Famous last thoughts
Me (thinking): "Yeah, right. No sweat. No way is this going to be any harder than the last few things I've written."
The Questionable Authority has moved. The old posts can still be found here; for the new stuff, go to http://scienceblogs.com/authority/
Miller made his prediction that there was a fusion event simply by counting chromosomes in apes and humans—not by analyzing the chromosomes themselves.
Miller started off his "prediction" by simply observing that humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and apes have 24 pairs; therefore two ape chromosomes were fused into one human chromosome. Miller claims that this simple chromosome-counting requires a fusion event if common ancestry is true.
Now, what that means, Mr. Walczak, is that you and I, in a sense, are missing a chromosome, we're missing a pair of chromosomes. And the question is, if evolution is right about this common ancestry idea, where did the chromosome go?As you can see, the reason for Miller's prediction goes a bit beyond the, "apes have 48, we have 46, so we must have had 48 once, too" line that Luskin presents. The prediction is trivially obvious - if you understand the slightest thing about common descent. If humans and apes are closely related, then their genomes will, we expect, be very similar. This means that if we are short a chromosome pair in comparison to apes, then that genetic material needs to be somewhere.
Now, there's no possibility that that common ancestry which would have had 48 chromosomes because the other three species have 48, there's no possibility the chromosome could have just got lost or thrown away. Chromosome has so much genetic information on it that the loss of a whole chromosome would probably be fatal. So that's not a hypothesis.
Therefore, evolution makes a testable prediction, and that is, somewhere in the human genome we've got to be able to find a human chromosome that actually shows the point at which two of these common ancestors were pasted together.
Why couldn't it be the case that the common ancestor had 23 distinct chromosomes, and one chromosome underwent duplication in the line that led to apes? Or maybe the common ancestor had 20 distinct chromosomes and there have been 4 duplications events in the ape line, and 3 in the human line?The short answer to Luskin's question is that the different chromosomes are, well, different. We have looked at them. We have sequenced them. They are not obvious duplicates. They have different genes. That would, to me, seem to argue strongly against the pattern that we see being the result of a series of recent duplication events. Of course, I'm kind of strange when it comes to formulating opinions about stuff like that. I think that evidence actually means something.
or maybe the ancestor had 30 distinct chromosomes and there have been 6 fusion events for ape-line but 7 fusion events for the human-line.Casey might actually have a point here, if his representation of Miller's argument had even the faintest resemblance to reality. However, the argument is nowhere near as simplistic as Luskin makes out. (Shocking, that.)
Do you see my point? Simple chromosome-counting or comparisons of numbers of chromosomes does not lead common ancestry to make any hard predictions about how many chromosomes our alleged ape-human common ancestor had. So, under Miller's logic, there is no reason why a chromosomal fusion event is a necessary prediction of common ancestry for all upper primates.
In fact, if we find evidence that humans have two distinct chromosomes that have evidence of fusion (i.e., let's say human chromosome #2 has fusion evidence, and then, hypothetically, we also find evidence for fusion on human chromosome #9), then under Miller's logic, if apes lack any evidence for a fused chromosome, then this should count against common ancestry. Thus, at the present time, absent a full analysis of fusion evidence in our chromosomes, we cannot necessarily say that the presence of one fused chromosome in humans is a prediction of common ancestry. Much more research still needs to be done.Wow. Now there is an argument that lacks honesty, integrity, reason, intelligence, and logic. And all at once, too. Where to start...
So I am more than willing to acknowledge and affirm that Miller did provide some very good direct empirical evidence for a chromosomal fusion event which created human chromosome #2. But I'm more interested in two other questions: if we accept Miller's chromosomal fusion evidence as accurate, then (1) is his chromosome fusion story good evidence for Neo-Darwinian common ancestry between humans and apes? Or (2) does it perhaps pose great problems for a Neo-Darwinian account?This should be good.
The answer to question (1) is "NO" and the answer to question (2) is "YES!"
The fusion-evidence implies that some of our ancestors likely had 48 chromosomes. But Miller has not provided any evidence that the individual with 48 chromosomes was historically related to modern apes. (I grant that our chromosome #2 has banding patterns similar to two ape chromosomes, but given that our chromosome structure is generally similar to that of apes anyways, it is not a stretch to assume that any 48 chromosome ancestor of you and me had a chromosome structure similar to apes, regardless of whether or not that individual was related to apes. Claiming that banding pattern similarities is evidence of common ancestry with apes simply invokes the “similarity = ancestry” argument, and thus begs the question.) It is entirely possible that our genus Homo underwent a chromosomal fusion event within its own separate history.
All that evolutionists have claimed is that this fusion event occurred after the split that led to humans, so it occurs only in the human lineage. Evidence of a chromosomal fusion event is not evidence that our line leads all the way back to apes.That last paragraph is a bit confusing, and I'm not entirely sure what he's trying to get at. Let me try to make the reality-based view a bit more clear. Based on everything that we know about our relationship with apes, we could quite firmly predict that there would be a chromosome fusion, and we could predict which chromosomes would be involved. The prediction turned out to be correct. Had it not turned out to be correct, that would have been a very, very large problem. It would, in fact, have refuted our common descent-based expectations. Personally, I think that the fact that the predictions of common descent were so clearly met is powerful evidence in favor of common descent. But again, that's just my own reality-based view.
Given that we had a 48-chromosome ancestor, we don't know if our 48-chromosome ancestor was an ape or not. For all we know, our 48-chromosome ancestor was a part of a separately designed species, as fully human as anyone you meet on the street today. There is no good reason to think that going from a 46-chromosome individual to a 48-chromosome individual would make our species more ape-like.
Common descent could not have been falsified if there was no evidence for a fusion event, but common descent certainly is not refuted by the presence of a fusion event. The question now stands, does this fusion event provide any evidence for common ancestry between humans and apes? The answer to that question is no.
Under Neo-Darwinism, genetic mutation events (including chromosomal aberrations) are generally assumed to be random and unguided. Miller's Cold-Fusion tale becomes more suspicious when one starts to ask harder questions like "how could a natural, unguided chromosomal fusion event get fixed into a population, much less how could it result in viable offspring?"That is actually a relatively reasonable question, and the concepts involved can be confusing. I'll try to explain them as clearly as possible, as I respond to each of Casey's points.
(1) In most of our experience, individuals with the randomly-fused chromosome can be normal, but it is very likely that their offspring will ultimately have a genetic disease. A classic example of such is a cause of Down syndrome.This is actually not quite true. Down syndrome is caused by duplication of chromosome 21, resulting in the victim having not the normal two, but rather three copies of the chromosome. A chromosome fusion is not a duplication. A chromosomal fusion occurs when two different chromosomes get stuck together, forming one larger chromosome. Someone with a chromosome fusion has no more, and no fewer, copies of any particular gene than someone without that fusion. They are likely to be genetically normal.
(2) One way around the problem in (1) is to find a mate that also had an identical chromosomal fusion event.Actually, all that is necessary for successful reproduction is for the chromosomes in one individual be able to line up with the other individual's chromosomes. This is entirely possible in the case of a recent fusion, particularly since the same chromosome sequences are present in both individuals.
Miller may have found good empirical evidence for a chromosomal fusion event. But all of our experience with mammalian genetics tells us that such a chromosomal aberration should have resulted in a non-viable mutant, or non-viable offspring. Thus, Neo-Darwinism has a hard time explaining why such a random fusion event was somehow advantageous.Actually, none of our experience with mammalian genetics tells us that a chromosome fusion should have resulted in either a non-viable or a non-fertile offspring. In fact, our knowledge of Drosophila genetics - coupled with our evolutionarily-informed understanding that fly genetics are not all that different from mammalian genetics - tells us that these sort of fusions don't usually have any impact on the viability or fertility of the offspring.
If it were to turn out that the fusion of two chromosomes can only result in a viable individual if the fusion event takes place in a highly unlikely and highly specified manner, then we may actually be looking at a case for a non-Darwinian intelligent design event in the history of the human genus.
ID will win because it's a religion-friendly, conservative-friendly, red-state kind of theoryPlease note that this may be true, but it says absolutely nothing about the scientific merits of Intelligent Design. I hope it isn't true, but I am afraid that it is.
The most vocal non-scientist proponents of ID are those delightfully fertile Catholics, Evangelicals, and similarly right-leaning middle-class college-educated folk -- the kind whose children will inherit the country. Eventually, the social right will have the sheer manpower to teach ID wherever they please.That was one of the statements that had me almost literally seeing red. The founders of our nation shed blood to establish a society founded, in part, on the principle that the government should not be used as a tool to advance religion. Kern apparently believes that once they have enough people, the religious right can ignore that, and push religious beliefs on the remaining minority - despite the fact that we have a constitution specifically to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. What's worse is that this jackass doesn't seem to find anything wrong with that position.
Belief in ID does nothing to make believers less capable in science or engineering. No geek in the world will find his computer mojo diminished because of his opinions on irreducible complexity. To the contrary: ID might make biology and the natural sciences more appealing to believers who might otherwise find science to be too far removed from God's presence.Actually, belief in ID does make you less capable in biology. That's the result of the whole "evolution is the core concept that unites biology" thing. Another article, this one on Jeb Bush and ID, makes the point quite nicely:
University science professors and a national group that had concerns about how science curriculum was rewritten in Minnesota say it's ironic that Florida would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to woo The Scripps Research Institute to the state, yet hire a top educator who does not accept Darwinian evolution — something Scripps scientists say they prove every day in their experiments.
Vitriol, condescension, and endless accusations of bad faith all characterize far too much of the standard pro-Darwinian response to criticism.Vitriol is common, and it is becomming more common. It would be nice if we could all maintain our composure as nicely as Douggie "they're acting like losers" Kerns does, but it can be hard sometimes. This is especially true for scientists in the face of the continuing creationist assault. We spend hours working in the field and lab for every minute that they spend spewing out their nonsense to non-scientific audiences. Keeping cool becomes increasingly difficult under the circumstances. There are also frequent accusations of bad faith. That's because the creationists frequently display bad faith. Don't just take my word for that. Go look at the trial transcripts from this week, where numerous witnesses document the efforts that the Dover school board made to add creationism to the curriculum, before settling on the current ID maneuver. Then look at the way that they keep claiming that their motives were entirely secular. Look at the Meyer affair. Or the Leonard affair. Or at any number of other incidents through the years.
A reasonable observer might note that many ID advocates appear exceptionally well-educated, reasonable, and articulate; they might also note that ID advocates have pointed out many problems with the Darwinist catechism that even pro-Darwin scientists have been known to concede, when they think the Jesus-kissing crowd isn't listening.Back in the good old days of usenet, this sort of thing used to be called the "lurkers support me in email" argument. Making a blanket statement about things that go on behind the scenes, without providing evidence to support any of it, is a common strategy. It's not a particularly honest strategy, but it is common. To the best of my own knowledge, as someone who has put a hell of a lot of time into both dealing with creationist lunacy and into studying evolution, the Intelligent Design folks have not made a single contribution to the field in any way - and that includes pointing out substantive problems with evolution.
So you've discovered the missing link? Proven that viruses distribute super-complex DNA proteins? Shown that fractals can produce evolution-friendly three-dimensional shapes? It doesn't matter. To the ID mind, you're just pushing the question further down the road. How was the missing link designed? What is the origin of the viruses? Who designed the fractals? ID has already made its peace with natural selection and the irrefutable aspects of Darwinism. By contrast, Darwinism cannot accept even the slightest possibility that it has failed to explain any significant dimension of evolution. It must dogmatically insist that it will resolve all of its ambiguities and shortcomings -- even the ones that have lingered since the beginning of Darwinism. The entire edifice of Darwinian theory comes crashing down with even a single credible demonstration of design in any living thing. Can science really plug a finger into every hole in the Darwinian dyke for the next fifty years?I really wish I could give this to the judge in the Dover case. This sums up, better than anything else that I have seen, the scientific principles involved. Evolution is a scientific theory. It has been subjected to tests, it is being subjected to tests, and it will continue to be subjected to tests. It stands a very real chance of failing some of these. It might, conceivably, be shown to be wrong. If it is, we will have to replace it with a better explanation, and that new explanation will have to be tested, retested, and tested again. If it fails, it will have to be replaced with a better explanation, and the process will continue. That is how knowledge advances. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, cannot be subjected to tests. It cannot be proven wrong ever, under any circumstances. It will be an explanation that cannot be replaced. That is how knowledge stands still.
The only remaining question is whether Darwinism will exit gracefully, or whether it will go down biting, screaming, censoring, and denouncing to the bitter end.
The truth is that anyone who’s being intellectually honest will admit that science can never be divorced from religion, that a person’s philosophical outlook will always affect how he or she interprets nature’s phenomena. Honest people will also admit that Darwinism supports a definite philosophy about nature, one that is hostile to theistic faith held by many Americans.Mr. Dentel needs to learn that "his religion" is not necessarily equal to "all religion", and that there is a big difference between "hostile to theistic faith" and "hostile to a theistic faith". There are plenty of people out there who really do believe that science provides the best explanation for the way that the physical world works, but that science also only explans how the world works. The why questions are not addressable by science, but that does not make them any less real. Dentel goes on to conclude with this set of concerns:
This is why I find the Dover plaintiffs’ arguments disingenuous. Their witnesses, like many adherents to Darwinism, insist modern science respects religion when in reality it marginalizes it and usurps its authority.
What does this means for students? It means that explicitly and implicitly they’re taught that science trumps faith.Mr. Dentel, scientists do speak with more authority than pastors, rabbis, and priests - when it comes to the nature of the physical world. That does not mean that scientists should be accepted as speaking with authority when they talk about things, like meaning, that are beyond the nature of science. If students believe that science trumps faith, it is because fools like you - or, for that matter, like Richard Dawkins - continue to insist that there is an absolute, either/or choice between science and religion.
It means they learn that men in white lab coats — the ones who offer medicines, iPods and weapons of mass destruction — speak with greater authority than pastors, rabbis and priests. It means they’ll be told the reason they exist is no reason at all, just chance, mutation and blind law.
And chances are they’ll believe it, because after all, it’s based on science.
Phillips does not pretend to be unbiased about her approach.She's right. I freely admit it. I'm biased. I have a massive, bias that nobody will ever be able to shift me from. I firmly believe that it is an absolute moral wrong to teach children material that is nothing short of a flat-out lie. Phillips continues:
"We have our own bias that are opposed to evolutionists' views. Evolutionists have biases too."
"Good science is based on three things: observations, the ability to measure those observations, and the repeatability of those measurements and observations. If those three things are not there, then it is a theory, not science," she said. "Creationists have not seen God design the universe, but evolutionists have not seen anything evolve from one species to another species, so we have a little more support than the evolutionists."Wow. I realize that this is a private school, and that it doesn't receive government funding, but I still can't believe that anyone finds it acceptable to have someone who clearly lacks any comprehension of the way science really works teach the topic. The article then shifts the focus of the "debate" from this so-called "teacher" to Doug Tweed, who is a Methodist minister and a lawyer:
"This is not a case about defending religion. This is a case about defending truth as it is being discovered in the scientific community, and at the same time, trying to shed some light on the fact the position taken by the plaintiffs, even though they deny it, also has a religious motivation to deny the existence of God," Tweed said.No, Doug. This isn't about anything that is being "discovered in the scientific community." Were it, there would actually be some discussion taking place in the scientific community. Not in courtrooms, not in schoolboard meetings, not in newspaper op-eds, but in scientific journals, at scientific conferences, and above all else, in laboratories.
Evolution has become the norm in science textbooks — underline science. In some jurisdictions, creationists have objected. Although they may want more, they insist that "intelligent design" must at least be mentioned.It's interesting, in a way. The more obvious it becomes in court that the Dover school board was motivated by religion, the more desparate people like Mitchell become to depict those opposed to the Dover school board as being motivated by religion, too.
This, in turn, spurred the ever-vigilant church-state separation crowd into fits of protest. They insist that for a teacher to mention the possibility of a guiding force in the universe is tantamount to trying to trick vulnerable little minds into becoming — oh no — Christians. Few will admit it, but from their narrow view, they believe Christians are the bane of human existence.
Darwinism's "holy grail" would be species-crossovers found in the fossil record to fill those pesky "gaps." But the grail remains elusive. Occasionally a jawbone or tooth, etc., has been proclaimed as evidence of a long-sought "missing link." These hopes have died when the artifact traced to one species or another, never to an intermediate.As far as fighting creationists goes, I sometimes think that it would be better if we never found another intermediate - because, as far as jokers like this are concerned, every time we find an intermediate it just gives them two new gaps to complain about - one on each side of the new find.