Do archetypes explain homology as well as evolution?


(Charles Hofer) #1

I’ve recently read the new book, Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation, put out by BioLogos, RTB, and the SBC. I’d highly recommend it. Props to Dr. John Walton in his chapter on concordism and accommodation. I really appreciated his clarity and I think his writing was the strongest of all of the contributors.

On to the real point of this post. One idea that Fuz Rana put forth to undercut evolution was the idea of homology flowing from archetypes in the mind of the Creator. For example, the vertebrates are similar because they are all based on a sort of general plan in God’s mind. Extending this (my thoughts here, not Rana’s), you might have sub-archetypes for sub-groups like birds, reptiles, hominids, etc. Applying this on the DNA level, you might see the human genome as a design modification of the more general hominid genome archetype, and the hominid genome as a modification of a more general ape genome archetype, going up the chain. Much of the strength of the evolutionary explanation comes from it’s ability to explain the “nestedness” of homologies, and this seems to provide a more “creationist” explanation for those homologies rather than a simple claim to common design. It seems we might even apply archetypes to genetic “scars”, with “scars” simply being modifications to a genetic plan in the mind of God rather than modifications to a real piece of DNA.

I know this idea didn’t start with Fuz Rana, and it goes back to Richard Owen in the 19th century. Although Owen seemed more comfortable with evolution than Fuz is. Why did this idea fall out of favor? What advantage does evolution offer over archetypes? Is there some other aspect of genetics that archetypes don’t account for? Maybe the evidence for evolution better explains the fossil record? Or maybe with archetypes we shouldn’t really expect a nested structure?


(Curtis Henderson) #2

Although I haven’t read the book, I think the archetype viewpoint can only be argued from a philosophical angle. If it is difficult to scientifically test for intelligent design, it is practically impossible to argue that nested hierarchies are only present due to the “picture” in the mind of God. In addition, it’s probably stretching the already-tenuous concept to its limits by asserting that genetic “scars” can be explained by by archetypes, as well.


(Charles Hofer) #3

Yeah, I agree here. Archetypes are very much in the realm of philosophy and are outside the bounds of science. But, I’m not so interested in answering whether something is science or not, but rather whether it’s true or not. How is this “stretched” by scarring?


(Matthew Pevarnik) #4

A recent post also speaks on ERVs which I think are also relevant to genetic scars (and if they are genetic scars, please forgive my non-Biologist mind):


(Curtis Henderson) #5

I can understand the argument of archetypes when applied to typical “coding” DNA – that coding similarities are due to God’s orderly vision and plan for life. But it would be difficult to argue that the large amounts of repetitive, non-functional DNA or ERV DNA would be a product of that vision.

As I contemplate a little further, the archetype argument would also be susceptible to philosophical disagreement such as a “poor vision for the human back and knee”.


(Peaceful Science) #6

Well evolution gives us a mathematical theory that explains why chimps/humans genomes are about 2% different and mice/rats are about 18% different. Nothing in archetype theory explains that, but we have a formula in evolution that explains it.

Is is possible that God just made us that way? Of course. But archetype theory does not explain why God did it that way. Evolution by way of neutral theory does.


(Phil) #7

While far above my pay grade, it also seems that the archetype argument would break down when you consider that genetic scars represent a historical event in time, not just a common design. It would be difficult to explain why God would have a viral insertion at the same place in two different species just because he wanted to do it that way.


#8

As others have mentioned, the problem with the Archetype argument is that it doesn’t explain the nested hierarchy. If mammals and reptiles are sub-groups, then why do we see fossils with a mixture of features from mammals and reptiles? If God is allowed to mix features from different sub-groups, then why don’t we see living or fossil species with a mixture of mammal and bird features?

Evolution is the only explanation that is able to predict which combinations of features we should see and which we shouldn’t see. The Archetype model can’t do that.

Things get even more complicated at the genetic level. Why would God change introns more than exons? How do you explain genetic equidistance? Evolution can explain these observations with ease, but I don’t see how the Archetype model can explain those same observations.


(Benjamin Kirk) #9

Except that there’s not anything resembling the linearity of “up the chain.” Evolution produces a bush, not a ladder nor a chain.


#10

As mentioned above, DNA phylogenies are a bush or tree, not a ladder. For example, chimps share more DNA with humans than they do with other apes (e.g. gorillas, orangutans). The genomes of all mammals are equally modified since we are all the same distance from our common ancestor. All modern species are at the tips of the branches on the Tree of Life, not rungs on a ladder below humans. Modern bacteria are as evolved as modern humans.

There is also no reason that God could not create a new Archetype that has a genome with exact copies from other Archetypes. God could directly copy 1,000 genes from jelly fish, 1,000 genes from mice, 1,000 genes from ostriches, and then smash it all together for a new Archetype. There is simply no reason why we should see a nested hierarchy at the DNA level in the Archetype model.


(Peaceful Science) #11

It does explain this.

If Archetypes are ideas in the mind of God, then God might make new Archetypes using others as patterns. One can imagine a way of thinking that would produce nested hierarchies. That is the whole point of why it is attractive to some.

This is false. Some versions of the Archetype model make these predictions just fine, and with no more error than does evolution.

It can if God thinks of species (or remembers them) as pieces of DNA. That is not really the failing point, at least not the failing point for all models of Archetypes.

Rather I think there are three failure points:

  1. Archetype theory does not currently have a mathematical theory for these changes, nor can it explain why population genetics makes so much quantitative sense of the data. Evolution makes mathematical sense of the data in a testable way, but Archetype theory does not. There are some rhetorical claims that it does, but at this time there is literally zero quantitative studies demonstrating this claim to be true.

  2. Archetype theory is in conflict with anti-evolutionism. If evolution is so bad (as many that subscribe to it believe) why did God choose a way of creating things in His mind that makes life in a way that looks like it is evolved. At the very least, it means God does not care about disproving evolution, so why should we?

  3. At least in science, invoking God’s action as an explanatory force is not allowed, so even if #1 and #2 could be resolved (and maybe that is possible), then it still would not be science. It might even be true, but it is not science.

I would just be cautious about ascribing failures to a theory that are not real.


(Charles Hofer) #12

I don’t mean “chain” like the “great chain of being”. I mean a path of sub-archetypes from humans back to something more general like the invertebrate archetype. There are other sub-archetypes at the same level as the hominid archetype, maybe the chimp archetype is one of them. The picture is still very “bushy”.


(Steve Schaffner) #13

I think there’s a broader failure. Because the archetype model lacks a mechanistic basis, it is unable to make any predictions about the kinds of differences we see between species, while common descent makes abundant predictions. Archetype theory will not tell you whether transitions should be more common between species than transversions, or whether structural differences should be more common near segmental duplications, or whether gene trees that are incongruent with species trees (from incomplete lineage sorting) should occur in clusters in the genome, or whether ERV within-family divergence should correlate with phylogenetic range. As an explanatory model, the archetype model simply does not do a very good job with genetic data.

I think it’s reasonable to conclude that if homology does result from archetypes in the mind of the creator, then the archetypes were implemented via common descent.


#14

Then why not an archetype with a mixture of mammal and bird features, or billions of other possible combinations that would violate a nested hierarchy? Why do we only see the combinations of features that evolution would produce when there are billions of possible combinations that God could put into a new archetype?[quote=“Swamidass, post:11, topic:36344”]
This is false. Some versions of the Archetype model make these predictions just fine, and with no more error than does evolution.
[/quote]

Which versions are these?[quote=“Swamidass, post:11, topic:36344”]
At least in science, invoking God’s action as an explanatory force is not allowed, so even if #1 and #2 could be resolved (and maybe that is possible), then it still would not be science. It might even be true, but it is not science.
[/quote]

That isn’t entirely true. What isn’t allowed is unfalsifiable and undetectable mechanisms. It isn’t the fault of science that believers in God can not come up with a way to test for or detect God’s actions. If God’s actions could be detected in a falsifiable manner, then God’s actions could be included in science.


(Charles Hofer) #15

I don’t quite understand your question here. ERVs and such aside, genetic archetypes and sub-archetypes do explain why we see nested hierarchy. If God mixed sub-archetypes (at least if God pictures organisms and archetypes as strands of DNA), he’d no longer be designing with archetypes. So, it seems to me that to ask why God didn’t mix sub-archetypes is to ask why God designed with archetypes at all. To that, I don’t really know and I don’t think the Bible or Christian thought has anything close to a good answer to that. Maybe there’s something “good” or “orderly” about designing with archetypes? I think almost any answer to this is going to be pretty speculative.

Just as an aside, from a non-genetic perspective, archetypes are mixed together sometimes. That mixture between birds and mammals are called bats. I’m sure that guys like Dr. Rana have heard of them :stuck_out_tongue:

I’d also be very interested in hearing about one of these, @Swamidass.

I largely agree that falsifiability or testability gets at something desirable in a scientific proposition or theory, but it’s not the end-all be-all of what makes something scientific. The statement “there is life on other planets” isn’t falsifiable in practice. It’s quite the task to look at every planet in the universe and check every nook and cranny for life, and I highly doubt we will ever falsify this proposition. Yet this is actually a proposition that scientists spend time discussing and investigating. Here’s another one. You could never falsify the proposition “the universe permits life”. No scientist could ever falsify it, because if it were false, nobody would be around to do so. But, it’s obviously true, and this seems like a proposition that belongs in the realm of the sciences.


#16

We do have mixtures of sub-archetypes, both living and in the fossil record. There are fossils with a mixture of reptile and mammal features. There are fossils with a mixture of human and ape features. There are fossils with a mixture of whale and terrestrial mammal. We even have living platypuses that have a mixture of mammal and reptile features. It would seem that these fossil and living species refute the archetype argument.[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:15, topic:36344”]
Just as an aside, from a non-genetic perspective, archetypes are mixed together sometimes. That mixture between birds and mammals are called bats.
[/quote]

What bird features do bats have?[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:15, topic:36344”]
I largely agree that falsifiability or testability gets at something desirable in a scientific proposition or theory, but it’s not the end-all be-all of what makes something scientific.
[/quote]

Actually, it is the end-all be-all of what makes something scientific. Testability and falsifiability are an integral part of the scientific method.

I don’t know of any scientists who say that life on other planets is a scientifically supported conclusion.[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:15, topic:36344”]
You could never falsify the proposition “the universe permits life”.
[/quote]

You don’t falsify observations, and the existence of life in our universe is an observation. Hypotheses are required to be falsifiable and testable, not observations.


(George Brooks) #17

Im not sure what is being accomplished with the use of archetypes. Archetype or no…if two mixed- form creatures mate and produce fertile offspring… The creatures are of the same kind.


(Charles Hofer) #18

I guess I just don’t see how these are a problem for archetypes. If there is a common archetype behind apes and humans, wouldn’t it stand to reason that God might actually create the archetype he used to derive apes and humans? In that instance you would get a fossil with features similar to both humans and apes. Regardless, I don’t think the answer to this question is what would make or break archetypes. ERVs and such, as well as the timing in the fossil record of transitional forms, seems to speak against archetypes.

Wings seemed like the obvious answer to me.

I can agree that there is something to falsifiability, and it hits close to a unifying method or criterion for the sciences, but it’s just not the whole story. I know falsifiability is often stated as bedrock in a lot of popular thinking and on anti-creationist sites like RationalWiki, but the idea that falsifiability is the “end-all be-all” of what makes something a science is not really in line with contemporary philosophy of science. Even big names like Sean Carrol have called this into question, and this writer at the Scientific American notes that it threatens to place climatology outside of the sciences. Really, falsifiability, is just one proposed solution to the demarcation problem.

On the flip side, setting falsifiability as the criterion of science also lets a lot of pseudoscience into the sciences that we probably shouldn’t let in. Flood geology comes to mind as one of them. I know that I can point to geological features and say, “these show flood geology to be false”. I know we haven’t really defined the archetype idea or its predictions that precisely, but you’ve already pointed to the mixture of sub-archetypes as a falsification of this archetype idea. Sure, flood geology and archetypes may be false, but they’re falsifiable by natural observations we’ve made, and therefore scientific. Not much different from luminous aether or Lamarckism according to the criterion of falsifiability.

But whether the existence of life on other planets is a scientifically supported conclusion is beside the point. It seems it is still a proposition that is within the realm of the sciences. But it’s clearly unfalsifiable in any practical sense.

But shouldn’t we be able to consider the proposition “life exists” as a scientific proposition even before we go about making our observation?


(Benjamin Kirk) #19

[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:18, topic:36344”]
If there is a common archetype behind apes and humans, wouldn’t it stand to reason that God might actually create the archetype he used to derive apes and humans?[/quote]
But then there’s a archetype “behind” apes and monkeys, etc. Do you understand the concept of nested hierarchies?

[quote]T_aquaticus:
What bird features do bats have?

Wings seemed like the obvious answer to me.[/quote]

Bird wings are whole forelimbs, bat wings are only hands.

I think you’re misunderstanding the concept of falsifiability.

Now I’m more certain that you’re misunderstanding the concept.

[quote]But shouldn’t we be able to consider the proposition “life exists” as a scientific proposition even before we go about making our observation?
[/quote]“Life exists” is an observation, not a proposition nor a hypothesis.

Do you realize that scientific hypotheses need to be mechanistic?


#20

In a previous post you said it was a problem, unless I misunderstood you:

“If God mixed sub-archetypes (at least if God pictures organisms and archetypes as strands of DNA), he’d no longer be designing with archetypes.”–chucklesthegrumpy

If God can mix and match different subtypes, then why don’t we see a species with a mixture of bird and mammal features, or whale and fish features?

Wings is the name of a function, not an anatomical feature. The forelimbs of birds and bats are very different:

Bat:

Bird:

The bat does not have a bird’s forelimb.[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:18, topic:36344”]
I can agree that there is something to falsifiability, and it hits close to a unifying method or criterion for the sciences, but it’s just not the whole story. I know falsifiability is often stated as bedrock in a lot of popular thinking and on anti-creationist sites like RationalWiki, but the idea that falsifiability is the “end-all be-all” of what makes something a science is not really in line with contemporary philosophy of science.
[/quote]

Popper would disagree. If all possible observations are consistent with your hypothesis, then you aren’t doing science.[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:18, topic:36344”]
On the flip side, setting falsifiability as the criterion of science also lets a lot of pseudoscience into the sciences that we probably shouldn’t let in. Flood geology comes to mind as one of them.
[/quote]

If falsifiability is a criterion then it would exclude flood geology because flood geologists cite any and all possible observations as being caused by a recent global flood. If you think I am wrong, then ask someone who supports flood geology what type of features a geologic formation would need to have in order to falsify the claim of a recent global flood. I have yet to find a flood geologist who can answer that question.[quote=“chucklesthegrumpy, post:18, topic:36344”]
But whether the existence of life on other planets is a scientifically supported conclusion is beside the point. It seems it is still a proposition that is within the realm of the sciences. But it’s clearly unfalsifiable in any practical sense.
[/quote]

It isn’t beside the point. It is the whole point. No one is concluding that there is life on another planet. If there is no scientific conclusion, then it isn’t scientific. Considering the possibility that life exists on other planets is not science. Collecting observations is not science. Science is the application of the scientific method.