Maybe I'm missing something about this particular Creationist's arguement..

by Abaddon 69 Replies latest jw friends

  • Abaddon
    Abaddon

    Dr. Bergman;

    I assume these;

    1/ People gave the Dodo as an example of survival of the fittest.

    2/ Many drawings of the Dodo gave the wrong impression regarding its weight and mobility.

    3/ It is now known it was a leaner more mobile bird.

    are accurate descriptions of your argument, so I’ll concentrate on the one’s you comment on.

    4/ Therefore, it didn't die out because it was unfit.

    I noted that it died out because of human irresponsibility, and not because it was unfit. It was very fit before man arrived on the island.

    Irresponsibility? Yes, but that irresponsibility changed the environment of the islands to an extent the dodo was ‘unfit’. Before Europeans (the Arabs and Malays got there first) got there, if was fit for its environment. After they arrived, it was unfit, as it had no defence against the predators introduced by man, or against man. Fitness in terms of natural selection is not an absolute term, it is a relative term.

    Example; someone who can run a mile in four minutes can enter the race, i.e. live on the island and not die out. They are ‘fit’. But, if people arrive and change the rules so anyone who cannot run the mile in under 3’45” gets eaten, then the poor people who have times over 3’45” are no longer fit enough, even though under a different environment they would be fit.

    It doesn’t matter if it’s people killing slow runners or an ice age or another species competing for habitat/food. If creature A is ‘fit’ in condition X, and factor d changes condition X to condition Y, and creature A dies out, then it has become ‘unfit’. If the specimens of creature A that have white coats survive, or some other factor that selcts them for survival, and the rest die out under the above scenario, then simple genetics will make white coat colour (or whatever factor) predominant in the next generation.

    This is why I worry about your grasp of the biological sciences. The above is a very simple, very fundamental (no pun intended, I have no idea of your exact religious affiliation nor is it pertinent in your error) part of evolutionary theory. You seem to think that because man introduced the factors that made the dodo unfit for its changed environment, it doesn’t count as an example of selection. It does.

    Here’s a random weblink that discusses the issue;

    http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/E/Evolution.html

    5/ Therefore evolution is a myth.

    I never said this but that, in this case, only that the facts do not support the common myth.

    You did say that ‘evolution is a myth’ in the Dodo essay. If you are saying ‘these are the facts, they do not support the common myth’, it is a very similar statement to ‘these are the facts, therefore evolution is a myth’, although less forceful. However, syntax and semantics aside, you’re interpretation of fitness is NOT consistent with that interpretation of fitness used to support the ‘common myth’ as you put it, so whilst you are free to draw conclusions based upon your own definition, that does nothing to disprove evolution in the way you assert it does.

    No 4/ is untrue. If it didn't die out because it was 'unfit' in evolutionary terms (i.e. unable to compete for resources or avoid predation to such an extent it became extinct), then why did it die out?

    It died out because of human irresponsibility. You imply that because humans can wipe out all life on this planet (and have wiped out some life forms, such as the passenger pigeon) that this proves the standard theory of evolution is true (from the goo to you by way of the zoo by copying errors).

    No, I don’t. ANd the 'standard theory of evolution' can't really be described as just involving copying errors, and you have to know this, so therefore why the assertion it does fit that description? Human stupidity is just another selection factor. As I explained above, it doesn’t matter if it’s human-triggered environmental change or an ice age. It doesn’t matter if it’s a spear in the rib cage or a pack of predators who’ve extended their range. In all instances the animal will either be resistant to the environmental change and survive or die out, or have some factor that means it will outrun the predators or evade the spear, or become food. It’s all to do with selection, fitness, and the passing of genes on by those creatures fit enough to bear young before dying.

    I was responding to the claims that I did not have a background in biology when, in fact, I have well over a 100 quarter hours in the field from several universities .

    Sorry, but how on each does 25 hours work make you a biologist? I wouldn’t claim that, and I think I passed that mark in the tenth week of my University course, if not before. And if you make a fundamental mistake in understanding a basic principle of evolution, and assert the standard theory is something it is not, then it doesn’t matter if you have over 200 quarter hours in the field. Knowledge is not a prison sentence calculable by time served. It’s what you know accurately.

    Thanks for your reference to the article on homosexuality… the full reference is “Bearman, PS (2002). Opposite-sex twins and adolescent same-sex attraction. American Journal of Sociology 107:1179-1205.” For anyone who wants to look at it. I don’t quite see how this particular study of opposite sex twins sexual attraction could override the study on same sex brothers, fraternal and identical twins, as it’s only really possible to assert a genetic link (or not) if the siblings studied have a same-sex counterpart. Otherwise it’s peaches and elephants.

    How do you feel about the physiological differences in brain structure that some studies show?

    Do you have a comprehensive essay you could post explaining the start of the Universe, abiogenesis and the development of life as observed by the fossil record, from your viewpoint?

    As much fun as it is to throw ideas regarding evolution around and let creationists take pot-shots at them, I am frustrated by a failure in others to ever provide a comprehensive theory in its place. They tend to resort to avoidance, presuppositionalism, and non-falsifiable theories, and I'd love to examine a comprehensive 'theory of creation' that is not beset by these flaws.

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    This is a major problem we have

    Professor Dumped Over Evolution Beliefs

    By Jim Brown and Ed Vitagliano
    March 11, 2003

    A university professor said she was asked to resign for introducing elite students to flaws in Darwinian thought, and she now says academic freedom at her school is just a charade.

    During a recent honors forum at Mississippi University for Women (MUW), Dr. Nancy Bryson gave a presentation titled "Critical Thinking on Evolution" -- which covered alternate views to evolution such as intelligent design. Bryson said that following the presentation, a senior professor of biology told her she was unqualified and not a professional biologist, and said her presentation was "religion masquerading as science."

    The next day, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Vagn Hansen asked Bryson to resign from her position as head of the school's Division of Science and Mathematics.

    "The academy is all about free thought and academic freedom. He hadn't even heard my talk," Bryson told American Family Radio News. "[W]ithout knowing anything about my talk, he makes that decision. I think it's just really an outrage."

    Bryson believes she was punished for challenging evolutionary thought and said she hopes her dismissal will smooth the way for more campus debate on the theory of evolution. University counsel Perry Sansing said MUW will not comment on why Bryson was asked to resign because it is a personnel matter.

    "The best reaction," Bryson says, "and the most encouraging reaction I have received has been from the students." She added that the students who have heard the talk, "They have been so enthusiastically supportive of me."

    Bryson has contacted the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy and is considering taking legal action against the school.

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    Sorry, but how on each does 25 hours work make you a biologist? I wouldn’t claim that, and I think I passed that mark in the tenth week of my University course, if not before. And if you make a fundamental mistake in understanding a basic principle of evolution, and assert the standard theory is something it is not, then it doesn’t matter if you have over 200 quarter hours in the field. Knowledge is not a prison sentence calculable by time served. It’s what you know accurately. No matter what qualifications I present you will come back with the name calling "you are not a biologists." I am employed by a state college by the state of Ohio as a professor in the area of biology and have been such for over 17 years and I have 3 graduate degrees in the biomedical area and my undergraduate education is in biology. Your claim that I made a fundamental mistake in understanding a basic principle of evolution is also name calling. I understand evolution very well and have studied it for over 20 years and have taught the subject for almost as long. You are trying to find mistakes in my replies that do not exist by twisting my words. If I had 3 Ph.Ds from Harvard, I would still not be qualified or would not "understand evolution". My friends who have Ph.Ds from Harvard, MIT, Stanford, or the University of Chicago are regularly told that they "do not understand evolution." Name calling is not a reason to prove one wrong and does not depend on the facts.

    Thanks for your reference to the article on homosexuality… the full reference is “Bearman, PS (2002). Opposite-sex twins and adolescent same-sex attraction. American Journal of Sociology 107:1179-1205.” For anyone who wants to look at it. I don’t quite see how this particular study of opposite sex twins sexual attraction could override the study on same sex brothers, fraternal and identical twins, as it’s only really possible to assert a genetic link (or not) if the siblings studied have a same-sex counterpart. Otherwise it’s peaches and elephants. No. read the article. It covers identical twins which are not of the opposite sex.

    How do you feel about the physiological differences in brain structure that some studies show?

    Many problems exist with this article such as the sample size was very small, and the subjects died of aids. If anything, it indicates that homosexuality is caused by brain damage or a brain abnormality. See Harvard trained Jeffrey Satinover's book on Homosexuality and those of others that reviewed this study and that of the twins. Also the study at issue here has never been replicated and one study is of very limited value (especially this one).

    Do you have a comprehensive essay you could post explaining the start of the Universe, abiogenesis and the development of life as observed by the fossil record, from your viewpoint?

    I have published over 400 articles on this and related topics and many thousands of articles exist as well as thousands of books by many persons far more qualified than I. If you send me your address I will send you a set. As much fun as it is to throw ideas regarding evolution around and let creationists take pot-shots at them, I am frustrated by a failure in others to ever provide a comprehensive theory in its place. They tend to resort to avoidance, presuppositionalism, and non-falsifiable theories, and I'd love to examine a comprehensive 'theory of creation' that is not beset by these flaws. This is my concern - the attitude of superiority, of the "I know everything and you are stupid," which dominates the responces of Darwinists.

  • funkyderek
    funkyderek
    Your claim that I made a fundamental mistake in understanding a basic principle of evolution is also name calling

    No it's not. Here's a quote from your dodo article (for the third time):

    This non-flying bird which allegedly was 'obviously unfit' became extinct as evolution would expect, and is often used as a prime example of natural selection and proof of how evolution works.

    Your assertion that evolutionists believe the dodo was unfit for its environment and died out as a result is just wrong. If you know anything about natural selection (whether or not you believe in it) you should know that. This point has been made several times in this thread with supporting evidence. Nobody just came out and said you know nothing about evolution. Abaddon and I read your article and found that it apparently contained flaws so fundamental that they brought your knowledge of the subject into question. Your response to Abaddon did nothing to allay those concerns.

    If I had 3 Ph.Ds from Harvard, I would still not be qualified or would not "understand evolution"

    Not if you wrote an article like that.

    This is my concern - the attitude of superiority, of the "I know everything and you are stupid," which dominates the responces of Darwinists.
    Now who's name-calling?
  • Abaddon
    Abaddon
    Your claim that I made a fundamental mistake in understanding a basic principle of evolution is also name calling.

    The statement that someone's argument is wrong with elaboration of why it is wrong is not name calling. It's how scientfic progress is achieved, how humanity manages to achieve the 'slow curve' towards justice the Martin Luther King spoke of. If we didn't do that, we'd still believe in a flat earth, a Universe with the Earth at the centre of it, in blood moving around the body like the tides, in spotted hyenas being hemaphrodites, in the subserviance of women, in the divine right of American settlers to ethnically cleanse the West, in the inferiority of the 'darker races'.

    You are effectively saying that to say to a racist, "You are wrong, because people of different races are equal, here is the evidence showing this...", is name calling!

    I'm sorry Dr. Bergman, but that doesn't even vaugely resemble a valid arguement. My reasons are above. Is that name calling? Or will you only deign to answer the faults in your arguement if I ignore your errors and doff my cap to your credentials?

    The fact that you would rather claim it is name calling than answer the point is very worrying.

    The fact you would rather reitterate your qualifications than answer the point says more of your personal vanity than of your ability to answer the point.

    The fact that you make three strawman attacks in your first paragraph (starting " No matter what qualifications") alone is worrying.

    Please restore my faith in the credibility of creationists. You are accusing me of doing things I did not do. This is exactly what I have been lead to believe would happen, it is very sad.

    Please answer the criticisms of your article. Then post a brief synopsis of your beliefs as regards initial origins, abiogenesis, etc. It shouldn't take you any longer than the response you made where sadly you actually didn't address the point, and where you instead chose to accuse me of calling you names.

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    Of interest

    INVESTIGATING GENESIS
    Stephen Caesar Ph.D.

    "Cichlids and Evolution"

    Cichlids are fish that inhabit the shallow shoreline waters of Africa’s
    Lake Tanganyika. Evolutionists hold them up as undeniable proof of
    evolution in action, because cichlids have been witnessed "evolving" into
    several new species over the past few decades. These events are indeed
    evidence of intraspecific microevolution, discussed many times in this
    column, but not of transpecific macroevolution, since the cichlids are not
    evolving into more advanced, superior life forms, in the classical
    Darwinian "mud to monkey to Mozart" or "amoeba to ape to Einstein"
    scenario.

    The numerous "species" of cichlids that naturalists are witnessing
    springing into existence are actually the result of phenotypic plasticity.
    This term has also been discussed in previous installations of this column;
    it refers to the ability of humans and animals to change dramatically as a
    result of environmental changes. It derives not from mutations or natural
    selection, as Darwinians propose, but from a pre-programmed feature of the
    genetic code that allows "on-off" switches to activate or deactivate,
    depending upon outside circumstances.

    Hans Hofmann, a fellow at Harvard’s Bauer Center for Genomics Research,
    has discovered that the visible "evolution" of cichlids is the result of
    phenotypic plasticity, not Darwinian evolution. Hofmann specializes in the
    relationship between an organism’s environment and its behavior,
    concentrating on how these two factors affect phenotypic plasticity (Shaw
    2003: 30). Harvard Magazine reported on his findings:

    "[C]ertain genes that regulate phenotypes – groups of physiological traits
    and behaviors – are actually under social control. A genome, the complete
    collection of an organism’s genes, is plastic, Hofmann contends. The
    environment – even social and cultural contexts – can switch genes on and
    off" (ibid., 31).

    Hofmann observed cichlids both in the wild and in the laboratory and found
    that they possess "an unusual mutability during life" (ibid.). Cichlid
    on-off genes are activated not only by external factors, like changes in
    the environment, but by social factors as well. Hofmann found that cichlid
    males experience changes in color, territoriality, reproductive activity,
    and gregariousness depending on what other cichlids do. In any school of
    cichlids, there is a dominant male who does all the breeding with the
    females. If that setup is changed either through the death of that male or
    a radical change in the lake, the submissive males will battle for the top
    spot. Within seconds, the winning fish develops an eye stripe and bright
    coloring. Within a week, even greater changes take place. Previously unable
    to reproduce, the victor’s organs suddenly get a message from the brain to
    being producing sperm cells (ibid., 31-32). Hofmann’s experiments have
    discovered "at least 14 phenotypic characters under social control" (ibid.,
    32).

    Hofmann has so far found 96 "on-off" cichlid genes that are activated by
    external factors. He stated: "The whole idea that a gene is for one thing
    only is simplistic – and it misses the inherently complex system of
    interactions between the social environment and individual animals" (ibid.
    33). Harvard Magazine concluded: "Hofmann suspects that the phenotypic
    plasticity of cichlids may have enabled the fish to adapt to new
    environments during evolution, resulting in the numerous species flocks
    found in Lake Tanganyika" (ibid.).

    Despite the evolutionary bias in this passage, the point is that cichlids
    aren't evolving into higher, more advanced life forms through the
    traditional Darwinian scenario of macroevolution through natural selection
    and survival of the fittest. The "evolution" to which Harvard Magazine
    referred is the result of phenotypic plasticity within the wider cichlid
    "kind." The radical changes witnessed by evolutionists and creationists
    alike do not prove Darwin, but they certainly argue for an Intelligent
    Designer who came up with the "on-off" genetic switch to begin with.

    Reference:
    Shaw, J. 2003. "Phenome Fellow." Harvard Magazine 105, no. 3.

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    I am working 14 hour days now so it takes time to respond that I do not have now but I will respond in detail in time. My concern is not natural selection (no one who is informed about biology doubts this reality). The concern is not the survival of the fittest but the arrival of the fittest. Also, the article you are referring to was written a decade old now and has been extensively rewritten and updated. If you write to the college I will send you a copy and I would welcome your feedback on this article. Dr. Jerry Bergman Biology Department Northwest State 22-600 State Rt. 34 Archbold, OH 43543.

    ----- Original Message
  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    Also, 100 quarter hours is equal to amount of course work needed for a Ph.D.

  • Abaddon
    Abaddon

    Dr. Bergman; Thanks for taking the time to respond. The article on Cichlids is an interesting one, but does nothing to refute the general theories of evolution. If you can get a Ph.D in America for 25 hours work, I must get one next time I go to America for a couple of weeks holiday – either that or the time value awarded bears no relation to the actual amount of time spent studying – maybe you do it differently in America…

    Unfortunately the Cichlids article, as it doesn’t bear directly on what we were discussing, is a ‘red herring’, (or perhaps more accurately a red cichlid). Just a distraction from a point you have now not answered in SEVEN posts.

    If you had time to post what you did, you had time to point out why your understanding of ‘fitness’ as displayed in the dodo essay WAS correct (and in doing so validate the conclusion you reach in that essay).

    You have not done so. You haven’t even tried. You’ve accused me of calling you names, when I merely said I thought you were wrong and explained why I thought this. You’ve stated and restated your qualifications in areas other than biology, which is completely beside the point, as it’s your understanding of biology that is called into question by the unusual interpretation of fitness you use in coming to a conclusion. You’ve posted accounts which allege unfairness towards people discussing creationism, which is off the topic – I don’t think anyone has been unfair to you in this thread, we just want you to explain yourself. You’ve posted biological subjects off the topic. You’ve stated it’s out of date and extensively revised, but amazingly are unable to copy and paste the revised article for examination – and have equally amazingly not ensured that a major creationist website has updated the version they have online.

    Until you have the intellectual honesty to actually respond to the points raised by the analysis of your article, or the honesty to admit that essay is at fault, or to post the revised version for examination I see no point in discussing things with you further. I have no interest in further posts where you attempt to avoid the question, change the topic or muddy the waters.

    I am very disappointed that you have done nothing to change my opinion of creationists, just reinforcing them by displaying the same evasive and even dishonest tactics I have observed before.

  • Jerry Bergman
    Jerry Bergman

    You obviously are not familiar with the American educational system. 100 quarter hours is about 4 years full time graduate work. 12 to 14 hours per term is full time (40 hours plus per week commitment). You should understand the system before you criticize it. The article on the web is considered published and they will not replace it with a newer copy (no journal will that I know of). Thus my revision will have to be published elsewhere. Are you turning down my offer? As to "You seem to think that because man introduced the factors that made the dodo unfit for its changed environment, it doesn’t count as an example of selection. It does.'" I would say it was caused to go extinct by humans but this does not prove much as to Darwinism because humans could wipe all life off the earth (and have already wiped many forms of life off the earth) but this does not prove that all life evolved by the accumulation of mutations (the ultimate source of genetic information accordingly to Darwinists). read David Raup (see below)

    Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck?
    by David M. Raup


    Look inside this book
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    From Kirkus Reviews
    A remarkably candid book on what we know and (mostly) what we don't know about evolution and extinction. Raup, a ``statistical'' paleontologist at the Univ. of Chicago, is best known for his popular exposition of a theory that extinctions come in 25-million- year cycles, an idea that spawned the notion that the sun had a dark companion (``Nemesis'') that periodically triggered cometary showers that wrecked havoc on earth. Maybe not Nemesis, Raup says, but he still holds out for periodicity and mass killing via meteor impact. Before reviewing theories of extinction, Raup provides useful insights and details on evolution and a number of tables illustrating time scales, percentages of organisms dying, etc., as well as a philosophical discussion of the value of extinction. He argues that an extinction-free world might not lead to as much diversity as the world has enjoyed. We can't be sure, but would birds or whales or humans have evolved in the absence of the terrain created after mass killings of other species? Everywhere, he urges caution--the data are not available; people are distressingly anthropomorphic as well as suspicious of unearthly theories of extinction. In a wonderful tour de force, he lays out the arguments and counterarguments for the theory that large impact craters are the cause for mass extinctions. Both sides are convincing. In the end, Raup makes a strong case that extinction is necessary for evolution and largely blind to the fitness of organisms. A first strike, such as human intervention or an epidemic disease, may trigger the beginning of extinction. So may bad genes. But, overall, bad luck is more likely. While the book is important for what it has to say about life on earth, it is also a marvelous exposition of think and double-think in science. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


    From Book News, Inc.
    Though the Alvarez theory, that the demise of the dinosaurs may have been affected by a fall of meteors, is still scientifically suspect, Raup (statistical paleontology, U. of Chicago) figures he may as well be hung for a cow as for a calf, and argues that all extinctions of species are at least partly caused by meteors. The thought that even the fittest of the fit can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, is chilling to human smugness about being the crown jewel of evolution. The writing is... read more --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

    See all editorial reviews...


    Customer Reviews Avg. Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars
    Write an online review and share your thoughts with other customers.

    3 out of 5 starsAssignment, March 10, 2003

    Reviewer: Jerod from USA
    I don't think I would recommend this book to the average person. If someone was curious about extinction and different theories then they might like this book. I was hoping it would be more about extinction and dinosaurs. Anyway the author did a good job explaining his thoughts on extinction. It was interesting seeing how the author kind of explained how extinction could be as simple as bad luck, a species just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of the points are expressed well and some of the information was interesting but it still wasn't my type of book.

    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

    4 out of 5 starsForgot to mention this in my previous review, April 4, 2001

    
Top 100 Reviewer Reviewer: magellan359@earthlink.net (see more about me) from Santa Clara, CA
    I forgot to mention this in my previous review.

    In addition to Raup's idea that meteors account for periodic die-offs, his idea is interesting for another reason.

    Back in the early 19th century, when geology and paleontology were becoming sciences, it used to be thought that sudden, catastrophic changes in the earth's geology were the main mechanisms by which the earth's surface was changed over time and transformed.

    For example, there were the Vulcanists (no, they are not from Star Trek) who believed that diastrophic processes (i.e., vulcanism and other heat-generated processes) were responsible for transforming the earth's surface and atmosphere in geologic times.

    Then there were the Neptunists, who held that great floods had transformed the earth's surface (such as in the case of the Noachian Deluge, in the Bible).

    Then in the mid-1800's came Charles Lyell (who was also Darwin's geology professor), who documented gradual changes, such as those occurring as a result of erosion. Lyell's ideas become known as Uniformitarianism, which contrasted with the earlier theories of Catastrophism, of which Vulcanism and Neptunism are examples.

    So Raup's idea is essentially a return to an earlier form of geological explanation, in that it lands him back in the Catastrophism camp.

    3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

    5 out of 5 starshighly readable and informative book on extinction, March 2, 2001

    Reviewer: Tim Martin (see more about me) from Madison, AL USA
    David M. Raup does an extraordinary job in this fine work on the mysteries of extinction. Addressing not only the infamous K-T extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs, pterosaurs, prehistoric marine reptiles, ammonites, and many less well known organims of the Mesozoic, he addresses other significant extinction events in earth's history, ranging from the Cambrian period all the way up to extinctions in recent centuries, such as the heath hen in the eastern United States. Raup is able to draw many interesting theories and conclusions by analyzing extinction as an event and process seperate from and beyond the details of the individual organisms. Too many works, at least popular works, dwell overmuch on the extinction of the dinosaurs and related archosaur fauna (and to a lesser extent the mammalian and avian megafauna at the end of the Pleistocene)and fail to draw overall conclusions about what extinction is, how it comes about, and what roles it plays in the history of life on earth. Though the details of particular organims that become extinct are important, Raup seeks to draw broader and more widely applicable conclusions, and in this he succeeds brilliantly.

    Raup analyzes and addresses a variety of potential causes of extinction from biological (such as predation, epidemic disease, etc.) to physical (sea level rises and falls, volcanism, etc.) to fairly exotic (cosmic radiation, asteroid impact, etc.), as well of course interactions between various causes. He also discusses the importance of small population sizes playing a role in and of themselves in a species extinction, how small populations (using the heath hen as an example) are uniquely vulnerable to such factors as demographic stochasticity, extrinsic forces, social dysfunction, and so forth, all described in informative but very readable format. The debate over the role of small population size is particularly interesting in discussions of potential modern day extinctions, a probelm faced by modern day conservationists and environmentalists.

    Weaving in discussions of probability, statistics, geology, astronomy, climate, and the overall history of life on earth, Raup does an excellent job on the subject of extinction. Any amateur paleontologist or indeed biologist, as well as those involved in conservation efforts, would be well served by this book.

    4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:

    4 out of 5 starsNeither: Bad Title, February 27, 2001

    
Top 500 Reviewer Reviewer: stephen a. haines (see more about me) from Ottawa, Ontario Canada
    David Raup collaborated with Jack Sepkowski in suggesting Earth's been bashed by comets periodically, almost predictably. The research suggested that we take a harder look at extinction than has been done previously. He thinks we avoid looking at extinction as too frightening. Since it logically applies as much to ourselves as to all those species lost in the remote stretches of time, it's a valid argument. But it happens, and we should educate ourselves on extinction's record.

    Raup tries to further our education with a fine description of the fossil record. His depiction of the Ediacaran and Cambrian eras is a joy to read. Few have provided such a vivid account in so little space. His account of the Cambrian gives laudatory credit to Gould's Wonderful Life. That Gould's analysis has been devastated by later research doesn't detract from what Raup's given us. His presentations are intelligible and vividly depicted.

    He presents some numerical models, citing genus and species counts of various extinction scenarios. His graphical presentation of the "kill curve" is designed to show high percentage population losses are rare events. He defends his catastrophist thesis with accounts of near- extinctions from which species recovered. Except for attributable human intervention, he argues, "the chances of a field biologist catching a species at the instant of global extinction are small". Quite true, but his assertion fails to reflect that "speciation" is a term devoid of clear definition. We can't determine whether a current species could successfully reproduce with individuals from an earlier time.

    In his look at catastrophic extinction, Raup takes some sidelong swipes at gradualism in the evolutionary process. While he's correct in asserting we need to understand extinction better than we do, his assault on gradualism is misplaced. By limiting his view, he's ignored the role of adaptation in species creation and extinction. He states that there's no known reason why a species couldn't live forever. This is fallacious since the world is constantly changing and species must adapt or go extinct. There's no such thing as a "bad gene", there are only genes which survive change, or don't. When enough don't the species disappears. Perhaps he should have entered into another collaboration, this time with a biologist.

    What Raup has contributed to extinction debates is the need to look more closely at the correlation between significant geologic [or cosmic] events and species loss. A reasonable undertaking and Raup presents a wealth of reasoned evidence for many extinctions. He presents a list of "exotic" causes of extinctions, finding few of them statistically convincing. His conclusion is that those earth-bashing comets and meteorites need further investigation. Craters, the only physical evidence of cosmic impact, are elusive subjects for study. They weather, are erased by continental subduction and may lie undersea. The recent discovery of the Chicxulub crater in the Caribbean wasn't sought by paleontologists. But Raup must have rejoiced at the find. It's apparently from the bolide that coincides with the extinction of the dinosaurs. It certainly supports his contention that the Big Five extinctions are the results of cosmic impacts.

    Raup did himself a disservice in choosing Stephen J. Gould to write the Introduction to this book. Gould's "punctuated equilibrium" concept has simply proven little more than a feeble attempt at Darwin bashing. His assertion that Charles Lyell's "credo makes little sense" is outrageous. It's a self-serving comment attempting to indirectly shore up his failed thesis. Geologic processes don't operate in fits and starts. Even Raup, further in the text, recounts that in our lifetimes we're unlikely to witness continents moving, suffer catastrophic earthquakes or be struck by meteors. Gould's statement so early on nearly caused the book to be put aside unread. Pity. It's worth a read.

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