not hang around trees. Part of the theropod group, it was more raptor. About 20 inches and around 2 pounds in weight, it was like a raven but not quite a bird. Archaeopteryx had killing claws and jaws. Daily mealtime feedings were small reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects.

  72. RickKon 30 Mar 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Michael,

    Why can’t you understand that what evolves between species is… species.

    You’re playing the games that Gould called out 20 years ago. The fact is there ARE transitional fossils. There are species that lasted a long time and left a lot of fossils, and species that were more localized or fleeting and left fewer fossils. The ONLY thing that PE explains is the varying rates of evolutionary change over geologic time.

    As others have said, the lack of certain fossils is not evidence for evolution. The fossil record is evidence of evolution. The millions of different fossils of species in their distinct layers that grew more complex over the eons is evidence of evolution. The random branchings, cul-de-sacs, and millions of extinctions are evidence of unguided evolution. And the icing on the cake is the discovery, long after Darwin, of the unguided genetic mechanism to explain and confirm all those evolutionary wanderings.

    To use your words, taken as a whole, the evidence screams the very evolution you refute.

    Every time you creationists try to drive that truck through a “gap” in evolution, you run into a lizard with feathers or a fish with feet.

    But, go ahead, keep flogging your ideology and calling it science. You’re just giving Steve more examples to show his huge and growing audience. I’m sure he appreciates your continued contribution to advancing skepticism.

  73. mumadaddon 30 Mar 2017 at 3:35 pm

    I’m glad I live in the UK, where evolution denial is rightly ridiculed and dismissed. I feel for my American brothers and sisters. #solidarity.

  74. edamameon 30 Mar 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Dr Egnor wrote:
    [Actually, the molecular “evidence” is a clusterfark–a bush rather than a tree–while “evolutionary theory” predicted a tree.]

    Sorry, nope. Evolutionary considerations would predict that all life is related, but not the specific topography of the relationship. Whether it is a tree or a bush, or another type of family tree is immaterial. You have spent too much time looking at metaphors and cartoons.

    We have seen your reaction to transitional species. You move the goalposts: “Well fine but what about the species between *those* species?” LOL.

    We have seen your silence on human evolution, one of the best studied speciation events of all.

    Observing speciation in real time? Nope, not important somehow. Ever heard of confirmation bias? Maybe study such cases of speciation, think about them, actually delve into the studies and their implications. You know, actually dig in and do some research.

    You suggest the evolution of antibiotic resistance is trivial and obvious, something even an idiot would expect. Yes! You are starting to get it! Now if you can just apply that kind of thinking outside of bacteria, in cases where it is a little closer to home!

    I know you might try to protest that antibiotic resistance is artificial selection because they evolved due to our antibiotics. That mistake would suggest you are still locked into an intelligent design-based cognitive local minimum, but keep thinking about it, there is a sliver of light getting into that darkness!

  75. edamameon 30 Mar 2017 at 3:46 pm

    RickK FTW:
    Every time you creationists try to drive that truck through a “gap” in evolution, you run into a lizard with feathers or a fish with feet.

    “But what about the species between those?!”

    “Well we have this one, it is a fossil with clear gill slits but still contains large leg-like structures.”

    “No, show me the species between those, that’s what I actually meant!”

    “Here’s a living fish that walks on the seafloor. It was discovered yesterday by deep sea explorers that have devoted their lives to science and discovering new species, at great personal sacrifice and risk.”

    “That’s just one example it doesn’t prove anything, cut it with this facty nonsense. I want you to show me some science! You got nothin’!”

    “Sigh”

  76. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 4:10 pm

    [All the proof I needed that evolution isn’t true.]

    Actually, I never said ‘evolution isn’t true’.

    There is no question that the organisms in the fossil record are different than the organisms alive today, and there is no question that populations of organisms change with time. There is also no question that things change and survivors survive.

    The question is how all of this fits together. We don’t really know. Perhaps all organisms descended from a common ancestor, perhaps not. The evidence is inconclusive. Perhaps species never change, and new species merely appear. We don’t know.

    Of this only I am certain: evolutionary biologists, and their fellators, are ideologically reprehenisble lying moronic scumbags who are a disgrace to science and who should be treated with utter contempt.

    I do my part with the “contempt”.

  77. chadwickjoneson 30 Mar 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I’m going to go ahead and peel that Darwin-Fish from my car… And now all I want to do is kick dirt.

  78. bachfiendon 30 Mar 2017 at 4:42 pm

    Michael,

    Your point (3) of your distorted Cliff Notes ‘understanding’ of Punctuated Equilibrium ‘So we made this up: evolution at the species level happens real fast’ is 100% incorrect.

    All Punctuated Equilibrium pointed out was that one species is replaced by another very similar species abruptly in the geological column of sedimentary rocks.

    And it wasn’t a particularly novel observation. It was known to geologists such as William Smith before Charles Darwin. And Charles Darwin knew of it too.

    Evolution still occurs very gradually despite your erroneous interpretation of PE. Polar bears and brown bears are obviously different species. On the genetic evidence they began to diverge 115,000 years ago. But they’re still capable of interbreeding to produce fertile offspring in both captivity and in the wild, so by one definition of species, they’re still the same species.

    A palaeontologist, if there is one, perhaps 10 million years in the future, if she’s looking for Ursine fossils in the sedimentary rocks in high latitude North America in an icefree world, might find fossils of a large bear from 10 MYA which is abruptly replaced, in the geological column, by fossils of a smaller bear, and wonder what happened.

    The true explanation would be that the large bear – the polar bear – went extinct, and was replaced by the smaller bear – the brown bear – as the Arctic became icefree, perhaps over centuries, a very short time in geological time (and it’s arguable that brown bears and polar bears are still actually just the one species anyway). In your distorted interpretation of Punctuated Equilibrium you’re claiming that it would mean that the larger bear rapidly evolved into the smaller bear. Which just isn’t true.

  79. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 4:43 pm

    “Perhaps species never change, and new species merely appear.”

    Like…out of thin air? Or that the entire first generation population of a species is spontaneously and simultaneously born of mothers from a completely different species? You hate evolutionary biologists because they don’t seriously entertain those possibilities?

  80. BillyJoe7on 30 Mar 2017 at 4:44 pm

    ME,

    “Of this only I am certain: evolutionary biologists, and their fellators, are ideologically reprehenisble lying moronic scumbags ”

    Onward Christian soldiers!

    (As embarrassing as it is. I like you better when you talk about the little baby jesus)

  81. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 5:46 pm

    [“Perhaps species never change, and new species merely appear.”
    Like…out of thin air?…]

    Yep.

    As we speak, cosmologists are seriously discussing the existence of uncountable other universes. One of the most popular theories in quantum mechanics is Everett’s Many World’s hypothesis, in which every quantum state of every particle in the universe represents the creation of a new universe–trillions of trillions of trillions of new universes created every nanosecond.

    It is accepted by nearly all astrophysicists that the universe began in a singularity in which the known laws of physics don’t exist.

    If it is a perfectly plausible scientific theory that every quantum state of every particle creates a new universe, what is implausible about the spontaneous emergence of a new species? It hasn’t been observed? Neither have other universes.

    And the fossil record of speciation–intermediate forms are virtually non-existent- is entirely consistent with this hypothesis.

    Species simply appear without predecessors? Heck, that’s downright mundane, compared with mainstream physics and cosmology, which is a much more developed and precise science than evolutionary biology was or ever will be.

    This is what I really dislike about evolutionary biologists–that their idiot materialistic 19th century fairy tale blinds them to possibilities that are accepted widely as plausible in other areas of genuine science.

  82. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 6:03 pm

    I have to believe you have resorted to nonsense because you don’t have an actual answer to the question.

    On the off-chance I’m wrong, I’ll merely point out that speculation about the extreme scales of the observable universe is not applicable to the well-established laws that govern physics in the current state of the macro-universe (when and where evolution happens).

    I will agree with you on one point. Evolutionary biologists do not consider, “Hey, maybe it’s a magic unknown thing that contradicts the laws of physics and of cause and effect,” to be a valid basis for for a theory.

  83. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 6:13 pm

    @chi:

    [I’ll merely point out that speculation about the extreme scales of the observable universe is not applicable to the well-established laws that govern physics]

    I am proposing no specific theory. I’m merely pointing out that the sudden appearance of a new species, without predecessor, is no less plausible than the sudden appearance of countless universes from each possible (not actual) ensemble of quantum states.

    In fact, Ludwig Boltzmann made a rather similar argument about the respective likelihood of the existence of solitary deluded human brains versus an actual universe (google “Boltzmann brains”).

    A new species is massively less complicated and (in Boltzmann-type reasoning) massively more likely than a new universe.

    As I said, I’m not proposing a theory of speciation. I’m simply pointing out that an objective look at the evidence (the absence of transitional forms in speciation) raises actual questions about the spontaneous appearance of new species. It’s no more crazy than what gets presented at hundreds of physics conferences each year.

  84. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Synopsis:

    Evolutionary biologists won’t consider any theory that wasn’t initially proposed by a second-rate hypochondriac 19th century barnacle collector.

  85. bachfiendon 30 Mar 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Michael,

    ‘It is accepted by nearly all astrophysicists that the universe began in a singularity in which the known law of physics don’t exist’.

    No, no, no… your ignorance concerning science is astounding. It’s not known whether there was a singularity at all. Einstein’s General Relativity theory and Quantum Physics are both true, but there’s no way of combining them to describe the very early universe when it was very hot and very small.

    There’s no quantum theory of gravity, which would be necessary to describe the very early universe.

    Quantum Physics is undoubtedly true – it makes predictions that have been confirmed with 100% accuracy and very high precision. But no one actually knows what it means. The Many Worlds Hypothesis is one interpretation, but it’s not scripture. Or dogma.

    You still don’t get the point. Punctuated Equilibrium doesn’t mean that new species pop into existence. It means that in the geological column, one species is replaced by another species – often very similar in morpholgical appearances – as the first species goes extinct and the second species migrates from elsewhere (allopathic speciation) as the climate changes, whether due to a major volcanic eruption, a major bolide collision or the current AGW.

    The geological column of sedimentary rocks in one location with all its different discrete layers and all its different fossils just reflects the history of Life in that one location – it gives no indication as to what is happening to Life in other locations.

  86. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Yep. Bachfiend beat me to the line.

    [michaelegnor] As I said, I’m not proposing a theory of speciation. I’m simply pointing out that an objective look at the evidence (the absence of transitional forms in speciation) raises actual questions about the spontaneous appearance of new species. It’s no more crazy than what gets presented at hundreds of physics conferences each year.

    It is. We have good evidence of what the universe was like up to a point. Speculation about what happens(ed) beyond that point can’t contradict the available evidence.

    We have extraordinarily robust evidence of how biology, ecology, and macro physics work. Speculation about phenomena in the natural world can’t reasonably include assertions that directly contradict that evidence. New populations of species appearing out of thin air is straight-up crazy train.

    Sure. The evidence for individual lines of descent is incomplete and likely always will be. That isn’t justification to throw out all that is known about physics and biology in favor of a completely evidence-free and desperate proposition.

  87. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 7:31 pm

    [New populations of species appearing out of thin air is straight-up crazy train… That isn’t justification to throw out all that is known about physics and biology in favor of a completely evidence-free and desperate proposition.]

    Pretty good synopsis of materialistic origin-of-life theories.

  88. bachfiendon 30 Mar 2017 at 8:01 pm

    Michael,

    We’ve got pretty good materialistic theories of the origin of life. There are pretty good sites of the origin of life in alkaline hydrothermal vents in deep oceanic locations involving the percolation of gases through porous rocks providing energy gradients. And a perfectly good location for Life to have arisen on Earth naturally at least 3.5 billion years ago, perhaps even 3.8 billion years ago.

    Or did God decide, for some unknown reason, to create Life 3.5 billion years ago? And then went to sleep and create humans 200,000 years ago?

    On the history of Life on Earth, humans are very much an afterthought.

  89. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 8:06 pm

    @bach:

    If species popping into existence is batch*t, how much more batch*t is life itself emerging from goo?

    You Darwinists don’t understand how far out your ideology is. Materialist OOL theories earn a ticket on the “straight-up crazy train”.

  90. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 8:17 pm

    [michaelegnor] Pretty good synopsis of materialistic origin-of-life theories.

    Evolution is the theory of how reproductive populations change over time, which is separate from the question of abiogenesis (how self-replicating organic systems originated).

    There are a number of hypotheses about abiogenesis, but nothing approaching consensus on a theory. None of the hypotheses include proposals that violate the known laws of chemistry and physics, to my knowledge. Hypotheses that have been proposed are subject to experimental confirmation. Until there is sufficient evidence the answer continues to be, “we don’t (yet) know,” and not “it must be magic.”

    But sure, who knows? Maybe a new species of marmosets will materialize in my kitchen. Until that happens I think the theory of evolution is relatively safe from the incursion of prestidigitation.

  91. michaelegnoron 30 Mar 2017 at 8:33 pm

    @chi:

    [None of the [OOL] hypotheses include proposals that violate the known laws of chemistry and physics]

    You’re kidding, right?

    Fundamental law of biology and chemistry: Life comes from life, not from non-life.

    You need to get some 5th grade textbooks and do some reading. Haven’t you ever heard of Pasteur?

  92. bachfiendon 30 Mar 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Michael,

    The now defunct theory of spontaneous generation of individuals of a species (such as flies in rotting meat) has nothing to do with abiogenesis.

    Pasteur disproved the then popular theory that flies and mice popped into exist from dead material.

  93. chikoppion 30 Mar 2017 at 9:24 pm

    @michaelegnor

    Where is the line of demarcation? Is a virus or viroid “alive?” Viruses evolve and replicate. How about a protein? “Populations” of proteins also evolve and replicate. Are we limited to just organisms with DNA or only organisms with a membrane? Maybe any self-replicating molecule that contains carbon? What about self-sustaining chemical processes?

    However you choose to define it, “living” organisms have precursors. Single-cell organisms precede eukaryotes by more than a billion years. What preceded single cell organisms? That’s a tough question to answer, but it was likely something near to, but not quite, a very basic cell with a membrane. Was THAT a “living” organism? What about the precursor to it?

    This reminds me of the “which came first, the chicken or the egg” question. The answer is neither, but something that was like a chicken, just as something less-chicken-like preceded it. What preceded the first “living” organisms? Likely something capable of replication, but not “living” by whatever arbitrary definition you choose to apply.

    Again, all this is nothing more than a “God of the gaps” argument having nothing to do with evolution. Wherever there is uncertainty “magic” is not the required answer.

  94. Willyon 30 Mar 2017 at 9:54 pm

    Oh my, now Pasteur has disproven abiogenesis!

    of the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of biologists around the world for a century and half are dumber than 5th graders. Dr. Egnor and his little collection of DI folks know the truth–every evolution-accepting biologist in the world is “straight-up crazy”, “fellators” and ‘reprehensible, lying scumbags” , all because of a “second rate hypochondriac 19th century barnacle collector”.

    Dr. Egnor–he knows which fields of science (mustn’t forget climate science) are 100% populated by crooks and liars, despite the absurdity of such a vast world-wide conspiracy.

    arnie, tell me again how Dr. Egnor isn’t worthy of scorn.

  95. bachfiendon 31 Mar 2017 at 5:03 am

    Willy,

    Whenever creationists (such as Michael Egnor) claim that Pasteur’s demonstration that the theory of spontaneous generation of life is false also disproves all the theories of abiogenesis, all they’re doing is demonstrating that they’re ignorant, dishonest or incompetent (or all three).

    Actually, Pasteur didn’t prove that the theory of spontaneous generation of life is false. All he did was to demonstrate that it’s false under the conditions used in his experiment. In a sterile sealed flask over a period of months.

    He didn’t prove that the theory is false under other conditions. Such as in millions of alkaline hydrothermal vents over periods of tens of millions of years (at least).

  96. SteveAon 31 Mar 2017 at 7:36 am

    Eadame: “You suggest the evolution of antibiotic resistance is trivial and obvious, something even an idiot would expect. Yes! You are starting to get it! Now if you can just apply that kind of thinking outside of bacteria, in cases where it is a little closer to home!”

    I think the creationist take on resistant bacteria is that any population of bacteria will contain a variety of individuals that are resistant to a variety of things. Destroying the non-resistant individuals simply gives the resistant ones room to multiply. So no ‘evolution’ involved. At least, I’ve always assumed that’s the argument. Hard to tell.

  97. arnieon 31 Mar 2017 at 7:49 am

    Willy, “arnie, tell me again how Dr. Egnor isn’t worthy of scorn.” Umm…I forget 🙂 No, seriously, have you noticed that when ME, like many people, get most scornful and demeaning is when they get trapped in their own ignorance? And I suspect he knows it and, in his desperation, starts casting out the worst insults that come to his mind. Best ignored, IMO.

  98. arnieon 31 Mar 2017 at 7:54 am

    Poor grammar….Meant: “….gets most scornful……….he gets trapped……”

  99. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 10:42 am

    SteveA: you just described natural selection. That’s my point.

  100. SteveAon 31 Mar 2017 at 11:46 am

    edamame

    Yes, this is ‘natural selection’, but can you have ‘evolution’ without some on-going source of variation i.e. mutation?

    Though I think this was covered, at length, in a previous thread. Not sure I want to revisit the discussion…

  101. Willyon 31 Mar 2017 at 11:56 am

    arnie–your points are well taken and I don’t disagree. I will say that my “scorn” towards him has no emotional investment. It’s much more a sense of comedy than it is emotional.

  102. Willyon 31 Mar 2017 at 11:58 am

    bachfiend: Agreed 100% and fully understood. The Pasteur thing pops up all the time and Dr. Egnor should know better than the crackpot YEC down the street.

  103. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 12:10 pm

    SteveA: that’s what natural selection is. If there is variation present in a population (regardless of whether it is ongoing or not), you can have natural selection. This isn’t controversial.

  104. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 12:14 pm

    Just to be clear, natural selection is (one mechanism of) evolution. Obviously that is just one part of the full story. Mutation is one mechanism by which you can generate variability in a population (in addition to other things like chromosome crossover during meiosis).

  105. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 12:29 pm

    It is definitely hypocritical for Egnor to be whining about disrespect when he wears his personal disrespect for science as a badge of honor, and has no problem being extremely disrespectful to people here.

    The Trump snowflakes can dish it but can’t take it. They are lions when they are bemoaning the horrors of political correctness (people just need to toughen up), but at the same time wilting lilies crying about the press not being “fair” and “boycotting” the White House Correspondents Dinner because they can’t take a joke. Dr Egnor fits right in!

  106. MosBenon 31 Mar 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Reading Egnor’s mangling of other people’s theories reminds me of this classic scene:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpIYz8tfGjY

  107. BillyJoe7on 31 Mar 2017 at 2:41 pm

    edamame,

    “natural selection is (one mechanism of) evolution”

    To be clear, random mutation and natural selection is one mechanism of evolution.

    “Mutation is one mechanism by which you can generate variability in a population (in addition to other things like chromosome crossover during meiosis)”

    Again, to be clear, errors during meiosis comes under the definition of a genetic mutation.

  108. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Billyjoe : no. Crossover is not error just recombination. I was precise in my language. Also, natural selection is sufficient once the variation is present. This is all basic stuff. Get a bio text.

  109. BillyJoe7on 31 Mar 2017 at 4:19 pm

    Fair enough. I assumed you were referring to errors in crossover. But, as you say it’s natural selection acting on variation – meanikng you need both for it to be a mechanism of evolution.

  110. edamameon 31 Mar 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Ah we agree then, sorry I was snarky I thought you were saying more than you were.

  111. landrewson 31 Mar 2017 at 7:31 pm

    How can we engage Michael in a real debate if will not commit to basic norms of intellectual honesty? Each time the factual or logical flaws in his attempted argument are pointed out, he pivots to back his vacuous “science is a form of religion” narrative and keeps hammering on it.

    Intelligent Design is not a theory. It can explain anything, and it can predict nothing. Stop trying to hold it up as science in any way. You are embarrassing yourself.

    “Darwinist” as a pejorative label is not effective when you’re talking to skeptics. It’s only an effective propaganda tactic internally within the creationism/ID/evolution-denialist community. No one else is phased by it. We don’t care. We don’t care about Darwin’s personal life outside of a historical context. So all of the attempts to assassinate evolutionary theory by assassinating his character ring hollow. It’s asinine because the evidence for evolution speaks for itself. If Darwin never lived, someone else would have figured it out within years or decades of when he did. And all the other evidence for evolution (e.g. genomics) that came along later would still have happened. This tactic is pure ad hominem and I suspect you know that.

    Evolutionary theory isn’t an ideology or an ‘ism’ in any. If we had found substantial evidence that was inconsistent with evolution, or that fit equally well with a different theory, scientists would embrace that theory instead. It really is all about the evidence. Not belief. There is no equivalency between science and faith as epistemic systems. I know that is the game you’re trying to play, but I think you should play it in a less educated forum where people might be fooled by it.

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