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« Challenge Response: You Think Something Came from Nothing | Main | Apologetics Bonanza at The Poached Egg »

June 05, 2015

Comments

To play "devil's advocate" for a moment:


Evolution (per se) is not at work in the development from single cell to maturation. The argument against evolution in the presence of such development is a non-sequitur.

"If something's going to function in natural selection, it's got to function now, at this particular moment in time—not five minutes from now, half an hour, a week, a thousand years"

This is painfully false. Natural selection is the process by which an organism that has a higher survival rate has a higher probability of passing on its genetic material. Not all results of that genetic material must be active 100% of the time. A wolf's canines are excellent for eating and defense, but they aren't "function[ing] in natural selection" at every moment of every wolf's life that passes on its genes. It is possible that the majority of genetic manifestations are only actually operative in a natural selection sense in specific times or circumstances.

As such a post-reproductive maturation process may be selected because of the survival benefit incurred at that time, but not in any way visibly represented later in life. The particular cell division of the C. elegans could be the result of a threat which that particular process of development survived more commonly than other competing methods. Further, as natural selection operates, where there are not mutations and environmental pressures, there is not change. So at one point that particular reproductive method may have been the dominant one in light of a particular threat, and now that threat is gone so it is maintained because there has been no threat that would result in a changed version having a higher rate of genetic transmission.

The video boils down to a poorly articulated version of the argument from the language of DNA. And the language of DNA explicitly stated is a (in my opinion) superior argument.

I disagree with Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the existence of all life on earth through descent from a single life form. The video appears to be a poor argument against that type of evolution, and so is detrimental rather than helpful to opposition to it.

As such a post-reproductive maturation process may be selected because of the survival benefit incurred at that time, but not in any way visibly represented later in life. The particular cell division of the C. elegans could be the result of a threat which that particular process of development survived more commonly than other competing methods.

Robert, I think the problem is that the development process itself is not a single block. Every step in the process is geared towards reaching a particular functioning end, but every step must be selected for, and must be selected in the proper order. You talk about a dominant reproductive method, but there couldn't have been an entire method selected all at once until that method was first built. The DNA program had to first be built by natural selection bit by bit.

The "now" he's referring to isn't "all the time," it's the "now" when the DNA first mutated to create those intermediate cells that don't actually accomplish any function on their own. I don't think any evolutionist would say that a single mutation occurred that created that entire maturation process of cells dividing through intermediate cells to specified cells all at once. My understanding is that Nelson is saying that if the instructions for each cell division was added on bit by bit, it looks strangely end-directed when it includes cells that don't actually function in the final body plan.

Firstly, Paul Nelson is a young-earther. Young-earth as in "the Grand Canyon was formed by Noah's floodwaters draining into the ocean." Young-earth as in "all animals were vegetarian until Adam sinned." Young-earth as in "dragon legends came from human coexistence with dinosaurs." I don't think you want to cite him as an authority

Secondly, he's not a biologist. His degree is in "philosophy of biology," whatever the heck that is. Why, by the way, does the Discovery Institute hire precious few biologists, and far too many lawyers and journalism majors? Why is one of their most frequent "intelligent design writers" a Mr. David Klinghoffer, the author of the renowned biological treatise How Would God Vote?: Why the Bible Commands You to Be a Conservative? It's almost as if it's a political think tank or something.

Thirdly, what the ever-loving heck makes him think that nematode development stages had to evolve in the exact same order that they occur in individual development? Sure, that's how you'd expect a goal-oriented designer to do it, but in that case, he's kind of assuming intelligent design in order to prove it. What if C. elegans' ancestors underwent a simpler, albeit complete, process of development, and the process became more complex as more stuff gradually got added on? What if there's some scaffolding going on, like in the bacterial flagellum, that tends to give rise to an appearance of "irreducible complexity"? What if close cousins to C. elegans exhibit a whole spectrum of development pathways, all perfectly functional? Actually, the last one isn't a "what if" at all, it's a confirmed fact.

FYI, a certain actual biologist, who has a weird obsession with the Discovery Institute and their nonsense, >responded to Nelson's claims a couple of months ago.

It's also telling how nobody at the Disco 'Tute has commented on the marvelous design of the parasitoid wasps, or of the intelligently designed

It's also telling how nobody at the Disco 'Tute has commented on the marvelous design of the parasitoid wasps, or of the intelligently designed immune-system-fighting ability of Y. pestis

The successful creation of a live C. elegans requires many intermediate cell divisions, yet the temporary cells created by these intermediate cell divisions play no functional role in the adult worm whatsoever. Instead, they merely serve as stepping stones in a long journey that will eventually reach a functional organism at its conclusion.

That's fine. They don't need to function as adult cells.

They do need to function appropriately now - during development.

And they do.

So where is the problem?

Every step in the process is geared towards reaching a particular functioning end, but every step must be selected for, and must be selected in the proper order.

Your use of 'selected' here isn't meant to refer to natural selection is it?

Please say it's not.


Phillip,

I'm not a scientists and won't bother trying to mount a scientific argument here, but I did want to correct some things.

Regarding Paul Nelson as a young-earther: you list a bunch of things you think young earth creationists (YEC) believe. But I know YEC who don't believe any of the things you list. Do you have some evidence that Nelson believes all things or are you just supposing that since he is a YEC he must believe all these things?

Second, you complain about the fact that Paul Nelson isn't a biologist. Are you a biologist? If Paul Nelson not being a biologist is a reason we shouldn't pay attention to what he says about evolution, then does that mean your not being a biologist (assuming you aren't one) means we shouldn't pay attention to your attempts to critique his biology? Is RonH a biologist?

If you'd like to see a YEC biologist see Todd Wood.

What to take away from this post.

The successful creation of a live C. elegans requires many intermediate cell divisions, yet the temporary cells created by these intermediate cell divisions play no functional role in the adult worm whatsoever. Instead, they merely serve as stepping stones in a long journey that will eventually reach a functional organism at its conclusion. But natural selection can’t select a future function; it can only select features that are advantageous already.

That appears above. It's from about 6:15 to 6:45 in the video.

Look at the sentence I made bold.

This post and the video confuse natural selection and (individual biological) development.

Natural selection is the process whereby organisms better adapted to their environment tend to survive and produce more offspring.

Development is the process by which individual organisms grow and, well, develop.

Natural selection changes a population. It changes the proportion of individuals that have some characteristic or other.

Development changes the individual It changes features of an individual.

The video is talks about what happens in the development of C. elegans as if it were natural selection. That's wrong.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!

Don't take my word for this. I'm not a biologist. Look up natural selection and developmental biology... anywhere.

When you are done with that, notice this:

Development isn't natural selection.
Natural selection isn't development.
They are two different things.


And please remember: I'm not a biologist.

Philip, if you claim Young-earthers should not be cited at all, I take it you have some information of a logical fallacy or concrete fact that contradicts YEC claims? Care to cite even one?

kpolo & Phillip,


Phillip A, certainly it's disconcerting to see Nelson cited as an authority (assuming that's indeed happening here) on evolution.

kpolo, certainly Nelson could be right about C. elegans even if he is wrong about the age of the earth.

But the young/old Earth debate is, at best, very peripheral to the topic of the post. Would you please wait for a more relevant post?

kpolo:

I take it you have some information of a logical fallacy or concrete fact that contradicts YEC claims? Care to cite even one?

Would you like me to sing 'em all to the Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance? Or maybe you could just start here.

Would you like me to sing 'em all to the Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance?

Oh hang the topic, that is a capital idea! Please do it!

I am the very model of the modern Homo Sapien...

More material

"The successful creation of a live C. elegans requires many intermediate cell divisions, yet the temporary cells created by these intermediate cell divisions play no functional role in the adult worm whatsoever."

Amy, do you realize that the successful creation of organs in your own body retains those progenitor (stem) cells into adulthood?

Do you see how that makes Nelson's argument look ridiculous?

"But natural selection can’t select a future function..."

This is correct, while an omnipotent intelligent designer has no such limitations.

For example, why do whale embryos have nostrils that are located at the tip of the snout? So since nostrils at the tip of the snout have "no functional role in the adult whale whatsoever," we can see that they evolved by layering changes on a basic developmental program, and that they were not designed.

Or maybe you do have an explanation. I'm sure Nelson doesn't.

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