Night Owl Mk. II

HomeSite 4.0
Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0

Last Update: 12 Dec 99

Return to "Evolution vs. Creationism" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

NOTE: This response is a continuation of a discussion which began in Reply #74 to Religion. I have taken the parts which pertain to Evolution vs. Creationism and moved them here. The rest of the response which deals with religion can be read in Reply #77 to Religion.

(R) I don't see how I am redefining evolution. The way it was explained to me was that evolution is when you take one type of animal and with changes through out many years it changes into another animal. That way back long ago, there where these simple single cell organism, that through minor changes became more complex. (Two or more cells) Do I have this right so far.
(MB) Not quite. There are a few different things being lumped together here. "Evolution" is a change in gene frequencies in a population over time. "Descent with modification" is what happens when changes in DNA produce offspring which are different from their parents. "Speciation" is when enough of these changes accumulate over time such that the end result is something that is significantly different from its original ancestor or any other line of descendants from that ancestor. "Complexification" is when offspring has more (or more varied) genetic components than its ancestor. Complexification also occurs within single-celled organisms. Speciation does not work such that one type of animal changes into another type of animal. The descent of ever-changing offspring from original ancestors results in divergent lineages which can and do co-exist with the original lineage. Some Creationists are fond of claiming that evolution means that a reptile laid an egg and a bird hatched from it or that evolution will cause a dog to turn into a cat. Unfortunately for them, such silly claims only underscore their ignorance of the real science involved.

(R) Then as time goes by, more and more minute changes happen. 50 percent being beneficial and 50 percent not.
(MB) This is not true. Mutations are not a 50-50 proposition. The large majority of mutations are neutral and have no detectable effect on the offspring which possesses them. However, such mutations can accumulate over time and a combination of them can eventually produce a significant effect.

(R) Neutral changes, while they may/may not happen will eventually lead to either a beneficial improvement or a detriment to the organism. Some, neutral changes may just sit there for long periods of time, but eventually they will have on of the two effects.
(MB) This is not necessarily the case. Since approximately 90% of DNA consists of what are known as "junk codons", if any of them are changed by a mutation, the effect will be neutral and it is likely that they will not eventually become anything else. Also, you must consider that a mutation which might be considered "detrimental" to a species in one environment might actually be "beneficial" to the same species in a different environment. In humans, a good example is Sickle Cell trait. In many African Blacks, this is a beneficial trait since it makes them less susceptible to malaria. Among American Blacks, however, there is no need for protection against malaria and the trait produces only its detrimental side-effects.

(R) Why must an improvement be shown is, because somewhere if I understand the basic concept correctly, there has to be an improvement. That is why, just a change such as not being able to interbreed with others of its kind, does not suffice. Once again, I do not need an obvious dramatic improvement. Just a quantifiable one.
(MB) There doesn't need to be any improvement at all. In fact, as I just demonstrated, a given mutation might not be universally beneficial or detrimental. Therefore, "improvement" is a purely subjective evaluation based upon the effect of a given mutation on a given species in a given environment. DNA does not "know" how to mutate in order to produce an "improvement". But, this knowledge would be required in order for evolution to invariably produce improvements as a result of speciation.

(R) The reason I will not accept man's improvement in accelerating a natural process is as you have stated, evolution has no goal, no guiding force, therefore anything done by breeding experiments by definition you have stated is not evolution.
(MB) Yes, it is! Remember what "evolution" is, first of all. Then, let's consider a common example from agriculture. Researchers are constantly developing new species of food crops that produce higher yields, are more resistant to insects and/or chemicals, etc. Yet, these traits are not ones that Man has inserted into those crops. The new species could not have been developed unless at least one ancestral plant already possessed one of those traits. Since that is the case, the natural workings of reproduction in the wild may have led to the normal arising of a species in which all members possess that trait. But, this will take a long time to occur in the wild. All Man does to accelerate the process is to locate as many examples of the ancestral plant as possible and ensure that there is no "hit or miss" reproduction. In that way, every generation of offspring and the vast majority of descendants will gain the new trait and the total population will grow far more quickly than it ever could in the wild. Yet, the end result is the same. The only thing that has changed is the amount of time involved to produce the change. Now, how is this not evolution in action?

(R) Actually, evolution to get from the single cell organism to man does demand improvement.
(MB) I guess this depends upon how you define "improvement". If you define it as being better able to survive in a wide range of environments, it should be rather obvious there has actually been a serious decline in capability from single-celled ancestors to multi-celled organisms to humans.

(R) While, this does not mean complexity. I have seen that when working with computer that the first way I organize data for retrieval is often the most complex, but that allows me to see how the date is inter-related allowing for a more simple follow on way of doing it.
(MB) In other words, your methods "evolve" from their ancestral conceptions into the final and better-adapted product, right? Some of your attempted fixes or "mutations" don't work and get discarded. Many changes don't solve anything at all, but don't do any harm, either. Finally, you hit upon a solution that does the trick and eventually goes on to replace the original conception. This sounds comparable to the process of natural selection, does it not? (I'm a computer guy in real-life).

(R) Just out of curiosity, how many books are the minimum for truth?
(MB) None. Truth is truth and is so whether or not it is stated in any book. However, it takes at least *two* books at a minimum to establish something as a "fact". One to present the claims and data and another separate and independent source to verify them. Without the second book, the first can't be considered to be much more than an uncorroborated claim -- whether or not it is, in reality, "truth".

(R) Did you believe the first math book that show 2+2=4? If so why? Just because the source is one book does not make it any less true.
(MB) Like I said, "truth" requires no books to say so. 2+2=4 in our decimal numbering system whether or not any math books say so. You can easily demonstrate this for yourself. Take two of any discrete object (apples, oranges, Bibles, dead dogs, etc.). Then, take two more of the same. Put them all together. How many total objects do you now have? Will this result ever change no matter how many times you repeat the test? Would this result be the same even if you knew absolutely nothing about formal mathematics? All mathematics does is to codify the symbols and operations used to describe the execution and results of the demonstration. It does not make anything "truth" that is not already so.

(R) Also, to say the Bible is only one book is not accurate, as it is composed of 66 books.
(MB) You are discounting the formal canonization of the separate components of the Bible into one compilation. You can't take one part and use it to "prove" another any more than you can take one chapter of any other book and use it to verify another chapter of that same book. That's why you need separate and independent sources for verification.

(R) I am not trying to misuse the word evolution, I am probably using it the way the common every day person uses it, of which I am.
(MB) Unfortunately, "common wisdom" usually isn't. That's why it is important to try to educate people. What rational person would not consider himself to be better off if he can replace doubt and myth with certainty and truth?

(R) I will not argue that I am different from my parents, as my children are different from me. I will however argue against the assumption that there is no limit to the changes that can be made given enough time.
(MB) Why would you argue such a thing? To do so must mean that you have some reason to believe that the structure of DNA is such that species evolution will eventually "hit the wall" and that, from that point on, there could not be any further possible changes. This would mean that, from that point on ad infinitum, all offspring will be identical to their parents. Are you sure about wanting to support such an argument?

(R) Or once again them flies that have been radiated would rule the world. Recently found out, and will have to see if I can get the source for you, that with-in 3 to 15 generations without being exposed to abnormally high doses of radiation the flies return to normal.
(MB) I would be interested in that source since what it is saying is absolute stercus tauri. Mutated DNA does not "know" that it has been changed and does not remember how it used to be. How, therefore, could it possible revert back to a previous state?

(R) As I have said before the proof for evolution would be:
1) Improvement in the species, quantifiable.
2) Not directed by man.
3) Which ever animal you use cannot be the same, no dog to dog, no cat to cat.

(MB) Do you wish to maintain these three criteria in light of the arguments presented in this response?

(R) A mouse to a rat difference would suffice.
(MB) I'm not sure you want to go here, either. If you do, you would be demanding that evolution occur at the Family level. Perhaps you should define precisely what you mean by "mouse" and "rat" since there are several separate Families within the Order Rodentia which contain many dozens of distinct genera (many of which contain multiple species) of "rats" and "mice". Dogs are dogs and cats are cats, but rats and mice are different animals altogether (no pun intended).

(R) Thank you for your time.
(MB) My pleasure. I hope this has been both entertaining and informative.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 12 Dec 99

Earthlink Network Home Page