For a couple of days I’ve been discussing Evolution and Creationism with Paul Taylor. Who used to work for the well known creationist site Answers In Genesis.
The exchange I have had so far has the usual arguments from creationists, dismissive of my arguments and often calling them logical fallacies.
Date: 2011-07-02 06:15:01Hi Eric and Paul. Hope things are sunny over the pond!
My question concerns transitional forms.
The human ear consists of three bones: the malleus, the incus and the stapes. We also have just a single lower jaw bone. On the other hand, reptiles have one ear bone – the stapes – and multiple lower jaw bones. Two of theses bones in the reptilian lower jaw – the articular and the quadrate – have been show to be homologous to the malleus and the incus in mammalian ears.
Below are some sources:
It’s perhaps not as spectacular as Tiktaalik or Archaeopterix, but I believe that this has not been addressed by creationists and quite clearly shows, among other evidences, that we share a common ancestor with reptilian species. I await your reply and hope that this question makes it to the show, considering that creationists really must address such issues scientifically to be taken seriously not only in the academic world, but also in the world of common sense.
You ask for transitional forms. Well here is but one example.
Date: Saturday, 2 July, 2011, 16:11
Homologous structures never prove evolution. Let me explain why.
There is a logical fallacy called the affirmation of the consequent. It works like this.
A implies B. But given B, this does not prove A, because you might also have C implies B.
This is the case with the evolutionary argument that homologous structures imply common ancestry.
IF there were a common ancestor, then it is true that you would expect homologous structures.
However, if there were a COMMON DESIGNER (i.e. God), then you would also expect homologous structures. You would expect God to use an economy of design.
Therefore it would be just as logical (or rather illogical) for me to claim that the bones of the inner ear being analogous to the edge bones of the reptilian jaw proves that God created both.
This applies to all arguments relating to homologous structures.
Thanks for asking about the weather! Last week, we had heavy thunderstorms every day, but the forecast for the 4th July weekend is good. A colleague actually asked me last week if we had the 4th of July in England! I told him, No, all our calendars go straight from the 3rd to the 5th – but I don’t think he got it!
Yours in Christ
Director of Ministry Development
Date: 2011-07-02 12:38:43Thanks for the quick and friendly reply! I always think that polite and calm discussion is the best way to debate such issues.
Shame you’re in America ‘cos England is enjoying what can be said to be a sunny Summer, something we’ve been waiting for for years!
As for the discussion at hand, you’re arguement that homologous structures should be expected if there were a common designer is flawed. Stating such implies that the designer deliberately created things to be similar, but it also implies that there should be no uncommon designs, otherwise the arguement is rendered useless, because, logically following the arguement, an uncommon design would imply an uncommon designer. If you were to say that the common designer also created UNcommon designs, then the common design arguement means nothing.
So logically, if I could find an uncommon design, this would disprove your notion of common design, common designer. Simple. A fern and a gorilla. Surely you agree with me that these are uncommon designs. If so, then your arguement is useless.
You also didn’t address my full arguement. Yes, the articular and the quadrate of the reptilian lower jaw are homologous to the malleus and the incus of the mammalian ear, but it is also seen in species such as Morganucodon that the bones have begun migration from the lower jaw towards the structure of the ear in the sources I sent you. Not only are the features homologous and are seen transtioning in such examples, but such transitions are also found dated to around the mid-triassic period – the period when mammals first began to appear. Coincidental?
The bones in question still form part of the jaw – though reduced and shuffled more towards the stapes – so in this respect Morganucodon is reptilian. However, you can tell just by looking at the fossils that the creature is very mammalian in structure. So here we have a mammal with a reptilian jaw. Part mammal, part reptile. Like Tiktaalik and Archaeopterix it fits your definition of a transitional form. A Crocoduck, to borrow an example from Ray Comfort.
Returning to a lighter subject, did you study at University? If so, which uni and how do you rate the experience? I currently study at Bangor University (Yes, no one’s heard of it =P).
P.S. Do you know whether Intelligent Design is still being taught in English schools? I remember that when I was doing my Biology GCSE I was actually told about ID, and not only that but I was made to write down Pro’s and Con’s of the Theory of Evolution. I’m not sure whether this system is still being used. I assume you taught in Secondary School in a science department? Did you have to teach the same thing, and how did you go about it?
This also raises an interesting question: Would asking students to write the Pro’s and Con’s of evolution strengthen or weaken their acceptance of the theory? I ask because I believe doing such a thing strengthened my acceptance because I was able to research the apparant Con’s and find reasonable answers in books or the internet. Perhaps such an activity in class is actually useful in getting students to do their own research, not only on evolution but on other subjects within Science.
Date: Sunday, 3 July, 2011, 17:31
I think my reply on mammalian ears was logical. A common designer would use common elements and also sometimes differing mechanisms. However, homologous structures does not prove creationism any more than it proves evolutionism. It is unusual language to describe someone else’s argument as useless, especially as I have explained the logic of it. Your view of how these inner ear bones may have evolved is irrelevant to how they work. Your argument seems to be having it both ways – that homologous structures prove evolution and non-homologous structures prove evolution. On the contrary, a pure evocation of evolution ought to have made every organism identical, since the best option at every evolutionary choice should have been chosen. The variation in structures is more consistent with a creative designer, while hology is to be expected, since the created organisms live in the same world.
For more information on the mammalian ear, you are better asking a creationist biologist, since my specialism is in physical sciences, and in science education. The article listed below should help you understand our position.
I have heard of Bangor University. Indeed, I applied to it in 1979, when I first applied to universities, but got a better offer from Nottingham University, where I did my first degree (Chemistry) and my PGCE. I obtained a Master’s in Science Education from Cardiff University, all my qualifications are from Russell Group Universities.
Intelligent Design has never been officially taught in any maintained schools in England, Northern Ireland or Wales. Scottish schools are expected to discuss ID in higher certificate, as part of the RMPS course. Prior to 2007, the National Curriculum in Science required that pupils should be taught about scientific controversies. No example was given in the Welsh or NI curriculum. In the English curriculum, the example of controversy for discussion was the theory of evolution. As I was part of focus groups in the NW of England examining this curriculum in the late 1980s, I know that all controversy was supposed to be openly discussed, in order to enable pupils to make informed scientific judgments. All evolutionary colleagues that I knew were happy with this position. In 2007, the English curriculum was changed, so that any mention of creation or ID was to be avoided in science lessons, and the theory of evolution was to be taught as if it were a fact. This position is contrary to good science. No pupil should be taught that any aspect of scientific hypothesis is actual fact, without the opportunity to discuss it. When I was a Head of Science, I was teaching in Wales. The Welsh curriculum made no such authoritarian statement, and it also retained the clause that encouraged pupils to discuss the moral, social, ethical and spiritual implications of science. I should be clear that my teaching career was entirely in state comprehensive schools of a non-faith nature.
Yours in Him
Date: 2011-07-04 10:05:47Dear Paul,
Of course you can claim that the common designer created both common and uncommon design, and such a situation may be true. However, the original point is that we have homologous bones in reptiles and in mammals, but which have completely different functions, and that we see these bones transitioning to their new location and function in species half-way between reptiles and mammals in exactly the right time period where evolution predicted them to be.
Your point was that the homologous bones point towards a common designer (or at least could be evidence of such). My refutation of this point was based on the fact that your arguement has absolutely no backing because such an arguement has never been truly defined. The arguement does nothing to explain uncommon design, i.e. why are the wings of bats and birds so different when they are used for the same purpose. The arguement therefore is useless because you are yet to explain it fully and asserting it as evidence of homologous structures simply adds another unknown to the problem. It is based on nothing, holds inner contradictions (the bird/bat example), and then fails to explain anything once it is proposed. It is also fallacious in that it is an assumed conclusion (You assume that the creator would use a common “blueprint”) and circular reasoning (Common design indicates common designer; the common designer would use a common design.)
Evolution, on the other hand, predicts such scenarios and explains them in great detail.
I never claimed that homologous structures proved evolution, and in any case it doesn’t, but it is simply another piece to the evolutionary jigsaw. By itself it means next to nothing, but its fits together perfectly with other evidences from Geology, Geography, Palaentology, Genetics, etc… Together these have effectively proved evolution.
Thanks again for the quick reply and for taking the time to discuss such issues.
Date: Tuesday, 5 July, 2011, 13:25
You state “By itself it means next to nothing, but its fits together perfectly with other evidences from Geology, Geography, Palaentology, Genetics, etc… Together these have effectively proved evolution.”
This is, of course, the logical fallacy known as elephant hurling. It is the hope that someone will be impressed by a large list of disciplines.
Actually there is nothing in any of these disciplines that proves evolution. As someone trained in scientific techniques, I can assure you that this is the case. The testimony of many younger scientists confirms this. My daughter graduated last July with a First Class Degree in Zoology from a major secular university in the UK. Some of her contemporaries found their faith in evolution strengthened by their studies. My daughter and a number of her fellow students found that they were confirmed in their belief that evolution has no truth in it. These students were on the same course, attended the same lectures and did the same research work. The evidence actually proves very little at the end of the day. Evolution is believed by people, because the alternative is that they would have to come to terms with the Creator God. The atheist evolutionist Richard Lewontin admitted as such in his book “Billions and billions of demons”. He argued that the evidence often seems to point to everything being created by God, but that scientists are duty bound not to accept such a conclusion. The famous part of his quote is “We cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”. In other words, even though the evidence actually points to life being created, not evolved, we still have to believe in evolution, because our first principle is to write God out of the equation.
Date: 2011-07-05 12:51:36Dear Paul,
I am quite frankly upset that you have resorted to calling me dishonest. The list I provided you with was not simply there to impress you without any sort of backing behind it. Do you really think that I cannot back up my statements?
Take for example oceanic islands which have arisen from the sea – they were not once connected to a continent – and look at the species that inhabit such an island. You usually find that there are no reptiles, mammals, amphibians or fish (with rare exceptions), but you find an abundance of birds, insects and plants. The species there are often unbalanced. For example, the Galapagos birds are mostly finches. Why might this be?
Birds are good at flying long distance overseas. This explains how birds can be found on such islands, and also the insects and plants (which would usually be taken with the birds). You don’t find mammals or reptiles because they are heavy bodied and cannot swim such distances. The species that do make it to such isolated islands therefore are able to fill a lot of empty niches in the new habitat, and without much or any competition, diversify greatly. This explains the large number of different finch species occupying the Galapagos islands.
Such a find fits perfectly with the Theory of Evolution. In regards to a designer, why would he not put mammals, amphibians or reptiles on the islands, and only birds, insects and plants? We know that mammals, for example, do well on such islands since we’ve introduced them, so why didn’t a God put them there in the first place?
Marsupials live in Australia. Placentals live everywhere else. Why is this?
We have found Marcupial fossils in North America from about 90-100mya, which later spread down to South America. At the time, the supercontinent Gondwana connected South America, Antarctica and Australia. The Marcupials migrated over to Australia. How can we tell? Marsupial fossils in Antarctica. Evolution, as well as Geology and Palaeontology, explains such finding. Noah’s Ark doesn’t.
Plain and simple. Natural Selections works on mutations. Evolution would never happen without genetic diversity, and of course that is what we are currently seeing with Tasmanian Devils, who are currently in great danger because of an infectious tumor. The species lacks genetic diversity, and hence the infection could wipe them out in the near future. A more diverse species would likely survive such a disaster, and the generations that follow would be more immune to the infection. This is evolution at work: change over time.
Of course you would argue that this is not MACROevolution. Well the processes are exactly the same, the only difference being the amount of accumulated mutations. Most mutations are neutral and have no great effect on the organism. Some mutations are harmful. Some mutations are good. No matter the mutation, natural selection acts upon it, and overtime the mutations will accumulate and the species will evolve.
Look at an ape and a human, and tell me the morphological distances? We have the same number of limbs, same number of eyes, nose, mouth, etc… The only thing that really separates us is brain size and a lack of hair. What boundary is there that stops brain size and hair loss from occuring?
Look at a human fetus. Look at a chicken fetus. When they are at the pharyngula stage, most vertebrates look remarkably similar to the point where only experts can tell them apart. We all go through very similar developments, with the extra details that make species distinguishable coming later on.
For example, a dolphin fetus at one stage has fleshy stubs where in other vertebrates the hind legs would grow. However, these stubs disappear soon after appearing. The dolphin, at one stage, has legs! (How on Earth would a creationist explain this?)
There is such a theory commonly stated as “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny.” Basically, as an embryo develops it goes through its evolutionary history. It’s starts off looking like a fish embryo, then an amphibian embryo, and so on… This explains why the dolphin has leg stubs at one point – the species used to be terrestrial before moving back into the oceans.
It also explains why male humans tend to get hernias! In fish, the gonads are found higher up, in the abdomen. During development, the humans gonads start development in the same place, higher up the body, near the stomach area. However, later in development, the gonads decent to its “adult position”. This however, causes problems. The movement of the gonads takes them through a canal, which is ultimately weakened by this action. The weakening of this canal is what causes hernias, because the organs surrounding the canal are more likely to become displaced. How does your God explain such an inefficient system? Evolution and Embryology explains it. We evolved from fish-like ancestors with gonads in the abdomen. Embryo development mirrors this, and problems arise.
I could go on, but I believe that I’ve made my point. Please don’t accuse me of dishonesty again.
P.S. Perhaps this is a good time to point out that I am in fact also studying Zoology.
P.P.S. I am sorry for what may seem a rather blunt tone, but after what developed as a good and fulfilling email discussion I am disappointed that you have now decided to just accuse me of dishonesty instead of tackling the actual point of my last email.
I did not accuse you of dishonesty. I do not know where you got that idea from. I merely pointed out your logical fallacy.
Your current answer includes another logical fallacy – the fallacy of bait and switch. This fallacy involves using one definition of evolution then applying it elsewhere. That is the case with your using examples which are actually speciation (once known as micro-evolution) and applying its consequences to macro-evolution. These processes are not the same.
Speciation (or micro-evolution) involves natural selection of already existing genetic information. It might involve mutation occasionally (though rarely, because natural selection usually weeds out mutation). But none of these mutations produce new genetic information. Thus, the speciation of lions and tigers etc. from a cat kind is NOT evolution, and the examples you quoted under biogeography and paleontology/geology fall into that category of speciation. No creationist doubts that speciation happens. It is not a difference of scale. Macro-evolution is not just a bigger form of evolution – it requires the spontaneous input of new information – something which is demonstrably impossible by the laws of information science.
Incidentally, the historic account of Noah’s Flood is a far better explanation of how marsupials reached Australia than the evolutionary model. I have written extensively on that in the New Answers Book 1.
You also quote dates for these marsupial fossils, knowing full well that creationists dispute these dates. How do you think such fossils are dated? They do not come out of the ground with a date tag! In fact, the whole issue of dating systems is one of creationism’s strongest suits – especially as biologists and palaeontologists tend uncritically to accept dates, without an understanding of the underlying principles of the dating methods.
As for embryology – I am amazed that you use that example. Embryology has been a discredited discipline since the 1950s.
As I said – I did not accuse you of dishonesty, and I am sorry if I came across as if I was. There is, however, a naivete in your responses, which has taken no account of the fact that creationists have answered all your points many times before. Under repeated examination, evolution always comes out wanting. It is accepted only because the alternative is to believe in a personal Creator God.
Yours in Him