Whales did (NOT) evolve

(PETERC) #124

’ And the hind limbs encased in the body walls of some whales? Theres another clue’.

If all whales are descended from 4-legged animals, why do not all whales have those hind limbs encased in their body walls?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #126

So @beaglelady asked:

And @Pculbert replied:

That certainly is a strange response, and a non-answer to @beaglelady’s question. However, I shall help thee out and have one idea that answers both questions. It is because the Intelligent Designer loves promiscuous cetaceans! (special @pevaquark note: the link is to an academic paper it’s safe I promise!) The Intelligent Designer gave some some tiny hind limbs so they can get busy more often, with selection pressure for larger certain parts, and removed the tiny hind limbs in other cetaceans because He doesn’t like it when they try to get busy.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #127

Since I’m not seeing the ‘post moved’ thing I moved the other posts related to the book Heretic here:

Please carry on here with ‘Whales did (NOT) evolve!’

(Matthew Pevarnik) #128

A post was merged into an existing topic: The ID Book ‘Heretic:’ A Brave Journey where No Man Has Gone Before

(Phil) #129

After reading the article I suggest that you don’t tell a whale his pelvis is vestigial.


Don’t know. Some shrink way down, and some disappear. But what Is a whale doing with legs?


weren’t some of the hind limbs encased in the body wall? Why does a whale need a vestigial pelvis? Simply to fool us?

(George Brooks) #132


There’s plenty of ironic responses. But I think you are still looking for some kind of answer. It goes back to the same answer for why do both Chimps and humans have broken genes for processing vitamin “C”.

If whales don’t need tiny legs, does this mean humans don’t need vitamin C? As many an early world explorer will tell you … humans certainly do! British sailors came to be called limeys because sailors were given rations of citrus fruit to make sure they didn’t suffer scurvy too much or too frequently.

The conventional answer for why the common ancestor for chimps and humans lived with a broken vitamin C gene is straightforward: things like this happen with no ill effect on a population if the population already gets a sufficient supply of Vitamin C in its diet! If subsequent generations (like chimps or humans) make a significant move to some other region, where the diet is different, the population begins to suffer.

Does this mean as soon as a population starts getting plenty of some nutrient (like vitamin C) that the gene for that nutrient (if there is one) will break? No. But given a long enough existence, a population experiences defects in all chromosomes, and all parts of the chromosomes. If there is a negative effect to that change, sickliness or death will help make sure that the important gene that is broken will not spread too quickly within the population. In a large population, there are low-priority broken genes scattered throughout the genome… in low quantities - - essentially because the gene is not that important.

So, for proto-whales… who have stopped visiting dry land (even for mating) … after a few million years, some genes that supported the growth of rear limbs broke here or there. In the beginning, the legs might have still worked, but became smaller and weaker, because when an additional gene broke that affected only the rear limbs, nothing good or bad happened either way. It isn’t clear to me whether we all agree that some whales now have tiny remnants of pelvic bones and feet embedded inside their body… invisible and quite useless. I will assume that this is a true situation; I’ve heard this more than once before.

For a person like me, who holds to the view that God is in charge of mutations just as much as he is in charge of the so-called “original design” that Creationists hold to, does something like this make more sense in an Evolutionary model than in a Creationism model? I would say “Yes!”.

A Creationist has to say that God made that whale like that from the very beginning. An Evolutionist just has to say that God is on his way to making a new kind of whale… and this is his process.

(Ashwin S) #133

I feel this is highly deceptive. There is a generally understood meaning of the term evolution.
Evolution is commonly understood as a non-teleological process.
How many scientists would agree that evolution is a goal oriented process?

So at Bio-logos Evolution can be defined as “Purposeful descent with modification supervised by an intelligent being who also directs and sustains the process towards predefined Goals”?
Pls correct me if i understood wrong.
@pevaquark : Pls chip in with your definition and how exactly it is teleological if you believe so.
@T_aquaticus; @beaglelady ; @Bill_II - Just for my understanding. Do you guys also understand evolution to be teleological (i.e a goal oriented process?)
I would call that design… And what you are describing is intelligent design, which many here seem to hold in such scorn.
I personally hate double talk like this. (I understand you may not see it as double talk).

I guess the only difference is that you guys dont want to investigate whether this is true and whether it can be scientifically proven.
And neither do you want to engage with the scientific world regarding teleology in evolution (its currently a minority position in the scientific world).

(James McKay) #134

I can’t speak for anyone else on this forum, but personally I do. Basically, because as a computer programmer, my understanding of evolution comes first and foremost through the “lens” of evolutionary algorithms – as I mentioned in an earlier post on this thread. Evolutionary algorithms are used to design things to meet specific practical requirements.

I would call it intelligent design as well. And I fully understand why you might think the positions that some people on this forum sound like double talk. There’s a lot of scope for confusion and misunderstanding about the subject of Intelligent Design, and I think this is something that everyone on this forum needs to bear in mind.

What exactly does “Intelligent Design” refer to anyway?

The biggest problem is that the term “Intelligent Design” itself is highly ambiguous. It can mean one of several different things. Three in particular come to mind:

  1. The belief that the process of creation, whether it was by entirely natural processes or whether it involved supernatural intervention, was actively directed by God.
  2. Claims that divine intervention in nature can be identified using the tools of the scientific method (for example, the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum).
  3. A group of people (primarily centred around the Discovery Institute) who are trying to see (2) gain serious recognition by the scientific community and be taught in science classes in schools.

Many of the objections to Intelligent Design that you see tend to focus on (3). A lot of these arguments are purely political, and are concerned more with what the First Amendment of the US Constitution does or does not mean, and whether or not the Discovery Institute’s motivations are justifiable or not. Regardless of what conclusions you come to in this respect, the US Constitution is not the sixty-seventh Book of the Bibie, and it is not the ultimate arbiter of truth.

Unfortunately, because the term “Intelligent Design” refers to at least three different things, there’s a lot of scope for equivocation and misunderstanding. When someone critiques Intelligent Design in sense (3) or even sense (2) without qualification, it can all too easily sound like they are heaping scorn on sense (1) as well.

Arguments against religious presuppositions miss the point.

There are far too many arguments about Intelligent Design being “religion, not science,” or being all about “introducing religious presuppositions into science.” I find these arguments particularly jarring when they are made by people who self-identify as evangelical Christians, because it sounds like they’re just repeating arguments in support of atheism. Even when they are made by non-Christians, such arguments still sound like they themselves are motivated first and foremost by religious (or anti-religious) presuppositions of their own.

In any case, they completely miss the point. The question that we should be asking about claims of ID advocates (in senses (2) or (3) above) is not about what motivates them, but about whether or not they are getting their facts straight. Any opposition should not be to the concept of Intelligent Design itself, but to sloppy thinking, falsehood, unjustified assertions, and resistance to critique in claims made in support of it. Basically, the heart of the matter is to insist that they are getting their facts straight.

I made this point with respect to young-earth creationism here. Exactly the same principles apply in the case of ID:


For me, yes.

Well I believe there is an Intelligent designer, AKA God. The scorn comes about because the ID folks want to talk about design but not the designer. Can’t have one without the other. Also no mention is ever made of exactly how this design came to be.

Where we differ is I know it to be true because the Bible tells me so. However it can’t be detected by the scientific method. “Proven” is probably the wrong word to use. Rainfall is a perfectly natural process which has no goal. Meteorologists don’t look for God and don’t try to find God in the process. And yet the Bible says God sends the rain when and where He desires. Same with evolution.

(George Brooks) #136

@Ashwin_s ( @pevaquark, @T.j_Runyon, @T_aquaticus, @Mervin_Bitikofer, @jpm ):

It seems that you are among the last to find out: there are Christians with a science vocation who

  1. believe Evolution is teleological, but
  2. do not believe the teleological nature of Evolution can be proved, nor that it can even be detected, by scientific method.

How is this true?: there are many ways for God to have shaped life on Earth, and each one is virtually impossible to test - Let’s use the dino-killing asteroid as a natural event, believed to have been at the hand of God:

A) By arranging to wipe out the dinosaurs and their ilk, God made it possible for a broad range of large mammals to evolve from the very small mammals that had evaded extinction by being too small for dinosaurs to effectively hunt them into oblivion. But there are no tests for God’s intentions!

B) For many Christians, their religious premises tell them that the mere fact the asteroid hit the Earth is enough for them to know God planned for that. Christian Scientists affirm the intelligence of the events and the resulting effect by religious interpretation, not by scientific interpretation.

C) Scientists are not in a position where they can test:
i] whether the asteroid collision was something in arranged for by purely natural lawful means (the asteroid was created by the collision of other natural bodies somewhere beyond Earth’s orbit around the Sun);

    • versus - -

ii] God “poofed” the asteroid into existence and aimed it at just the right trajectory to collide with Earth at exactly the desired angle.

Many Creationists are surprised to learn that what separate BioLogos from Creationist group is not the verdict on divine design, nor the verdict on teleology - - but the verdict on whether Science can find or detect the actions of God and/or whether it is beneficial, or too societally risky, to teach religious aspects of Creation in the public schools.

But here’s the most important thing:

You write: "I feel this is highly deceptive. There is a generally understood meaning of the term evolution.
Evolution is commonly understood as a non-teleological process."

This is the very thing BioLogos seeks to change – to show that Christians can embrace the scientific side of Evolution without it affecting their Christian faith, and also without affecting how the science of Evolution is conducted. What looks random to the human mind is, by our religious calculus, is not random to God.

As a fan of American pragmatism and American constitutionalism, I can imagine the first post-American Revolution politicians were criticized when they referred to America as a “democracy”! I can imagine some “old school” political essayist insisting that “democracy” has only meant “rule by the mob” and so their terminology is wrong.

But what the post-revolutionary politicians were doing was encouraging an additional meaning to the term “democracy” - - which captured the essence of the American political model:

  • a system with no king or even a house of Lords (with land titles conferred by land ownership).
  • a system where factions were able to freely compete for support from the electorate;
  • a system where the above points were valid and true, despite slaves, women and most men with insufficient property to qualify for voting.

The politicians could have attempted to invent a completely different word - - but found it easier, and more compelling to the voters, to add to the dictionary meaning of Democracy, rather than to add to the confusion by inventing a brand new term.

The parallels to the use of Evolution are quite close:

the term Evolution, as used by its earliest promoters, required randomness and God’s lack of engagement with natural laws that control evolution and/or God’s existence not even acknowledged.

But as the evidence for “Common Descent with Modification” started to accumulate, and the use of the phrase “Survival of the Fittest” began to be replaced by “Natural Selection”, Christians who found the natural evidence more convincing than the denials by Creationists - - the need for a new [possible] understanding for Creation became increasingly evident. Thus, if Speciation could occur by God arranging for sufficient levels of mutation, which could lead eventually to changes in reproductive compatibility, the word Evolution was still applicable, since Creationists rejected the possibility for such things.

It was reasoned that -
Since God could use at various times both miracles (i.e., special creation) OR natural laws to make rain or to make a new species; and
Since God appears to have gone out of His way to leave evidence for “common descent” and “speciation” by natural processes; then:

a new category of Evolution must be defined where Evolution is in the hands of God, rather than in the hands of nobody.

@Ashwin_s, I hope this helps you understand the underpinnings for why there is a new (additional) definition for Evolution.

You wrote:

I think you attempting to define those who believe God employs naturally produced Speciation and Common Descent as Creationism is another kind of double-talk. If Special Creation is making Adam in a “poof” event . . . then clearly making a human over millions of years can’t be Creationism. The process is easy to define: it is evolution. The part that you call Teleological is not available to science for further analysis or even detection.

So . . . by all objective measures, Evolution is still Evolution.

(Phil) #137

I have little more to add as I am pretty much the same boat as the other responders. I think intelligent design is good philosophy, though it tends to infer a small God who has to fine-tune and fix things, whereas my concept of God is more of an artist applying brush strokes on the canvas or chiseling the Pieta from a block of stone. The ID movement however seems to have overreached in applying it to the scientific process without basis to do so.

(Chris Falter) #138

Hi Ashwin,

I am not a biologist, but if I have understood biology correctly, then your assertion is dead wrong. Speciation is not quantized; the only thing that can be quantized is the number of mutations (of various sorts) across space–e.g., between individuals in a population–and across time.

This is exactly the situation with linguistics, where individuals and populations innovate in their idioms, verb declensions, etc., both across space and across time. I discovered the spatial dimension when my family moved from Ohio to South Carolina a long, long time ago. Everyone in South Carolina spoke English, but it wasn’t quite the same English that my Ohio neighbors spoke.

Moreover, there is a kind of speciation event in language evolution; it occurs when the speakers of the descendant language and the speakers of the original language can no longer understand one another without translation. This is why I had to wrestle so hard with the Canterbury Tales in high school lit; it was written in the contemporary language of the English isle, but that language was not the English I knew.

This is why language is a very good (though imperfect) analogy for biological evolution.



I think it’s pretty much God-of-the-gaps theology, where God serves as a placeholder for scientific ignorance. And God therefore shrinks with each discovery of some missing piece of evidence.


Denis Venema has some very good posts here on this very thing.

(Ashwin S) #141

Hi James,

Glad we are in agreement with respect to the main points. As to what ID means, we should allow the proponents to define it as opposed to how it is perceived by evolutionary biologists/popular media.If we ask regular people what evolution means, we would get a range of disparate and inaccurate definitions depending on whom we ask. Of course, none of the definitions would really be valid to the science of evolution. Similar, let ID scientists define what ID means.
Let me post one such definition below :slight_smile:

Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof. Such research is conducted by observing the types of information produced when intelligent agents act. Scientists then seek to find objects which have those same types of informational properties which we commonly know come from intelligence.
So the key claim that needs to be verified is the one below :
Through the study and analysis of a system’s components, a design theorist is able to determine whether various natural structures are the product of chance, natural law, intelligent design, or some combination thereof.

I think it s possible to show whether design is more probable vis a vis evolution (where evolution is the null hypothesis).

This is something an athiest would say (I am referring to the argument against ID obviously). No one really knows how matter came to be (even a proper definition of matter is ultimately contestable). yet we do science about how matter interacts within the universe all the time.
Newton defined how gravity behaves long ago…Scientists are still working on understanding what exactly it is and how it behaves.
In the nascent stage of a field in science, its common to start with the low hanging fruit, i.e immediately testable/observable effects (like an apple falling down instead of going up). The effects of intelligence and what its creations look like can be immediately observed, and tested.As our knowledge increases, we figure out how to test more difficult and basic ideas out… its possible we hit a wall at some point.
Its common for scientists to talk about what they can test here and now… and right now, its detection of intelligent design.
This is nothing to be scornful about.

You are right proven is the wrong word to use. in historical sciences, we cant really prove what happened, we can at best describe what probably happened and sow all other alternatives are highly unlikely.
Id scientists believe , Design can be detected. As an engineer, i agree with them. Designed products have unique properties which a product of nature does not have. (In all cases where we actually know the causative agent through observation).
Some of the things ID scientists are doing which i find interesting are:

  1. Information science - Laws of conservation of information applied to evolutionary searches, Detecting specified complexity in structures (there is an interesting application of this with respect to snow flakes). Information science is well suited to find the probability of meaning/purpose emerging through chance.
    You can find more here -http://www.evoinfo.org/publications.html
    And a long but clear description of the arument from conservation of information by william dembski.
  2. Detecting irreducible complexity in biological systems.

Another field i would like to see some work on is to describe how inputting energy into an open system can lead to increase in order to the level of working machines through stochastic processes. (Or in other words- Mercury gets way more heat than earth… why didnt it develop complex biological systems?).

I am attaching an interesting description of the problem below:
@gbrooks9 - I think the above reply to Bill covers the objections raised by you.
@pevaquark: Would love to know what you think about the article on the second law of themodynamics.

This is the kind of doublespeak i am talking about.
Scientists need to find ways to test for design… because its very much possible. Its as easy to test for design as it is to test for common descent…

How did science decide that it cannot detect teleology??? any papers on the subject??
This is not just double talk…its double talk based on a lie…A science of the gaps if you will…

Actually its a probability based inference in accordance with known facts… just like evolution is.
The only question is… which is more probable…

When two organisms cannot interbreed and produce viable off spring, they are said to belong to a different species. That’s a very clear differentiator.
It would need significant changes in embryo development, morphology,etc…
The mutations that achieve this change will be markers for speciation.
I don’t know if anyone has worked in this direction.
Language doesn’t have anything equivalent. There are no specific groups of words which will act as a clear differentiator showing when a dialect becomes a different langauge.

The Second Law (and Discovery Institute) Defeat Evolution Once Again
(James McKay) #142

Thanks Ashwin. I’d personally argue that it’s better to acknowledge that different people use the terms “intelligent design” and “evolution” in different ways. Otherwise you’re going to get confused.

It’s like the word “hacker.” People who identify themselves using the word insist that it means something innocent, harmless, and possibly even beneficial. But if you described yourself as a “hacker” at the security gates at an airport, you’d be asking for trouble.

The fact is, words and phrases are defined according to the way that they are used, not the other way round.

(Ashwin S) #143

If its a scientific debate…
Go with how scientists define the terms…
And Biologos is supposed to be about science/faith dialogue…
then use scientific words with the scientific definition…
and faith related words with religious definitions…
Of course, if Biologos is about apologetics for Evolution to Christians… Then… ya…
the current approach works… because its basically deceptive…
this is of course only my opinion.

(Phil) #144

I am waiting for this. I have not seen anything really come of it yet.