My problem w/ evolution vs. creationism

by TallTexan 40 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • zagor

    No Danny I don't think it's shocking at all, in fact I believe I've seen even higher figures somewhere. In fact, about 30% of Americans I hear don't even believe their own countrymen went to the moon.

    here is more on ufos

  • peacefulpete

    As side note, my wife has a geology professor who is at the same time a young earth creationist. We had dinner with he and his wife and discussed the inner turmoil this produces for him. His solution was to not teach whole sections of the textbook and cast doubt upon much of the rest. We paid thousands of dollars to be taught the present state of the science. He is robbing his students. How many of his students will be inspired to become geologists and benefit the research with their contribution? Not many. BTW he is not a happy man.

  • doofdaddy

    Hey TT

    You have the right and responsibility to teach your children whatever you like....At home.

    Too many complain about the curricula at school but don't take up the job of teaching children from the knee.

    I know you will respond with, "I already do this" but think about it. Doesn't the evolution teachings at school give you ample opportunity to debate with your kids?

    I did this as a jw. Had no problems with the education system as it raised questions for my kids(even though I have moved on in my personal beliefs) that we would discuss

    Just a thought....

  • funkyderek


    To be fair to TT you should be comparing like with like, the vast majority of American people unlike those in the Middle East today or everywhere during the Middle Ages, are well informed and educated

    Ha! You're kidding, right? Americans tend to be among the most poorly informed and educated people in the industrialised world.

    and their verdict on evolution means a lot,

    No it doesn't. In any case, TallTexan's figures are wildly inaccurate. The true figure of those who do not believe in evolution is around 40%, a sizable minority, but it does provide some hope. Among well-educated people the figures are of course much lower.

    and all the more so if we recall that the educational establishment and the mass media are almost wholly pro evolution and it's their propaganda that the public hear day and night.

    They're "pro evolution" because they are educated and are aware that evolution is a fact and is the cornerstone of modern biology and medicine. It is only considered propaganda by those whose religious beliefs have prevented them learning the facts of evolution (just as "pro blood transfusion" articles are only seen as propaganda by JWs).

  • hooberus
    How many things are predicted by ID and are actually found? What scientific evidence is there for ID. It is only a attack, showing some possible holes in evolution, prediction nothing, leaving nothing to be discovered. Therefor it is no science, therefor it should no be thought as science.

    Here is a specific falsifiable prediction (paraphrased from ReMine's The Biotic Message): "An intelligent designer is necessary for the origin of biological life from non-life."
    It is potentiallly falsifiable by demonstrating that unintelligent natural forces are sufficient to produce biological life from non-life. Similar predictive statements can also be extended to things such as the origin of biological structures*, predictive independent origin (non-evolutionary) fossil trends (, etc.
    * For example the following is a brief description of what is involved in obtaining vision from one componet (photoreceptor) of even "simple" eyes (It can be verified by comparing it with a college level biology textbook). Due to life's pattern neo-darwinian evolutionists have been required to believe that photoreceptors would have to have evolved independently by unintelligent, non pre-directed (purpose) "naturalistic" means at least 40-60+ times. Keep in mind that photoreceptors are required for even the simplest eyes, and also the below treatment does not discuss the complexity of the sub-compontets named (ie: rhodopsin) etc. source (

    Here is a brief overview of the biochemistry of vision. When light first strikes the retina, a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to trans-retinal. The change in the shape of retinal forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein's metamorphosis alters its behavior, making it stick to another protein called transducin. Before bumping into activated rhodopsin, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with activated rhodopsin, the GDP falls off and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. (GTP is closely related to, but critically different from, GDP.)

    GTP-transducin-activated rhodopsin now binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase, located in the inner membrane of the cell. When attached to activated rhodopsin and its entourage, the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability to chemically cut a molecule called cGMP (a chemical relative of both GDP and GTP). Initially there are a lot of cGMP molecules in the cell, but the phosphodiesterase lowers its concentration, like a pulled plug lowers the water level in a bathtub.

    Another membrane protein that binds cGMP is called an ion channel. It acts as a gateway that regulates the number of sodium ions in the cell. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while a separate protein actively pumps them out again. The dual action of the ion channel and pump keeps the level of sodium ions in the cell within a narrow range. When the amount of cGMP is reduced because of cleavage by the phosphodiesterase, the ion channel closes, causing the cellular concentration of positively charged sodium ions to be reduced. This causes an imbalance of charge across the cell membrane which, finally, causes a current to be transmitted down the optic nerve to the brain. The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision.
  • hooberus
  • AlmostAtheist
    Regardless of your personal disdain of the 'creation' theory, teaching ONLY evolution, without discussing the obvious holes in the theory, will convince an entire generation of children that evolution occurred. They will be convinced without having all the facts at their disposal. Sound familiar? Can you say WT?

    What holes would you like mentioned?

    An earlier poster made a good point, mentioning that a large number of Americans are unconvinced that we've ever been to the moon. In fact, some of them are right here on this board. Should history teachers have to point out the various "theories" about the alleged moon landing? Does it serve the overall interests of educating children to expose them to every viewpoint espoused by every person?

    What if a history class discussing JFK were required to go over every version of every conspiracy theory about why JFK was shot? Would the kids learn anything from it? Would it prepare them for life in the real world?

    And of course the as yet undiscussed issue arises: If you're going to teach alternative theories about how life originated, which one(s) will you teach? Once we agree that we can teach anything anyone believes on the topic, there are a wide variety of options. It is in no way limited to an evolution versus ID debate.

    I return to my earlier point that most creationists don't know what evolution is about, why it considered a fact, etc. Perhaps you do, but most do not. Most begin their argument along the lines of "There is no way life could have started by chance" which immediately shows their ignorance of evolution, since it doesn't address the question of how life itself began.

    May I ask, where did you acquire your information about evolution?


  • hooberus
    I return to my earlier point that most creationists don't know what evolution is about, why it considered a fact, etc. Perhaps you do, but most do not. Most begin their argument along the lines of "There is no way life could have started by chance" which immediately shows their ignorance of evolution, since it doesn't address the question of how life itself began.

    It should be noted that while today most evolutionists exclude the origin of life from "evolution" the fact also remains that even some evolutionists themselves have included it-including the prominent George Gaylord Simpson who wrote: "The origin of life was necessarily the beginning of organic evolution and it is among the greatest of all evolutionary problems." - opening sentence chapter 2 "The Meaning of evolution" 1949)

    Furthermore even dedicated recent "evolution" books frequently start with abiogenesis and then transition into other aspects of evolution with no demarcation. (The fact is that "evolution" can be defined in many different ways from the minimalist "any change in alle frequencies" to possibly also include things such as universal common ancestry, amphibians descending from fish, humans descending from ancient apes, even to the origin of life itself.) I believe that one of the reasons for the insistence by many evolutionists today that it must be "excluded" by definition is really in response to the scientific difficulties that have been revealed, and not to any empirical necessity that it be excluded.

  • AlmostAtheist
    Furthermore even dedicated recent "evolution" books frequently start with abiogenesis and then transition into other aspects of evolution with no demarcation. (The fact is that "evolution" can be defined in many different ways from the minimalist "any change in alle frequencies" to possibly also include things such as universal common ancestry, amphibians descending from fish, humans descending from ancient apes, even to the origin of life itself.)

    Good point, Hoob'. Perhaps that example is not the best one, eh?

    The fact remains though that evolution is an idea that is derided by people that don't even know what it is. How many of them can actually describe what natural selection really is? How many still ask, "If we evolved from chimps, why are there still chimps?" The fact that they ask questions that have answers shows that they don't actually understand what it is they don't believe.

    I was a JW for 20 years. I *know* JW's. And I don't believe them. I don't know the first thing about Jainism, so you won't catch me saying they're wrong.

    I keep saying "they", as if all creationists were one lump. I know that isn't true. But the majority of creationists I've met are woefully unaware of the barest rudiments of evolution. "When did a cow ever give birth to a pig?" and other nonsense rolls forth, showing an utter ignorance of the subject they are discussing. If it wasn't perceived as going against what their holy book says, they'd never dream of speaking on it with so little knowledge.


  • hawkaw
    Oh, I know why. Because a bunch of left-wing Karl Marx wanna-bees control the education system.

    I am actually right of centre and I am a scientist.

    There is a couple of good articles presented by a poster on another db called Ichneumon that you should read and understand. I like them and I think they help put the scientific theories of evolution into context.

    Here is the First article

    Explaining the scientific method

    I've recently noticed that most creationists have absolutely no clue about how the scientific method works, so allow me to give you a *very* simple overview. The reality is far more rigorous than this, and subjected to endless review and retesting, but here's the short version...

    Creationists imagine that scientists just gather some data, make up a "reasonable" speculation that they think could account for the data, and then kick back and go on vacation. The creationists think that's all there is to science, just the "speculation" part.


    That's just the barest *beginning*.

    That's called the "hypothesis" stage. Scientists all over the world try to come up with all the hypotheses they can as possible explanations for any given scientific puzzle. This is a good thing -- the more brainstorming, the better the chance that someone will come up with a "speculation" that hits closest to the right answer.

    So then they just argue over it to "decide" which one's right, eh? Nope, sorry, that's the creationist version.

    Instead, they *test* these various ideas to see which ones actually work when compared against reality, and which ones fail when compared against reality. You've heard of those "experiment" things, right? This is the testing.

    But contrary to cartoon-level public impressions of experiments, they're not always done by guys in a lab pouring test tubes together, or by scientists attempting to actually *reproduce* the process they're studying. Those are *one* way to test a hypothesis, but nowhere near the only reliable way. It's not possible to recreate the entire Hawaiian Islands chain in order to test hypotheses about how they formed, for example, but there *are* countless other ways to test hypotheses about geology -- or evolution, or any other field.

    That's why you've heard scientists talk about "predictions" so much. One of the most widely useful, and most reliable, methods of testing a hypothesis is to work out its consequences -- to determine what results would occur if that explanation *was* the correct one. If that really *is* how things happen (or happened) in the universe, what "side effects" would it have, aside from the data or phenomenon itself which we crafted the hypothesis to explain? These are its *predictions*.

    This is how we test to separate the good explanations from the bad explanations. If the Hawaiian Islands formed as a result of continental drift carrying the Pacific tectonic plate across a crustal magma plume, this would leave many, many kinds of tell-tale results which would be noticeably (and *test-ably*) different than the kinds of things you'd find if some *other* explanation was correct about a different manner in which the Hawaiian Islands had formed.

    So to decide between the two (or fifty) potential explanations (hypotheses), you work out the "side effects" (predictions) of each different explanation -- what you'd find if X had actually happened, versus what you'd find differently if Y had actually happened, etc., then you go and *look* to see which of those side effects (if any!) you actually find when you look.

    This "looking" can take different forms depending on the nature of the process being explored. In the case of some physics questions, you can build a tabletop setup of lasers in a certain configuration, or whatever, to reproduce the conditions which should act one way if hypothesis X is right, or another way if Y is correct, etc. This is a classic "experiment" in the layman's mind. In the case of medical hypotheses about what disease a patient has, you can try different drugs to see which he responds to. In some cases of geology, you can take core samples of the rocks under the Hawaiian Islands to see whether their composition and structure matches the predictions of one hypothesis, or another. In evolutionary biology, you can go check the DNA of various species to see if the pattern of differences and similarities matches the precise patterns (not just *general* patterns) which distinguish one hypothesis from another, or go find new fossils (or re-examine old ones) to see whether predicted features which no one sat down to check before match the predictions of various hypotheses, etc.

    When this is done over and over and over again, and the *dozens* of different predictions of any one particular hypothesis are tested and all the predictions are found to match, and perhaps even more importantly, the things that the hypothesis predicts you *won't* find are looked for and found *not* to be present as well, then you can have more and more confidence that the hypothesis is, if not 100% correct (since you can never be *entirely* sure), very much on the right track, and is very close to being right explanation. Meanwhile, you can have great confidence that the alternative explanations which made predictions that *failed* are wrong, and can be taken out to the trash dumpster.

    (Also, any one person can obviously make mistakes about reasoning out the predictions, or how to test whether the real world matches the predictions, etc. This is why science places such stress on *repeatability* -- you have to publish your data, your reasoning, your tests, etc., so that thousands of other experts can go over it with a fine-toothed comb looking for mistakes or fraud or untested presumptions, and can repeat your tests to verify that your results were valid and/or not a fluke. Also note that *this* is the kind of "repeatability" that science requires -- creationists often think that it means that the *processes* need to be repeatable, like being able to repeat the formation of the Hawaiian Islands; that's not the case. The *tests* have to be repeatable, the *verification* needs to be repeatable by anyone who cares to double-check your results, or try a new method of validating them.)

    The core tenets of evolutionary biology make *VERY* specific predictions about what we should find (and what we *shouldn't* find) when we go looking at nature, and make *hundreds* of different predictions which allow multiple independent validation tests (since any one prediction might "come true" and match just by luck, even if the explanation is wrong). The tenet of common descent doesn't just predict that DNA from closely related species will "be similar", it predicts that they will be similar in *very* precise, specific ways, and that they will *differ* in other precise, specific ways. And when we examine and compare DNA, this is *exactly* what we find, *every* time we compare new DNA sequences which we had never examined before.

    But wait, there's more!

    Creationists often say, "but maybe DNA doesn't match all those predictions of evolutionary common descent, maybe DNA just happens to be that way because God chose to make it that way, even if those features of DNA don't seem to make sense from a 'design' standpoint (because after all, He works in mysterious ways, and He might have some Design reason for that configuration which is beyond our understanding), and it just *happens* to 'look like' the results one would expect from evolution."

    Ah, but that excuse doesn't hold water.

    Here's why.

    The beauty of the scientific method is not only that it can decide between the hypotheses that *have* been thought of, it can also validate a hypothesis in the face of alternate *unknown* hypotheses (like the "maybe God did it instead" hypothesis).

    Here's how that works.

    The beauty of the "make predictions and then test them" method (especially since it's iterative -- after you do that, you make *more* predictions and test *them*, repeatedly) is that if your hypothesis (explanation) is wrong, there's *no* rational reason for an entirely unrelated explanation to "just happen" to match *all* of your explanation's 70 or 80 predictions "by coincidence", no matter *what* unrelated explanation we're talking about, including ones you haven't even thought of.

    An unrelated explanation, if true, might by chance match the results of 10 or 12 of the predictions of your "wrong" explanation, but it's just ridiculous to think that (and mathematically close to "impossible" for) a process which actually works in a different manner than your speculatory explanation to "just happen" to match *ALL* the same expected results.

    It's like OJ saying, "it wasn't me who killed my wife, it was some *other* guy, I don't know who... who just happened to wear my same large shoe size... and just happened to be wearing a rare, expensive type of shoe... that I just happen to have owned too... and just happened to get injured during the struggle and drop blood from his right hand... on the same night I just happened to cut that same hand shaving... and his blood DNA just happened to match mine... and he just happened to leave a glove at the murder scene that just happens to match one found in my alley... and I just happened to have received gloves just like that from Nicole as a gift and been photographed wearing them... and hairs matching mine just happened to be in the hat left at the murder scene... and fibers matching the carpet of my Bronco just happened to also... and the only hour of that day I can't account for my whereabouts just happened to be the time of the murder... and my houseguest heard thumps like someone climbing over the fence into the yard which just happened to match the time I would have had to have returned from Nicole's... But I didn't do it, it was some other guy."

    Not freaking likely, is it?

    When *all* of the different pieces of evidence implicate OJ, even the most unlikely and specific ones -- when they match predictions of what you'd expect to find if the "OJ is the killer" hypothesis is the correct one -- the odds of those results being "coincidental" matches with some *other* guy actually being the killer, vanish to nothingness. As attorney Vincent Bugliosi wrote in his book, in his "how I'd have prosecuted OJ" speech:

    "At what point do these things stop being a coincidence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury? When you folks, as intelligent human beings using your common sense, say to yourself- 'Aw, c'mon, you've got to be kidding. It's ridiculous to suggest all of these things are just an incredible coincidence. That's not life as we know it.' That's when all this circumstantial evidence stops being a coincidence. When you people, as intelligent, sensible human beings -and that's why we selected you folks for this jury- say to the defense attorneys in this case, 'Let's stop living in a fantasy world and come back to earth.'

    "When a person is innocent of a crime, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, chances are there isn't going to be anything whatsoever pointing toward his guilt. Chances are there will be nothing. But now and then, because of the very nature of life and the unaccountability of certain things, maybe one thing, in rare situations maybe even two things, will peculiarly point toward his guilt even though he is innocent. And in highly unusual and virtually unheard-of situations, maybe even three things will point to his guilt, even though he is innocent. But ladies and gentleman of the jury, in this case, everything, everything, points to this man's guilt. [...] We've set forth for you a staggering number of pieces of evidence that point to this man, and this man alone, as the murderer of these two precious human beings. Under these circumstances, it is not humanly possible for him to be innocent."

    This is actually an excellent description of the manner in which scientific hypotheses are "proven beyond a reasonable doubt" as well.

    When we test the biological hypothesis of common descent, we don't just test *one* prediction of that hypothesis. Any *one* prediction might, by chance, "just happen" to match the results of some *other* process that was "actually" responsible for the formation of modern living things. Any *one* successful prediction/test, as they say, "doesn't prove anything". The creationists are right about that. If God made living things through a process *other* than letting them evolve from a common ancestor, especially one we couldn't comprehend, it might "just happen" that this included the existence of a half-bird/half-reptile looking animal like Archaeopteryx. Just coincidence that you'd get something like that through common descent also. And maybe the non-OJ killer just happened to wear expensive, rare shoes that OJ had too. It could happen.

    But science doesn't stop there.

    Common descent *also* predicts that we should find shared endogenous retroviruses in the DNA related species (see the link at the top). And indeed, they are there in the DNA when we look. Match #2. Now, whatever God's beyond-our-understanding-but-not-by-common-descent method of making life, even though we *don't* know anything about it, there's *no* reason to expect that it *has* to match, down to the tiniest specific details, the several hundred exact characteristics of endogenous retroviral patterns which would have resulted from common descent. God's different-method-entirely would be very likely to have different characteristics, produce different patterns in DNA which, even if we didn't understand the reasons for those patterns, would be unlikely to match the intricate patterns produced by the common descent of past viral infections. But, gosh, they do! Does that make sense, that God's Method would *coincidentally* match the mathematically *hugely* unlikely exact patterns that common descent would have produced? It *could* happen by luck, I guess. And the real killer of Nicole Simpson might have been a one-in-a-trillion DNA match to OJ, too. It's not *impossible*.

    Common descent also predicts that the number of synonymous codon SNPs between related species should be directly correlated to the time since their last common ancestor. There's no plausible "design" reason for this, by the way, since those nucleotides are functionally silent. Flip them on, flip them off, nothing changes. And when we analyze DNA, across thousands and thousands of species, the results *do* match the predictions of common descent (*and* the indications of LCA time match the fossil record -- another coincidence?) Once again, God's Method, whatever it might be, needn't "just happen" to match the results of common descent. Whatever God's design criteria, surely *some* of his choices are going to result in a design that "just happens" NOT to match the outcome of common descent in some respects or another. But here on test #3, we find that yet *again* the real-world tests beautifully match the predictions of common descent. But the creationists assure us that *this* is just a coincidence too, just like the random coincidence that Nicole's killer cut his left hand in the same place and on the same night that OJ cut his own hand too. Mere coincidence.

    Item #4: Common descent predicts that synonymous protein substitutions should fit a very specific pattern across phylogenies, entirely apart from any phenotypic "design" considerations, because it has no effect on phenotype. Again, these very specific patterns *are* found every time we do DNA analysis. Again, there's no reason for God's Method to match these results, since God any other method than actual common descent would be unlikely to "just happen" to produce results that look *exactly* like the signature of common descent. And yet... that signature *is* found in DNA. Mere coincidence again? Still?

    Items #5-#10,000... Well, you get the idea.

    And even each "single" item above is actually *thousands* of smaller individual items in a "family" of predictions along that line of evidence, and they *all* keep matching the predictions of common descent. Coincidence?

    If life is *not* the result of common descent, by what STAGGERINGLY enormous "coincidence" does God's "other method", *whatever* it might be, JUST HAPPEN to match in every large and small detail, EVERY prediction of common descent? What dumb luck for the evolutionists, eh? The evolutionists are wrong, the creationists say, but the evolutionists lucked out in the evidence lottery, because God's non-evolutionary Design criteria "just happens" to LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THE RESULTS OF EVOLUTION IN EVERY WAY.

    Just by mere coincidence, of course, and it don't prove a thing. The creationists assure us of that.

    Thus endeth the lesson on the scientific method, and how it is used to validate theories in hundreds of ways, large and small, and carry them far, far beyond the shaky unreliability of "simply speculations". Speculations have not passed a mind-boggling battery of tests and reality-checks. Scientific theories have -- and continue to be tested and retested every day, and adjusted as needed to keep them as accurate as possible as new evidence and test results keep being added to science's vast body of knowledge.


    Now, for a few clarifications. In the above, I have *not* said that science could rule out the existence of God. I have not said science could rule out the *involvement* of God. (For that matter, science can't rule out the existence of Santa Claus, and neither can any other method.) Some things are impossible to demonstrate even in principle, nor does science make the attempt. What I *have* said, however, is that the scientific method can rule out certain *kinds* of explanations. In the example I gave above, what we ruled out (to a high degree of probability) was any *alternative* to common descent that did not *include* common descent. In other words, we demonstrated that *whatever* (or "Whoever") else might be involved in the formation of life, common descent *was* part of the process. God may have made us, but if He did, he did it via some variation on common descent.

    The second caveat is that yeah, there's some bogus "science" out there. But for the most part, it isn't really science -- it's not stuff that has passed through the "reality-checking" filters I've described above -- it's some quacks putting on some white coats and calling a press conference to masquerade their agenda as actual science. The things that deserve the name "science" are those that have really passed the gauntlet of heavy-duty testing and restesting, and have survived all challenges thrown at it. And yes, there have been mistakes and frauds (albeit not nearly as frequently as the creationists try to claim). But science, by its very nature, is self-correcting -- eventually someone will spot the problems, and weed them out. And almost without exception, that someone is another scientist.

    The final caveat to the above discussion is that in order for predictions to be testable, the world has to work in ways that are, well, *predictable*. The world (Universe, whatever you want to call it) has to be non-capricious, it has to work within guidelines, so to speak -- it can't be *deceptive*. This is often misunderstood and mislabeled as a "presumption of materialism", but it's not. As long as God doesn't play tricks on us, or act capriciously, the world is still "lawful" enough to be testable, to operate by steady "rules". As long as God/Nature/pickyourfavoritename doesn't *actively* attempt to disrupt our quest to learn how things work, the scientific method still works too. But, in exactly the same way that all the evidence of the guilt of OJ really *could* be "coincidental" if someone carefully *framed* him for the crime, it's also possible (in concept) for all of the features of life, DNA, fossils, etc. to so exactly match the results -- the predictions -- of common descent in so many different ways, but common descent *not* to actually have happened, if God *purposely* set up all the evidence in order to falsely *mimic* such results. But I don't think that *anyone* is actually willing to claim that God might be a liar, trying for some unfathomable reason to convince us of something that isn't really true.

    Barring that, though (and barring newly discovered evidence overturning everything we've already discovered -- and don't hold your breath on that one), the only rational conclusion is that so many findings, in so many different independent lines of evidence, *so* closely match the *countless* predictions of common descent, because common descent *is* actually the case. Common descent has been demonstrated to be true.

    If you want the bumper-sticker version of all of the above, it's the old saying, "If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, it probably *is* a duck." Likewise, when the vast amounts of evidence overwhelmingly look like common descent, then...

    Here is the second article from Ichneumon of how speciation works and what creationists typically miss in understanding speciation:

    Oh, what the heck... As elementary as this misconception is, it's practically universal among creationists (who are the experts at "elementary misconceptions", at least when it comes to the biology they're ill-equipped to attack), so it seems now might be a good time to repost a few of my prior posts explaining how new species *actually* arise in evolutionary biology (instead of in the creationist cartoon-version).

    I know evolutionists believe that the changes occurred gradually. My point was at some point man was fully man. Unless every single creature gained that full manness at the same time, he was mating with something that would have been less (even if it only slightly less) human than he was.

    Okay, let's see if I can explain it this way...

    First, part of your confusion (in this, and in a lot of other topics in this thread) comes from your insistence on declaring that things must be 100% A or 100% B. The living world is not so black and white. The range of living things is a continuum more often than it's either/or. And not just across time, either -- several people have asked you to ponder the existence of "ring species", but I haven't seen you tackle it yet.

    Furthermore, creationists often fail to appreciate the significance of the "nested hierarchies" of living things. It's as incorrect to say that a specific creature must be *either* a human *or* an ape as it is to say that a creature must be *either* a lion *or* a cat. Ponder that one for a moment, and then you'll be ready to understand the point of the essay You Are an Ape ( ). Please read it.

    Finally, even if you cling to the view that there's some "required" combination of genetic differences which, as soon as they're acquired, turn a "mere ape" into a "human", *bang*, that still doesn't make the evolution of one into the other a problem, or create any "breeding impossibilities". Here's how it works...

    First, keep in mind that even if the "special" combination of genes which make primate DNA be considered human DNA has to all be present before *you'd* finally agree to label the resulting organism "finally human", a creature with only, say, 99% of those genes would still look pretty darned human and not so "classicly" apelike, since it would consist of 99% of the things that "separate" humans from apes. It'd only be missing one little thing out of the full set, so only one part of it would still be "apish" -- for example maybe it'd have more of a protruding brow than most people but all other human characterstics.

    The other thing to keep in mind is that any one (or five, or fifty, or...) genetic differences is usually not enough to prevent interbreeding. The genetic differences just "mix and match" in members of the popuation, in the same way that both the blue-eyed gene and the brown-eyed gene swirl through human populations without any big deal.

    So now that you've got some of the background, the way in which an "ape" population would evolve into a "human" population is straightforward. At some time a mutation X1 appears in the birth of a member of the population which offers some small advantage by virtue of being a small improvement (which in this example happens to bring the individual slightly closer to the advantages of being "humanlike"). The change is likely to be barely noticeable to those around him, perhaps he stands just slightly more upright, or has a slightly larger brain, or his hands are just a bit more talented, or he can voice a slightly wider range of sounds -- whatever. It's due to a small DNA change within him which just happens, by luck, to make a biochemical improvement to a particular protein in his body in a way that makes some function in his body perform just a touch better than was possible without the change. So, unlike many other mutations in the population, which made no difference, or the ones which caused damage to the functioning of the affected individual and got weeded out by natural selection, the individual who was lucky enough to receive X1 does a little better than the others in his species, and passes on his new X1 gene when he has children.

    But wait, you ask, he's a "mutant", wouldn't that prevent him from mating with all the rest of the population since they don't have X1? No, it wouldn't, any more than your brown-eyed gene would prevent you from having children with a blue-eyed man. The "owner" of X1 mates with a woman who has the original form of the gene, call it Q1. Due to ordinary genetics, each of their children will have 2 X1's, or 2 Q1's, or 1 X1 and 1 Q1, by random chance. But because X1 gives a survival boost, more of the children who drew X1's from the genetic deck will have their own children than those who missed out. And so on and so on across generations, causing X1 to become more and more prevalent in the population than the competing "obsolete" Q1. Statistically, eventually X1 will "fix" in the population by virtue of being the only variety of that gene existing in the population, the Q1's having gone extinct when the last few individuals who still had a Q1 either didn't manage to have children, or had children but their children drew X1's from their parents genetic "deck".

    So now the whole population is made of individuals with X1 genes and no Q1 genes.

    Repeat this process for X2, another gene change which is a step along the road from "apeness" to "humanness". Then for X3, and X4, and... Finally, at some point the population will have genes X1 through X(N-1) out of the N genes which you believe are required to make them "fully human". They already look and behave pretty much entirely human, since they have almost every genetic feature which makes a species human, but you're still unwilling to declare them human because they're missing X(N), the last gene of the set. Okay, fine -- repeat the process I described above about X1 to gene mutation X(N). The first individual which gets that mutation is now "fully human" in your book. Hooray for him. However, he really isn't noticeably different from the other members of his species, since he only varies from them by a single genetic difference. So other than being the guy (or girl) who loses that last tiny remnant of "apeness" which is barely even noticeable in the population (maybe jaws on average protrude just 3% more than his or his offspring will), he has no problem having children with the mate of his choice, because they only differ by a single mutation. And eventually his X(N) gene spreads through the population over the next fifty generations until the old-style Q(N) gene gets replaced by it, and all of his kind are now 100% human instead of 99.9% human as they had been before the X(N) mutation.

    And note that all the above is *standard* population genetics, *extremely* well established as ordinary processes which occur all the time in nature. It's not just an "imagine if" story.

    Also note that I've simplified it somewhat by implying that, for example, mutation X46 wouldn't happen until mutation X45 had finished "fixing" in the population. Instead, it's just as easy for it to occur and be spreading into the population *while* X45 is in the process of doing so as well, for example. But this just makes the process even *more* likely, not less. There are always multiple sets of alleles floating around in populations without ill effect -- if there weren't we'd all be identical and homozygous clones.

    Frankly, though, I don't think we're fully human *yet* -- if nothing else, we really need to get rid of the ape genes we still carry that cause these damned wisdom teeth which fit nicely and were useful in the longer ape jaw but just get jammed up and cause health problems in the rear of our smaller more human jaw. It looks as if we're still waiting for X(N) and haven't quite gotten the "full human" transformation finished just yet...


    Oh my, where to start... At the top, I suppose. You start with, "The definition of a species is that it can't reproduce with anything outside the species." No, this is incorrect. While it's true that if two groups *can't* interbreed, they are necessarily separate species, the converse is not true. Groups that can interbreed to some degree can still be separate species. Consider lions and tigers, for example. A better definition is that species are groups that *don't* interbreed to any large degree. A more technical way to put it is that they are independent breeding populations. But there are exceptions and gray areas -- this is because nature itself does not recognize the "species" concept. It's a manmade label applied for convenience and utility to certain groups. If Darwin was right, there should not be clear-cut distinctions between groups as they are in the process of diverging evolutionarily. And indeed, this is exactly what we find, which is why there's no "one definition fits all situations" meaning for "species". Groups like "ring species" throw a monkeywrench into any "nice and neat" definition of "species" that humans might care to try to formulate, for example. Nature is nowhere near that tidy.

    But even leaving that aside, your idea about how a population can split into two distinct species (even by your definition) is a wildly incorrect misconception about how it actually works.

    You have two major misconceptions and wrapped them around each other.

    The first is that species formation involves a sudden "freak" with a massive mutation that occurs in a single individual in one generation. Nope, wrong. This is widely snickered at in the biological community as the "hopeful monster" scenario. But it's not how evolution proceeds.

    Your second misconception is that having a different number of chromosomes would prevent successful mating. It doesn't. Or at least it needn't, depending on the nature of the difference, and there are many known cases where it doesn't. For example, the Przewalski horse, which has 33 chromosomes, and the domestic horse, with 32 chromosomes (due to a fusion), are able to mate and produce fertile offspring.

    A third misconception, a combination of your first two, is that speciation requires anything like an "extra" chromosome. It doesn't.

    What actually happens (or at least in most cases -- as in my earlier discussion of the definition of "species", nature is flexible and abounds with variations, and refuses to follow any one "script" in every single case) is that accumulated small changes in a population diverge if from a parent population.

    Note for example that there is no one "big mutation" separating humans from our nearest extant cousins, the chimps. There are *thousands* of genetic differences, as one would expect after five million years of divergent evolution between the two groups. Heck, there are hundreds of genetic differences between *human* groups, and we share common ancestors a lot more recently.

    [Sidebar: However, the nature of any one specific difference considered by itself is minor and of the type one would expect to be produced by evolution. There are no portions of the human -- or chimp -- genome which are so different that they seem "completely rewritten", or "written fresh on the drawing table" when compared with the other group. Both the human genome and the chimp genome have been completely sequenced and are available on several online databases. I challenge any creationist to compare any portions of the two and look for any difference between them which are "unique", or are major minor variations from the other to be of the sort -- in both amount and kind -- which one would not statistically expect to result merely from five million years of evolutionary "drift". Good luck! None have been found so far by anyone, but hey, maybe you could be the first.]

    One genetic mutation does not a new species make (again, usually). Often *hundreds* are not enough, as proven by the many genetic differences occurring even within human populations.

    Instead, it takes *many*, *many* accumulated mutational differences to separate one population from another to a degree large enough to warrant describing the two as different species, and/or to interfere significantly with their ability/willingness to reliably interbreed.

    So the answer to your question is simple: Speciation does not occur in a single generation by one mother suddently giving birth, *poof*, to an offspring so mutated that it's a "new species" from its mother, and unable to interbreed with the rest of its (sort of) kind. Instead, subpopulations of a larger population (often separated by distance, geography, or other barriers) each accumulate genetic differences apart from each other as new mutations accumulate separately in each subpopulation, each mutationoccurring originally in a single individual then spreading through the subpopulation in succeeding generations (while detrimental mutations get constantly weeded out by natural select, and beneficial mutations get "amplifed" by it), until eventually the two populations are different enough from each other in their overall genetic makeup so that morphologically they are obviously different "subtypes" of creatures even to the unaided eye, and no longer reliably interbreed with each other.

    And yes, there are countless field studies and genetic studies and all sorts of other studies which have established the reality of this, it's not just a hypothetical scenario.


    I'm no expert (this will become obvious momentarily) so I've always been puzzled about one thing. At a certain point a mother gives birth to a child with a different genetic code, right? Fine, but let's say the child is a female. My question is; where does the male come from with the same genetic code to propagate this new species? Or is it a horse + donkey = mule type of thing where the species are similar enough to carry on. My ignorance on this is great so I would appreciate any answers you could provide?

    You're asking the wrong person, allow me...

    The answer is that it's not a matter of having "same" or "different" genetic code. Every human being has a different, unique genetic code (that's why DNA matching works in criminal cases). But obviously we can still interbreed.

    No "exact match" of DNA is required to interbreed, just "close enough".

    And the short answer to your question (there are all sorts of fascinating complicating details) is that when a population (usually, an isolated *subpopulation*) of species X is evolving towards becoming species Y, the amount of genetic change per generation is small enough that each member of the population can continue to interbreed with the rest of the population, even if it has a mutation that hasn't yet spread to the rest of the population.

    Over several generations its novel mutation does spread through the population and becomes ubiquitous in the population, and thus when the next novel mutation pops up in the population, everyone's already on the same "page" with respect to the last one, and the new mutation is no more hindrance to interbreeding than the last one originally was.

    Rinse, repeat, etc.

    Eventually number of novel mutations in the population becomes so large that even though the population itself can still interbreed (because they all "evolved together" into species Y through genetic exchange), the population is "enough different" DNA-wise that it will no longer be able to interbreed with members of the *original* population of species X it split off from (which itself may be relatively unchanged, or evolved off in a different direction itself).

    This is how one species splits into two (or more), each "daughter" species unable to mate with its "sister" species, yet always able to breed with itself at every stage along the way.

    Look back a few posts for a discussion of "ring species", whereby each subgroup along a "ring" around a mountain or whatever is still able to interbreed with its "neighbor" subgroups on the ring, but when the far "arms" of the ring meet each arm has changed enough genetically that they are unable to mate at the point where they "meet up" on the other side of the geographic obstacle. This works in a way similar to my description above -- each subgroup is "not too different" from its neighbors to interbreed, but over the whole extent of the line/ring, the far "ends" have diverged enough from each other to be unable to mate. Same thing, basically.

    This web site - - gives many a link to understanding the scientific process and the many theories in evolution.


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