Whales did (NOT) evolve

(George Brooks) #165


It would seem you are in full denial. You have spent weeks explaining that unguided evolution is not a valid concept.

This means, by deduction, that humans could only be made by “miraculous creation” (i.e. “poof”, Adam & Eve were created in less than a week);


That God manipulated primate DNA and ecosystems to create humanity by means of Evolutionary Processes, Common Descent and Natural Selection.

You appear to be arguing that the only REAL Evolution is INVALID Evolution… and that any attempt to modify the Evolution so that it validly includes God’s direction isn’t REAL Evolution.

You are demonstrably playing word games.

Evolution Guided by God is the only valid form of Evolution for Christians. It can’t be labeled as Creation… because Creationists reject the operations of Natural Descent and Natural Selection.

Do you expect us to take seriously that the only REAL Evolution is the kind you reject ?

(Chris Falter) #166

Hi Ashwin,

Were you aware of the fact that a whole lot of scientists, philosophers, and theologians disagree with Ernst Meyer? A lot of them have written articles here on Biologos. Ordinary folks like me disagree with him, as well.

For some reason that I have not yet been able to figure out, you seem to be under the impression that everyone on the planet is obligated to see the relationship between science and faith exactly as Ernst Meyer and some psychologist you neither named nor linked to.

There are two basic strategies to dispute Ernst Meyer and his ilk:

  1. Agree with his definition of the relationship of science and faith, and choose faith over against science.
  2. Provide a better definition of the relationship of science and faith–one that emphasizes the boundaries of scientific epistemology.

I submit that option #2 is consistent with the view of Bacon, Calvin, and the Dutch reformers that God has spoken with two books–the book of nature and the book of Scripture–and that our task is to read both of them as faithfully as possible.

Is option #2 viable for Christians?

Grace and peace,

(A.M. Wolfe) #167

You didn’t really show any engagement with @T.j_Runyon’s point here.

Both “language” and “species” are problematic concepts. The definitions of both are fuzzy. They are both, to some extent, useful fictions. This is one place where the similarities between linguistics and biology are, in fact, quite robust.

(George Brooks) #168


What?! How would you define Evolution-as-Goal-Oriented Process? Didn’t you just get through posting that:

Evolution-as-Goal-Oriented process is not Evolution?

What kind of word games are you actually inflicting on this audience?

(George Brooks) #169


I believe the whole world is waiting for this ability.

How would YOU test for teleology? “… double talk based on a lie”?! Pretty strong language for someone who doesn’t even recognize qualifications applied to technical language (i.e., you reject the idea that rejecting Godless Evolution leaves one with Evolution-with-God).

I recommend you tone those accusations down.

How does one test the idea that the Dino-killing asteroid was God’s intention or not?
How does one test the idea that God accelerated a specific mutation for the simple reason that nature would take too long to accomplish it on its own? (Late by a minute, late by a month, late by a year, late by centuries)?

Natural law is testable when we can control the variables. How do we control the variables for God’s intentions?

When it comes to double-speak, I think you need to explain how Teleological-Evolution is different from Evolution-with-God!


Plus the small problem of knowing what God’s intentions are before they are put in place. Who among us can know the mind of God?

(Ashwin S) #171

Purpose/ Design is obvious in nature.
Scientists assume that the purpose that is seen is not real, but rather an appearance of purpose. And they explain this appearance of purpose with a natural phenomenon.In evolution, this explanation is centered on Natural selection.
Can Natural selection be measured- Its effect can be measured (transfer of specific traits); however its direction cannot be predicted (depending on the fitnes landscape, the same trait can be selected for or against)
Similarly the effects of design can be measured (Specified complexity in information science); again the thoughts of God cannot be predicted.(God who protects earth from one meteor might choose to smash it with another to use your analogy).
If the direction of natural selection cannot be predicted and it can be a scientific concept, why not design even though the thoughts of the designer cannot be divined?
Now the first question should be, why should an appearance of purpose/design not be the result of actual purpose/design.The answer hinges on the Scientific world view… i.e a philosophical position whose base assumptions cannot be proven.It is not a matter of empirical measurements being impossible. Its a matter of world views preventing/rejecting an interpretation based on design.
I am not saying anything new here by the way.

(George Brooks) #172


So does that mean your answer to the question is: “Yes, the Dino-killing asteroid was intended by God”?

(Lynn Munter) #173

I’m excited to see that some comparisons of basic definitions have created movement in this discussion.

I think there may be even more definitions in need of examination. @Ashwin_s, when you described your view of the history of life to include God modifying organisms like bats in the womb, is that typical? Would you imagine that all organisms (excepting the first single cells) had one or more parents and were born in roughly the usual way(s), plus or minus modifications from God?

Because if so, that’s literally “common descent with modification.” Common descent is even less defined with respect to teleology than “Evolution” (which literally only means ‘gradual change over time,’ as opposed to “special creation” where God poofs them all into existence). Common descent means life on earth all descended from the same source, and we can trace a clear set of relationships among species, families, orders, etc. that all map onto a ‘tree of life.’

If you reject the tree of life, do you have a better classification proposal? Can you identify which branches don’t connect to ancestors further back in time, and which are valid family relationships? For example, are lions and tigers related to each other? To Jaguars? To leopards? Ocelots? Housecats? …Polecats? (Polecats are in the weasel family, btw, not far distant from the cat family.)

Weeellll…sort of. It sounds nice and neat on paper, doesn’t it? Unfortunately it tends to break down as soon as you start applying it to real-world situations.

For starters, lots of “species” reproduce solely or primarily asexually, so right away there’s a bunch of plants and microorganisms where the species definition turns into, “well, this one looks pretty different from that one,” or in modern days, “this one has been genetically diverging from that one for a long time!”

Next, let’s consider the mule. It is a viable (it lives) cross between a horse and a donkey, but it is almost always incapable of reproducing another generation. Does this mean horses and donkeys are separate species or the same? Does the fact that there’s about two documented cases of fertile mules in the past hundred plus years of mule breeding change anything? How many attempted crosses do we have to test before we get a conclusion?

Some animals won’t interbreed in the wild, but in zoos they can be brought to. Does that count? What if people have to resort to artificial insemination? What if the litters are all stillborn, or don’t even come to term? What if 99 fail and one lives a few hours or weeks or years, but wouldn’t survive in the wild?

You might be surprised at what kind of crosses can achieve egg/sperm fertilization, even if they are nonviable.

The point of all this is that comparing the species definition to the language definition, which is roughly: “can two speakers understand each other,” is actually a really valid comparison.


I believe the predictions made by the theory of evolution have been explained to you several times. It is not necessary that the direction be predictable to make it a scientific concept.

To meet your definition of a scientific concept ID would have to make predictions that can be tested. That’s the rub for ID as far as I am concerned.


There are two points:

  1. Evolution is not defined as unguided. Rather, it is a conclusion that evolution is unguided. It is not assumed that evolution means unguided.

  2. That conclusion is a scientific conclusion based on statistics and methodological naturalism. The conclusion is not a philosophical, theological, or ontological conclusion.

What fascinates me is why you focus just on evolution. It would seem that all of nature, as described by science, would be a problem for your view of God. The Bible says that God knits us together while we are in the womb, yet the science of developmental biology says that gene cascades control embryonic development. In the Bible it says that it is God who sends rain onto the face of the Earth, yet the science of meteorology says that it is completely natural and unguided processes that sends rain to the Earth. So why do you single out evolution?

(Ashwin S) #176

There is a scientific meaning for what “common descent with modification” entails. I am sure, the modification needs to happen by natural causes by definition.
What i described would more appropriately be called common Design.
The key question is one of teleology. Is it Design or just and appearance of design?

Let me just list out the reasons why i am skeptical of evolutionary trees and by extension the idea of descent (I am ignoring the efficiency of mechanisms and assuming God did it… or chance did it or whatever).

  1. I dont think biology really has a correct base for classification.All existing classification are done based on phenotypes. However, Descent is charecterised by genotype (alleles). The connection between the two is complicated. The same/very similar genotype can lead to phenotypic difference that is very signigicant in an evolutionary tree. (eg:feathers, scales and hair).Right now, a;; trees look like blind men trying to define an elephant to me. Instead of thinking in terms of trees, it might be more fruitful to find out exactly how genotypes lead to/influence or create phenotypes.
  2. The inherent assumption of progress/irreversibility -Is there a genetic reason to asssume that reproductive systems/skeletal systems cannot de-evolve/evolve parallely? Why can’t a rat evolve into a snake? loose whatever it needs to loose and gain whatever it needs to gain. There is a directionality involved in all trees. This directionality is the result of an artificial concept called parsimony.
    We dont assume rats can become snakes because it would violate laws of parsimony (too improbable a change).
    Yet, because things like vertibrae, reproductive systems etc are not allowed to evolve parallely, we have to assume that gliding, eyes, echo location etc etc can evolve again and again.
    Is there a scientific basis for this? If so, can that basis be described in evolutionary terms?
  3. Because of the above reasons, all possible evolutionary trees are forced to have improbable coincidences in them. We should remember that evolutionary trees are a construct of the mind and represent what really happened only to varying degrees of certainty.As of now, they look like very improbable fiction to me.

I know the above three points can be argued against and people will disagree with my conclusions. So let me also build an argument based on agreed upon facts in an evolutionary perspective. For this, i will borrow from a paper published by a Neo-Darwinist.

Fact 1: The tree of life is cut off at the trunk : Because of rampant Horizontal gene transfer in bacteria, descent with modification breaks down at this level.

Debates over the status of the tree of life (TOL) often proceed without agreement as to what it is supposed to be: a hierarchical classification scheme, a tracing of genomic and organismal history or a hypothesis about evolutionary processes and the patterns they can generate. I will argue that for Darwin it was a hypothesis, which lateral gene transfer in prokaryotes now shows to be false. I will propose a more general and relaxed evolutionary theory and point out why anti-evolutionists should take no comfort from disproof of the TOL hypothesis.
The author starts the paper with the premise that the tree of Life as a hypothesis stands falsified (becuase descent with modification breaks down at the lower parts of the tree- i.e at the Bacterial stage.However, he claims that its not much of a problem for evolution.

Fact 2:- Evolution need not generate a tree of life!: -

As Eric Bapteste and I have argued elsewhere (Doolittle & Bapteste 2007), very much following Panchen (1992), what Darwin presents in The Origin is a hypothesis, not an observation or claimed-to-be true fact. The observation or fact to be explained (the explanandum) is hierarchical or tree-like classifications, their apparent robustness and their potential naturalness. The cause of or explanation for this observation (the explanans) is the fundamentally tree-like (genealogical) character of an underlying (causal) process of successive speciations that comprises Darwin’s model for ‘descent with modification’. In other words, patterns of classification are tree-like because the process that produces the traits on which they are based, evolution, is tree-like. Simply enlarging the scope of the observations it was meant to account for (growing the explanans by adding more ‘groups subordinate to groups’) cannot prove this hypothesis to be true. We need an independent test. After all, evolution itself could have been (as far as data available to Darwin could show) web-like, or comb-like, with ‘the characters which naturalists consider as showing true affinity between any two or more species’ owing their dispositions among living things to interspecies transfer or parallel and convergent evolution. These too could be considered ‘descent with modification’, but not Darwin’s version of it. And, since trees will inevitably emerge from the data when we order them with tree-building algorithms,we might be just fooling ourselves about such order being naturally embedded in the data.

He then gives a detailed aalysis for why this might just be the case.I will just point to some questions that he raise that i have also wondered about -

Blockquote:7. Core genes need not have the same phylogeny. It is a temptation, not often enough resisted, to use the shared genes in residual genomic ‘cores’ to make trees, with the assumption that they have the same phylogeny, and concatenating them to compensate for their individually weak phylogenetic signals. Two problems with this are: (i) that core genes often do not have the same signal, or cannot safely be concluded to do so (although they may not ‘reject’ the VD hypothesis) and (ii) concatenation gives increased bootstrap values and thus false confidence even when the concatenated genes provide no additional (or even conflicting) signal (Jeffroy et al. 2006). Thus, the 31-gene universal tree from Bork’s group (Ciccarelli et al. 2006; derided by Dagan and Martin (2006) as ‘The Tree of One Percent’) clearly comprises mixed signals, even after all the obvious LGTs were algorithmically eliminated. Why, when we know that so many genes have different histories should we place special importance on so few, simply because we think they have the same history? 8. The tree of cells (TOC) is not Darwin’s tree of life. The TOC seems to be the construct for which trees based on such core (and especially translational) genes strive and on which TOLers now pin their hopes (Lerat et al. 2003; Ciccarelli et al. 2006; Soria-Carrasco & Castresana 2008). The idea here is that a residue of never-transferred genes tracks the history of each successive speciation (and for preceding asexual lineages, each successive cell division), back to LUCA. This history represents a tree of organismal identity for those with essentialist leanings or at least a framework against and with which LGT events can be assessed and evolutionary hypotheses can be formulated, for the more practical-minded. Enthusiastic TOLers see this TOC, no matter how little of the actual phenotype-determining information or history the organisms they wish to classify it encompasses, or how extreme the algorithm used to derive it, as a triumph of the Darwinian method and a vindication of their belief in the TOL. It is, in their view, the genealogy upon which Darwin thought classification could safely, and ultimately must, rest. This is I think a misreading of history and a non-trivial re-formulation of the goals of phylogenetic practice. And it is unnecessary in the pluralistic perspective that comes from an understanding of evolution grounded in process rather than pattern.

Phenetic classifications will of course remain tree-like if we persist in using methods that produce trees, but an underlying tree-like evolutionary process is not needed to explain them. Nothing in Nature requires that we make of these complex evolutionary relationships a single tree.
This does not mean, of course, that trees constructed from that minor fraction of genes found in many genomes, and possibly refractory to LGT, are devoid of interest in themselves, or that they might not trace cellular (if not genomic) history. We are never likely to know that, because it seems impossible to imagine an independent test.

And part of his conclusion:

Whether or not LGT also ‘invalidates phylogenetics’ depends on what we think phylogenetics is for and is. If its goal is to elucidate the origin of phyla (phylogenesis) and if phylogenetics is taken—as it now invariably is—to be the construction of bifurcating trees, then this goal is not achievable. Phylogenesis is a much more complex, reticulating, process. If the goal of molecular phylogenetics in particular was to provide, through its agreement with traditional classification, what Zuckerkandl and Pauling hoped would be ‘the best available single proof of the reality of macroevolution’, then that goal too cannot be achieved. Indeed, for prokaryotes, molecular data have falsified the TOL hypothesis. If the goal of phylogenetics was the re-creation of the true TOC, then the verdict is not yet in, and may never be.

So to answer your question on what will replace the TOL… My answer will be the same as that of the Author- real empirical science.

A parallel effort, aimed at relieving the TOL of its responsibility as the sole proper representation of the history of living things (and of the interspecies relationships that it is meant to depict), we call ‘pattern pluralism’. One sees a gradual move in this direction in several articles in this issue. In a pluralistic perspective, it may be admitted that even a ‘Tree of One Percent’ tells us something about the history of cells, without having to accept it as the TOL. One can agree that LGT will likely not interfere with a robust phylogeny for primates that indeed recreates ancient splittings of their populations, without buying in to the notion that the supposed sisterhood of Thermotogales and Aquificales revealed by a small subset of their shared ribosomal protein genes reflects an even remotely similar evolutionary process. We know the mechanisms by which prokaryotes evolve, and like the driving forces listed by Gould, they are various in their frequency, intensity and consequences for the evolution of genomes. Why should we expect them together to produce a single pattern, a fractal one at that, good over all time and for organisms of all types?
Such relaxed views of process and pattern require a relaxation of what I believe to be the version of evolutionary theory that we are defending from antiscientific attack (although it is admittedly not easy to say what that is). A general formulation might look like this: genetic mechanisms (broadly construed) and population and ecological process (broadly construed) that we already for the most part understand, operating over enormous time, are responsible for the diversity of life we see around us, and for the adaptedness of living things. Such a broadly uniformitarian formulation leaves no gaps for miracles, and pays adequate homage to the quite versatile and powerful mechanistic toolkit we now have on hand to explain the history of life, with independent corroboratory evidence in some cases and plausibility in all. Acknowledging a prominent role for LGT more specifically eases the evolution of complex adaptations, by making it unnecessary for each unlikely step to occur in sequence in a single genomic lineage, seen by some anti-evolutionists as a stumbling block for our theory.

I would love to see where such a scientific approach leads to … Hopefully not more fables and improbable just so stories…
I suspect, looking at the genes that are different/novel would upset a lot of evolutionary applecarts… and established phylogenies even at the level of primates might tumble… However thats just speculation on my part.

@pevaquark, @T_aquaticus, @jpm, @Bill_II, @Chris_Falter
Would love your feedback as the paper is related to our discussion on the tree of life, nested heirarchies etc.

(George Brooks) #177


And so you keep making up your own rules as you go?

In your “certain” conclusion… you commit yet again the same error!

The BioLogos Mission Statements that have been provided you QUITE EXPLICITLY provide for natural operations with God’s engagement… AND miraculous events (of course also with God’s engagement).

BioLogos Explicitly rejects any operation without God’s involvement… which you do as well… and then you make a quick fallacious jump to definitions requiring the absence of God.

(George Brooks) #178

@Ashwin_s, unless God wants it to do so. Then it is impossible to prevent.

(Ashwin S) #179

Wow… i can’t answer that one…

Its not my rules… its the rules science has adopted… And we are discussing a scientific theory.

I have mentioned this n number of times… I follow the scientific definition of evolution and i reject said theory for reasons cited n number of times.
Biologos can call black white if they want… however that doesnt change the real definition of the terms.

No comments on the paper i shared other than this?

(Matthew Pevarnik) #180


@Ashwin_s given your history of quote mining papers for ideas that you think support your position I almost didn’t bother reading the paper. But I did and it is strange what I found on the very first page.

BTW, I would vote for wilful given the ID folks track record. At which point I put the paper down.

Did you not bother to read the first page? Do you have some quote mining tool that just looks for text blocks to pull out of context?

Well you did post this in the middle of the night local time for me.

(George Brooks) #182


I was on a 10 hour drive/slog between Florida and Georgia. So you will have to give me a little more time than usual … especially considering the huge volume of quoted text you posted.

(& @pevaquark, @T.j_Runyon, @T_aquaticus, @Mervin_Bitikofer )

As for “not your rules” - - let me point out that you seem to think BioLogos (or BioLogos supporters/volunteers such as myself) is/are making assertions in Science when it talks about God-Guided or God-Engaged Evolution. By definition, we can’t be! Science has no assertion on God’s role.

We are making THEOLOGICAL assertions that involve Science.

So, try to remember the logical sequence you are trying to impose here:

  1. You reject Godless Evolution as invalid or non-existent.

  2. You make the same rejection of Godless Evolution that the BioLogos Mission Statements explicitly make, and yet you reject said BioLogos mission statements!

  3. Then you say that BioLogos (or its volunteers) are compelled to invoke Godless Evolution (which you have already said can’t be rightly invoked) because that’s the definition used by Scientists.

  4. And then you reject any attempt by BioLogos (or its volunteers) to concur that Godless Evolution should be rejected and replaced by Evolution which includes God’s participation - - purely on the grounds (according to you) that Scientists don’t agree to such a definition. < Yikes!

You can’t invalidate a special definition on the grounds that it rejects the same position on Godless Evolution that you reject. You can only invalidate a special definition if it is internally inconsistent with any other principles or premises stated by BioLogos or its volunteers.

You have not shown that the definitions made in the Mission Statements are internally inconsistent. And you certainly can’t call the Mission Statements deceptive if they are rejecting a Science/Industry definition for use by Christians regarding their faith (not their work) - - especially if said Mission Statements explicitly replace the term with an internally consistent definition offered as a substitute!

(George Brooks) #183


As I have just posted, you are essentially:

  1. Rejecting the BioLogos definitional stance because it doesn’t agree with Godless Science,

and then

  1. Ultimately rejecting the standard scientific definitional stance because it is Godless; and finally -

  2. any attempt to provide Christians with a God-involved definition is then rejected (as before)
    because it doesn’t match up with the standard definition used in Science which you have already rejected, while you insist that your own definition is valid - - even though there is no way of knowing what exactly you are defining because you make no references to the natural evolutionary processes that God could use whenever He wanted to.

When we hone it down to just these 3 sentences (or especially if you just look at the first 2 statements above) the absurdity becomes readily apparent.

(Chris Falter) #184

Yes, it is unwarranted speculation. Consider again the paper you cited:

One can agree that LGT will likely not interfere with a robust phylogeny for primates that indeed recreates ancient splittings of their populations

EDIT: I gave a more detailed response in another thread, where you made the same argument while citing the same paper. Rather than repeat myself, I simply link to my previous response.

Grace and peace,
Chris Falter