Is there hard evidence for macro-evolution?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #101

I liken it to be something like this:

Many people are only aware (to use an analogy) of the stuff at the top of this mountain. To them, it seems absurd that this mountain top can be supported on its own (not realizing that there is an entire mountain of stuff holding up the mountaintop). When someone is not aware of say the many intermediate fossils that I shared earlier, it is very reasonable to conclude that macro-evolution is junk. Or when someone is not aware of all of the pseudogenes that we and all living things have or of all the ERVs, Alu insertions, etc. that are shared in our genomes, it is very reasonable to conclude that macro-evolution is junk.

Yes please provide evidence of your claim if possible. The ‘there’s too much change’ argument isn’t really a very impressive one except if one wants to use the argument from incredulity.

I think the field of evo-devo has provided a lot of helpful insights into the changes required at the genetic level (including @jpm who shared a link above about the bat wing). A few neat experiments highlighted by @sfmatheson on his blog (for the curious reader of links):

My best shot link? I just thought it was a cool paper that actually tried to do what anyone who claims ‘the changes are too big for 15 million years’ argument needs to do. They need to try and characterize what changes are required to produce macroevolutionary changes and then demonstrate what they look like at the genetic level. I.e. compare many specific genes and the types of changes required. And then demonstrate that you could never get such changes via the methods we know genomes to change by (note this is not just natural selection + random mutations- that can produce interesting changes but is definitely not the only mechanism).

An interesting paper that I came across recently was this one that aimed to classify changes genetically on the macro-level:

(Matthew Pevarnik) #102

Both are true in certain cases.

I do? The theory of evolution is quite fine without any of my comments as per the thousands of publications every month that work just fine with the theory.

While I appreciate how impactful you think our forum discussion would be here, I find this to be extremely ironic.


No it doesn’t and when you made claims about how all scientists do this and agree with you, you were wrong about that too.

Is that what macroevolution means? I can never figure out how far is too far for God’s created mechanisms to not work.

No its not. :tired_face:

(Stephen Matheson) #103

Rates of “microevolution,” observed in experiments in the wild, are not merely adequate. They are evidently far faster than “macroevolution” as inferred from the fossil record. In fact, this disconnect led Stephen Jay Gould to name it “the paradox of the visibly irrelevant.” Gould was famously focused on stasis (“stasis is data”), and this “paradox” fed into his narrative. The paper that really highlights the disconnect is below. It’s a classic. To summarize: we don’t need to wonder whether evolution that we can see (“microevolution”) is fast enough to power evolution on larger scales.


@WilliamDJ Strange statement considering we can detect the neutrons that are emitted by this “nuclear power plant”. Or do you have a different explanation for the 40 Tera Watts of heat that is currently flowing from the earth’s surface to space?

From a review paper on the thermal budget of the Earth.

Full paper is available at

(Steve Schaffner) #105

A classic older paper coming to similar conclusions based on a broad range of data:

(William DeJong) #106

You seem to value Darwinism more than the science of mathematics.

The earth is a sphere of red hot liquid rock covered with a thin crust that is cooling down. See further my post nr. 58 on 17 Jan.

Rates of Evolution: Effects of Time and Temporal Scaling, by Philip D. Gingerich extrapolates morphological variation (first order change) to macro evolution (second order change).

(George Brooks) #107

You seem to sacrilize magicsl thinking.


@WilliamDJ Your back of the envelope calculation is so full of unstated assumptions that it isn’t meaningful. Lord Kelvin calculated it would take 20 million to 400 million years for a completely molten earth to cool to the current temperature. His calculations I would trust.

You also ignored the fact that the neutrons that are being emitted by radioactive elements are currently being measured. Care to explain that?

(Marty) #109

I’m generally agnostic about the details you raise, George. Some of those surely may be microevolution. I’m just skeptical that the processes we know about (in particular “random” mutation) are anywhere close to adequate to produce all the complexity we see. Evolution needed help, but I’m doubtful we can be sure exactly what that looked like.

I need to close out this section, so here’s the perspective on Matt’s papers.

Regarding the first paper that was linked, for those who have not looked at it, it’s a great survey of the literature on the correlations between morphological changes and genetic changes among species related through the mammal to whale changes. But of course the DNA is related to features. It’s not clear to me what Matt expected to convince me of with that, since even a Young Earth Creationist may not find much to complain about there.

The more recent paper is an interesting take on back calculating the time of species divergence by comparing genes with (originally replicated) homologous sequences that are not subject to selection, and running the math based on mutation rates. It’s a good idea.

But Matthew, you have once again with many words answered a question I am not asking, and demonstrated that you probably don’t even know the question I am asking. I recommend you spend some time with some Zacharias material and digest his statement, “Behind every question is a questioner.” While you may be an expert in the case for biological evolution, your presence and style here are remarkably ham handed. Most of the moderators here are gracious and thoughtful, but you apparently skipped that class.

You and I are probably done. I’ll stick with people who don’t default to looking down on those who disagree with them.

The paper you linked is an example of natural selection. But we know genomes have variations and selectionist pressures can push morphology a long way. It would be good to repeat it with complete genome sampling before and after.

Hi Steve. This one predates genetic data and is also focused on selection and morphological change. But, for example, we have known for a long time from dog breeding that morphological change can be pushed pretty far by artificial selection.

I’d love some mathematical demonstration that at the molecular (DNA) level and the arising of complex and coordinated proteins and features, we’re not simply assuming unreasonable good luck. You might know of some studies on those lines, and I’d love to get that data, if it exists.

(George Brooks) #110


I havent defended “Random Evolution” for more than 2.5 years.

The one thing Behe holds to which i agree with in principle:

Guided Evolution is sufficient to address all cases of Irreducible Complexity!

(Stephen Matheson) #111

The paper I linked is about experiments that resemble natural selection. It’s in the first sentence of the abstract.

Yes, and that’s how we know that “microevolution” can go many hundreds/thousands of times faster than is needed to explain “macroevolution,” and that was the topic at hand.

That doesn’t have anything at all to do with rates of evolution.


Marty. This sounds like you are looking for the evidence that shows cells could arise from a non-cellular sources. Or am I misreading you?

(Chris Falter) #113

Hi Marty,

I take it that you agree with common descent–e.g. that all primates can trace their ancestry back to the same population some 60 mya. The issue is that you don’t think the forces identified in modern biology (copy-and-modify, transposons, drift, regulatory gene mutations, shifts, natural selection, sexual selection, etc.) can explain all the changes that occurred. Is that correct?

Assume for the sake of argument that I agree. Why would I not find it logical to also dispute the central theories of astrophysics? Yes, the big bang happened, the universe has been expanding ever since, and the expansion is accelerating, I could say. But dark energy and dark matter are just terms that hide the physicists’ ignorance; they have no idea what’s really happening. Given the gaps in physicists’ knowledge, I respectfully disagree with Hugh Ross that physics theories can ever explain the 13.8 billion years of the universe’s existence in scientific terms. Instead, we must look to Intelligent Design to explain why galaxies do not fly apart and the universe’s expansion continues to accelerate.

Would you care, my friend Marty, to defend Hugh Ross’ faith in the ability of astrophysics to explain the history of the universe in scientific terms?


(Marty) #114

@Bill_II I see how you could read my sentence that way, cuz it is a problem with abiogenesis. But even after life has started, some very complex and coordinated proteins and features arise. Abiogenesis has the same problem at a much higher level.

(Marty) #115

@Chris_Falter Hi Chris! I honestly don’t see my question - a rather specific mathematical issue - as attempting to undermine a whole bunch of biology, so I don’t see it as similar to the many questions we still have in physics. It’s that I don’t have faith that “random” mutations can produce enough useful “ideas” to the other processes in the times and generations available. It’s a numbers thing. I’m looking for the math that shows it reasonable.

David Berlinski stated a couple of decades ago (I don’t have the exact quote) that one thing conspicuous by its absence is a rigorous mathematical demonstration that the luck we are relying on in mutations is not unreasonable. As far as I can tell, it’s still missing.

But I really appreciate you trying to clarify. Hope that helps!

(Stephen Matheson) #116

Have you been reading the literature on this topic? This is the way to “look for” the answers you want.


And abiogenesis is not a part of the TOE so it isn’t a problem. At least for evolution it isn’t.

(Marty) #118

This looks to me like a great example of my point above about “3 Posts of skeptics are nitpicked for details or language.” And yet here, in doing so, you got it wrong!

So did you read the paper itself, or just the abstract? They take guppies from one habitat and put them in another, then come back in a few years to see what happened. The changes in the guppies are a response to environmental pressures. So yes, it “resembles natural selection.” Why, one could even say it is natural selection, if one thinks about it. But why nitpick choice of words?

It would be good because that would show us the changes in allele frequencies, which is, the last I checked, this year’s definition of evolution. The distribution has clearly changed, so the morphology is different and I’d like to see that data. Most likely, it’s similar to the peppered moths whose allele frequency changed distribution, but neither allele got lost. The only thing natural selection can do is redistribute what is there.

I’ll repeat from another post that if all you’re concerned about is morphology then we’ve known for centuries from animal breeding that significant morphological changes can be established in a few generations. The guppies experiment is good science but hardly surprising in that regard.

Feel free to point them out if they are available.


(Stephen Matheson) #119

Bye, Marty. PubMed is free, and that’s the best place to start if you decide to consult the literature on any of these topics.

(Marty) #120

Bye Steve. I’ll miss the input, but not the snark.