Monday, July 9, 2012

"... a verification of a prediction made by evolution"



Steven Novella has an amusing post in which he discusses the recent discovery of a dinosaur with proto-feathers and reviews the evidence that modern birds are related to dinosaurs. Interesting stuff, for sure, and very important for our understanding of dinosaurs and of the origin of birds.

But, predictably, when it comes to evolution Novella can't contain himself:

The story of feathered dinosaurs is one of the strongest success stories for evolutionary theory, and continues to be a thorn in the side of evolution deniers. They cannot help but expose their ignorance and deception when they clumsily try to deny the implications of feathered dinosaurs. So I tend to revel, just a bit, in each new significant discovery of a feathered dinosaur. The latest discover, recently published in PNAS, provides evidence that feathers were even more common among dinosaurs than previous evidence demonstrated. There is some debate among experts about how prevalent protofeathers and feathers were, and so a new piece of solid fossil evidence helps clarify the debate further. 
After Darwin published his theory of evolution one of the early challenges to the idea of evolution, which includes the claim that all life on earth is related through common ancestors, was that there were significant gaps between major groups of living creatures. Birds, for example, seem to be their own group without a close connection to any other group. They are, of course, related to vertebrates. But if evolution were true then there must be fossil evidence connecting birds to another group, such as reptiles...
Creationists are stuck arguing that it is nothing but a coincidence that the group hypothesized to the related to modern birds is turning out to have feathers and protofeathers as a common feature. Nothing changes the fact, however, that this is a verification of a prediction made by evolution. The ability to successfully make predictions about what will be discovered in the future is powerful vindication for any scientific theory.

Now I believe that the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs is well-supported, although there certainly remains some controversy. It's interesting and good science.

But what to make of Novella's bizarre assertion that such evidence is a triumph for evolutionary theory?

For a century after Darwin published Origin the established wisdom was that dinosaurs were closely related to reptiles (-sauros means "reptile" or "lizard"), and that birds were descendants of thecodonts, which were "socket-toothed" reptiles that flourished in the Triassic. In the later 20th century, anatomists and paleontologists and cladists and comparative biologists established striking similarity between the bones of some dinosaurs and modern birds. Feathered and proto-feathered fossils of dinosaurs, discovered with increasing frequency in the late 20th century, made the relationship even more clear.

Now consider Novella's bizarre assertion:

... this is a verification of a prediction made by evolution. The ability to successfully make predictions about what will be discovered in the future is powerful vindication for any scientific theory.

But "evolution"-- Novella means Darwinism-- predicted none of this. I challenge Novella to cite references from evolutionary biologists during the past 150 years predicting that birds rather than reptiles would be found to be related to dinosaurs based on Darwinian principle of heritable variation and natural selection and common descent.

While T. H. Huxley was an early proponent of the dinosaur-to-bird theory, he based his view on morphological similarities and paleontological evidence, not on any insight gained from 'random variation and natural selection'. And his view was rejected-- in favor of the dinosaur-reptile theory-- by the Darwinist-monopolized evolutionary community for 100 years.

That's hardly a successful "prediction made by evolution".

The only thing evolutionary theory "predicted" was that living things descended from a common ancestor. That's as far as "random variation and natural selection" gets you. Darwinian principles don't distinguish between dinosaur-bird relatedness and dinosaur-reptile relatedness.

And what Darwin really offered was not really a prediction, but an explanation, for relatedness. The explanation was common ancestry. Discernment of actual relatedness depends on morphological similarities, the fossil record, etc, and not at all on Darwin's theory. The real work in unraveling the fascinating relationship between dinosaurs and birds has been done by the anatomists and the paleontologists and the cladists and the comparative biologists. 'Chance and necessity' doesn't tell you whether your ancestors had feathers or scales. Careful morphological and paleontological work tell you.

That's the real science, and it depends not squat on non-existent Darwinian "predictions".

What about common ancestry as evidence for dinosaur-bird relatedness? Darwinism again contributes nothing. Darwinists insist that relatedness (anatomical similarity, etc) is evidence for common ancestry, but one cannot then logically claim that the inference to common ancestry is evidence for relatedness. That's circular reasoning.

If the anatomists and the paleontologists and the cladists and the comparative biologists had published evidence that dinosaurs were the progenitors of reptiles, instead of birds, Darwinists would have touted the indispensability of evolutionary theory in establishing the dinosaur-reptile relationship.

Another successful prediction by evolution!

As usual, Darwinists and their fanboys try to take credit for the work of real scientists. Darwinists take credit for anything-- as one might expect for the theory that "survivors survive".

Darwinism is never wrong, because banal observations (living things vary heritably) and tautologies (survivors survive) are never wrong. 

70 comments:

  1. The prediction from Darwin's theory that was verified is the discovery of intermediates between birds and dinosaurs. That follows specifically from Darwin's prediction that evolution occurs gradually, and not in big jumps or saltations.

    Novella didn't make any claims about the role of natural selection.

    Have you ever read a textbook on evolutionary biology?

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    1. Yea. I have read a textbook on evolutionary biology. My bio professor in college (I was a biochem major) was Walter Bock (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/faculty/bock/index.html), a very prominent evolutionary biologist. He was rather strident. He would turn red, strut, and his eyes would bulge when he talked about challenges to evolutionary theory. We used to joke that he looked like a bird when he got angry.

      I also took a course in logic.

      When you've studied evolutionary theory and logic, you get cognitive dissonance.

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    2. Michael,

      So you've read an evolutionary biology textbook in college (presumably in the early '70s)..

      Have you opened one in the subsequent 40 years?

      Carl Zimmer has one coming out for the iPad in August, I think, which might be just at about your level.

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    3. [Have you opened [an evolutionary biology textbook] in the subsequent 40 years?]

      yea. During Lent.

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    4. yea. During Lent.

      Because you gave up being ridiculously ignorant for Lent?

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    5. When you've studied evolutionary theory and logic, you get cognitive dissonance.

      It's very doubtful that you passed either course, or even took them. Why should we believe you when your lies about other topics have been exposed again and again?

      -- NA

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  2. Michael,

    Well, birds didn't descend from dinosaurs. They ARE dinosaurs. It was only the non-avian dinosaurs that went extinct at the K-T event 65 MYA, although some dinosaurs survived for up to a million years afterwards.

    And dinosaurs weren't reptiles, because reptiles don't exist as a cladistic group, if you want to include tortoises, lizards, snakes and crocodiles as reptiles, because then birds would be reptiles too ( in the same way that 'fish' as a group doesn't exist, if you include hagfish, sharks, rayfin fish and lobe fin fish as 'fish', then mammals, including humans are fish too - you have to include all descendants in the same group as ancestors).

    Archaeopteryx, the toothed bony tailed bird, was discovered in 1861 and purchased for an enormous sum for the British Natural History Museum by Richard Owen, who was a foe of Darwin's theory and who also misnamed the dinosaurs.

    It has been accepted for a long time that birds evolved from dinosaurs. The fact that many dinosaurs had feathers is a surprise (the feathers evolved first for insulation and/or display rather than for flight - probably) and if Steven Spielberg was filming 'Jurassic Park' today, he'd probably put feathers on Tyranosaurus rex and velociraptors.

    The dinosaur-bird relationship was based on common ancestry and descent with modification, not on the mechanism (natural variation and natural selection). Richard Owen agreed that evolution occurred but disagreed with natural selection as the mechanism.

    Creationists disagree that evolution happened at all, and insist that the obvious similarities between humans and chimps is due to common design not ancestry.

    And for about the n-th time 'survivors survive' is an idiotic summary of evolutionary biology. Individuals don't survive; they all die. Success in evolutionary terms depends on leaving more offspring that others, and the offspring surviving long enough to have more offspring too.

    Individuals don't evolve. Species evolve. If you'd written 'surviving species survive' then that would be true.

    The increasing numbers of feathered dinosaurs were largely discovered in the best possible way; by researchers going back to museum collections that hadn't been examined for decades and re-examining the specimens, rather than going into the field and finding new specimens.

    Specimens previously classified as just dinosaurs were noticed to have feathers overthrowing the paradigm that feathers equals birds.

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    1. As an extra comment, the fact that non-avian dinosaurs have some features of birds (such as feathers) is a prediction of evolution. Why feathers evolved depends on an understanding on the animals' mode of earning a living, on whether it turns out to be an advantage.

      Natural selection won't cause a feature to appear suddenly, to fill a need. The dodo in the 17th century wasn't able to suddenly decide that regaining flight would be a good idea, with the approach of bored English and Dutch sailors. The genes for the feature have to be there beforehand.

      A similar prediction made by evolutionary biology is that chickens have genes for teeth, because their ancestors (the non-avian dinosaurs) had teeth too. Jack Horner, the paleontologist inspiration for the scientist in 'Jurassic Park', wants to recreate a dinosaur by turning on the genes for teeth in a chook.

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  3. Very good post, Dr. Egnor.

    As I said before, Darwinism is like play doe: it can take any form that is convenient and Darwinists can always take credit for it!

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    1. Pepe,

      So true. Darwinism evolves faster than anything, in order to fit the evidence. It predicts nothing.

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    2. I don't think common descent fits the definition of nothing. Common descent is something. In fact, it is a little something that has creationists up in arms. Especially when it comes to humans sharing ancestors with apes.

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    3. Pepe, do you ever have ANYTHING intelligent to add? Its like you just skim the entry, and with a knee-jerk reaction post some stupid unfunny insult towards atheists and/or Darwin.

      So whats your big thought process on all this, huh? Oh let me guess, god snapped his fingers and everything appeared. Like I Dream of Jeannie.

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  4. While T. H. Huxley was an early proponent of the dinosaur-to-bird theory, he based his view on morphological similarities and paleontological evidence, not on any insight gained from 'random variation and natural selection'. And his view was rejected-- in favor of the dinosaur-reptile theory-- by the Darwinist-monopolized evolutionary community for 100 years.

    That's hardly a successful "prediction made by evolution".


    So let me guet this straight. In 1860, just after the Archaeopteryx had been discovered, Huxley theorized that birds were descendants of reptiles, specifically the dinosaurs. A competing theory, championed by Heilmann, was that birds descended from an earlier set of reptiles, the thecodonts. For a while it looked like Heilmann's theory would win, but eventually Huxley turned out to be right. Both theories relied on common descent. Confirming either of them means confirmation of Darwin's theory.

    What are you complaining about, Mike? That theory of evolution can't tell which species should turn into which? That uncertainty does not disqualify it as a scientific theory. Statistical mechanics does not predict which molecule will strike which wall of the container in the next picosecond. It only makes predictions concerning ensemble averages. The theory of radioactive decay is unable to predict which nucleus will decay when, either.

    So yes, Novella is completely right to highlight the dinosaur-to-bird link as a successful prediction of evolutionary biology. It was one of competing theories, which in itself is not at all unusual in science. It won.

    And of course this is not a single such confirmation. Take whales. Darwin did not know which group of mammals they were related to, but he did conjecture that whales descended from land mammals. He was ridiculed for floating a just-so story about the black bear evolving into a whale and expunged it from later editions of his book. But in the grand scheme of things Darwin has been vindicated: whales are related to hippos. There is a whole succession of transitional fossils dating back 50 million years.

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    1. oleg;

      You're invoking circular reasoning. Darwinists infer common descent from morphological similarities. But they then have no basis to claim that the inference to common descent (evolutionary theory) predicted morphological similarities (the basis for the inference to modern bird-dinosaur relatedness).

      Consider-- is this valid logic:

      A= morphological similarity
      B= common descent (evolutionary theory)

      If A, then B.
      B
      Then A.

      If there are morphological similarities between ancient and modern species (A), then they are related by common descent (which is evolutionary theory) (B).

      Evolution predicted they are related by common descent (evolutionary theory) (B)

      Therefore we have found morphological similarities (A)

      It's Affirming the Consequent, a rudimentary fallacy.

      The Theory of Common Descent is based on evidence of morphological similarity. One can not then claim that the Theory of Common Descent predicted morphological similarity.

      Why can't you admit the limits of your theory?

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    2. Mike, you are so adorable when you try to teach scientists how they should conduct their business. Many thanks for your offer of help, but we must politely decline.

      Science is not mathematics or philosophy. It does not rely on logical constructs to establish rigorous proofs. Scientists are opportunistic and use whatever clues they can get from nature, existing theories, and even their gut. (Remember Einstein's God doesn't play dice? Well, he was wrong on that. But I digress.) It cracks me up when philosophers, both professional and armchair, point to "circularity" in scientific theories and declare them brain-dead. Really, those philosophers aren't even satisfied with the logical structure of Newtonian mechanics!

      Don't tell us how to run science, Mike, and we won't tell you how to crack open skulls.

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    3. So you admit that your approach to science is illogical. Pretty funny.

      And your assertion that you alone in this discussion are a scientist is risible. I am a scientist as well. I'm well published, I run a lab, and I have tenure based on my research (fluid dynamics of blood and CSF flow in the brain).

      I know science and its methods as well as you do.

      Good science depends critically on logic.

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    4. You are a neurosurgeon, Mike. I am a theoretical physicist. Don't tell me how to use logic in science. Go and take a course in philosophy of science. I am sure Stony Brook has one.

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    5. "I'm well published." That means, what, a total of 12 publications, including conference abstracts? LOL

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    6. My cv on-line is incomplete.I have 29 papers, and 73 invited presentations and lectures, including visiting professorships/lectures at UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, NIH, Suny Buffalo, University of Illinois, Cambridge, ETH in Zurich, among others.

      I am a full time clinical neurosurgeon, and I've got tenure on a research track.

      In other words, oleg, I do what you do, but I do it in my spare time.

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    7. I didn't look at your CV, I went by ISI's Web of Science. Be that as it may, we both have established credentials and this line of argument is going nowhere fast.

      In any event, your pubs notwithstanding, you don't have a good grasp of how scientific theories work. They are not logical proofs and they should not be evaluated as such.

      The "circularity" argument can be leveled at pretty much any scientific theory. Take Newtonian mechanics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say:

      As an example, consider the theory T of classical particle mechanics. For simplicity we will assume that kinematical concepts, such as the positions of particles, their velocities and accelerations are given independently of the theory as functions of time. A central statement of T is Newton's second law, F=ma, which asserts that the sum F of the forces exerted upon a particle equals its mass m multiplied by its acceleration a.

      While we customarily think of F=ma as an empirical assertion, there is a real risk that it turns out merely to be a definition or largely conventional in character. If we think of a force merely as “that which generates acceleration” then the force F is actually defined by the equation F=ma. We have a particle undergoing some given acceleration a, then F=ma just defines what F is. The law is not an empirically testable assertation at all, since a force so defined cannot fail to satisfy F=ma. The problem gets worse if we define the (inertial) mass m in the usual manner as the ratio |F|/|a|. For now we are using the one equation F=ma to define two quantities F and m. A given acceleration a at best specifies the ratio F/m but does not specify unique values for F and m individually.

      [end of quote]

      I wonder what you think of this. Is Newtonian mechanics circular and thus incoherent? Should it be abandoned?

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    8. Off topic.

      Dr. Egnor, I need to highlight some non-standard things within your CV after looking at your (outdated) online version.

      According to Web of Science you have 10 research publications as Oleg noted, while Pubmed claims 8. This is respectable for a doctor with a mandate to perform surgery but far short of the 29 publications you claim. This seems to be due to two big mistakes in your CV.

      You have lumped your publications and presentations together. A presentation is not a publication. Presentations are listed in a separate category. They are almost never peer reviewed and not accessible in the way a journal article is. The one exception is for students who may put their poster presentations together with their publications because they have so few.

      Your CV lists non-research articles in the publications section. Commentaries and reviews are vital to scientific discussion but are not research. It is customary to separate research publications, commentaries and reviews into separate sub-categories. When scientists refer to the number of publications they have, they are almost always referring to just the research publications.

      When you say you have 29 publications, other scientists will think you mean 29 research papers in peer-reviewed, indexed journals. It gives a false impression.

      Lastly, if you are going to put your CV online, please update it. I update my CV everytime I need to add something new, three times in the past month as a matter of fact. It looks like yours has not been updated for four years. Professionally for a scientist it is just a good idea

      I should also add that I’ve never believed number of publications is some sort of litmus test for being a scientist.

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    9. I am a scientist as well. I'm well published, I run a lab, and I have tenure based on my research (fluid dynamics of blood and CSF flow in the brain).

      You run a lab? How does anyone stand to work with you? On your blog you come across as smug, nasty, vindictive, dishonest, and severely lacking in understanding about science. Let's hope -- for the sake of people who work with you -- that you are better in person.

      -- NA

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    10. I'm grateful for your analysis of my personality. What you think of me really matters to me a lot.

      Delete
  5. “I challenge Novella to cite references from evolutionary biologists during the past 150 years predicting that birds rather than reptiles would be found to be related to dinosaurs based on Darwinian principle of heritable variation and natural selection and common descent.”

    You really don’t get it. Of course it’s impossible to say that birds rather than reptiles are related to dinosaurs because Reptiles, dinosaurs, and birds are all related. All life is related through common ancestry.

    -KW

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    1. Then what did evolutionary theory predict? Common descent? But evolutionary theory infers common descent from morphological similarities. So evolutionary theory/common descent can't then be evidence for morphological similarities.

      Evolutionary theory can be inferred from morphological similarities, or it can be evidence for morphological similarities, BUT IT CANNOT BE BOTH.

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    2. There is a third possibility here, of which you do not seem to be aware, Mike. You can use both to construct a scientific hypothesis and verify it by using additional data such as genetic information.

      Also see my previous comment on the logic of scientific theories.

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    3. Michael,

      But evolutionary biology can predict that non-avian dinosaurs will have feathers (or at least some of them will) and avian dinosaurs will share genes with non-avian dinosaurs (such as those for teeth).

      What is it about evolutionary biology that you don't like? The common ancestry and the descent with modification or the natural variation within species and the natural mechanisms for the change in frequency of the variations (such as natural and sexual selection and neutral drift)?

      Do you want to add another mechanism? God willed it into existence? God decided humans needed birds to wake humans with the dawn chorus, so He willed feathers onto non-avian dinosaurs by divine command?

      There's no evidence for that, and anyway, for the feature to be preserved and developed, there had to be a selection advantage to the bearer, otherwise it would be lost, like the eyes in blind cave fish.

      Evolution does make predictions. Antarctic icefish, which don't have hemoglobin in their blood, still have (broken) genes for hemoglobin. If you don't make the prediction, you won't look for it. The prediction was made (icefish will have ancestors with hemoglobin, therefore they should still have turned off hemoglobin genes, so scientists went looking at the icefish genome and confirmed the prediction).

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    4. Evolutionary theory predicted that evidence will be found for common ancestry of all life, and that this ancestry will display nested hierarchies. Evolutionary theory predicted that we will find more fossils intermediate between dinosaurs and birds and we have. The transition between dinosaurs and birds is remarkable evidence of the historical truth of evolution. Birds where not created they evolved, just like us and every other lifeform on this planet.

      -KW

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  6. In Origin of Species Darwin wrote:

    Consequently, if my theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Silurian stratum was deposited, long periods elapsed, as long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the Silurian age to the present day; and that during these vast, yet quite unknown, periods of time, the world swarmed with living creatures.

    He made this statement as a test to how his theory could be falsified, as all good scientists will do:

    His theory has been falsified on two counts:

    1 – No swarms of living creatures have ever been found, save unicellular bacteria and sponges, before de lowest Silurian (i.e. the Cambrian).

    2 – More phyla have appeared in the Cambrian Explosion then there are phyla today, with the consequence that Darwin tree of life has been turned upside down.

    Question: how many times must Darwinism be falsified to be rejected?

    Answer: it will never be rejected because Darwinists will debate point 1 and 2, and any falsifying evidence, and move the goalposts until hell freezes over!

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    1. Wrong again master cutter and paster of bullshit
      Point 1. The discovery of the Ediacara fauna, now from over 30 different site, demonstrates that a far more complex level of evolution had been achieved during Precambrian time than had been previously thought. These fossils are less plentiful than the Cambrian fossils because the organisms where soft bodied.

      Point 2. A few truncated branches at the base of the animal portion of the tree of life don’t even come close to turning the tree of life upside down.

      -KW

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    2. @KW,

      The Ediacara fauna don't reveal a "far more complex level of evolution". They appear in the fossil record about 635 mya, and disappear with the Cambrian Explosion about 542 mya. There ain't much evolution goin' on. The appear, exhibit stasis, and disappear.

      Their fossil record is more consistent with special creation than it is with evolution.

      But objective analysis of evidence matters not at all to Darwinists.

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    3. The Ediacara fauna don't reveal a "far more complex level of evolution".

      Leaving off the “during Precambrian time than had been previously thought” certainly muddles the meaning of what I wrote. My comment is certainly true in the context of Pepe’s saying “No swarms of living creatures have ever been found, save unicellular bacteria and sponges”

      Because of the simplicity of the Ediacara fauna it’s difficult to discern any relationships to the fauna of the Cambrian, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The mere existence of the Ediacara fauna, demonstrating the existence of body plan genes millions of years before the Cambrian, makes the Cambrian explosion much less remarkable.

      “Their fossil record is more consistent with special creation than it is with evolution.”

      So what are you saying, that God, unhappy with the Ediacara fauna, whipped them out and started over with the Cambrian fauna?

      -KW

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    4. [So what are you saying, that God, unhappy with the Ediacara fauna, whipped them out and started over with the Cambrian fauna?]

      Nope. I'm just saying that your assertion that the Ediacara fauna demonstrate evolution is crap.

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    5. Michael,

      What was the climate like during the preCambrian? What was the Earth like? Without knowing the conditions, you can't decide how many fossils you'd expect from a time in the Earth's history.

      As an aside, the term Edicaran fauna, though convenient, is inaccurate. It suggests that there was also Ediacaran flora too. Plants and animals are an artificial distinction. There's only three kingdoms of life; Eubacteria, Archaea and Eukaryotes (everything else, the minority).

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  7. Pépé,

    Apply your logic to geometrical (ray) optics. It has also been falsified at least three times:

    1. The Poisson spot demonstrated a wave nature of light.
    2. Fizeau's experiment showed that light travels slower in water than in air.
    3. Polarization of light cannot be explained by ray optics.

    Why do we still use geometrical optics? Why is it taught in physics courses?

    Others should feel free to answer this as well.

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  8. Egnor: If the anatomists and the paleontologists and the cladists and the comparative biologists had published evidence that dinosaurs were the progenitors of reptiles, instead of birds, Darwinists would have touted the indispensability of evolutionary theory in establishing the dinosaur-reptile relationship.

    This dichotomy between evolutionary biologists on the one hand and anatomists, paleontologists, "cladists," and so on on the other is not quite clear. Neil Shubin (the discoverer of Tiktaalik) is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist. Jerry Coyne works in evolutionary genetics. Joe Felsenstein does phylogenies (that's cladistics) and is surely a Darwnist under Egnor's classification.

    It's just amazing how poorly Egnor understands the workings of science.

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    1. For Egnor and his buddies ideology trumps science - every time, all the time. That, and he is simply not too bright. Once you realize that, it's not amazing at all that Egnor gets it wrong so often.

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    2. I disagree with you on that, troy. Egnor has graduated from Columbia and is a tenured neurosurgeon at an excellent teaching hospitals in the US. He is surely bright. That said, he is often ignorant of the subject of his posts and strongly opinionated. That's what the term egnorance means.

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    3. I'm sure Egnor is very good at his job, but going by his level of thinking on display at this blog, he's definitely not bright. Plenty of non-bright people graduate from good schools and get high-level jobs. Hard work can get you very far.

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  9. Troy,
    Why do you feel the need to express (and completely mischaracterize) the opinions of others people on this blog? As one of Mikes 'buddies' I find your comment to be completely nonsensical.
    Here is how I would describe my own opinion of science: It is a tool for understand, one of many. Science neither trumps or is trumped by any other avenue to understanding. It is merely one means / method of understanding the workings of the reality we experience and is subject to that experience.
    Science is both important and fallible. Science is only as good as the scientists that practice it, and often takes wrong turns with a heavy cost, many times in human life.
    That is not an ideology, nor is it based on my religious beliefs. It is simply the way I see ALL human endeavour.
    Specifically regarding evolution: The term is loaded. It depends on what you mean by evolution. I think there is a real process at work in nature with regards to adaptation and function. It is not a complete idea, nor is it by any means properly understood. The metaphysical implications of such a pattern are not defined by the function, they are the REASON for the function. There are many schools of thought on these implications. What I do NOT agree is either sensible or practical (and hence untrue) is the modern nihilism that is projected by adherents of neo Darwinian thought. THAT nihilism cum science is scientific inquiry poisoned by a self-negating,inane and futile philosophy.
    Such a 'worldview' is an impediment not only on 'science', but on ALL aspects of human efforts. As for the adherents, I pity them for their mental myopia.

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    1. It's fine to make distinctions between science and philosophy, crus, but I am afraid this is beside the point. Egnor rants against the biological theory of evolution. He finds it to be a trivial tautology. Which it obviously isn't.

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    2. Why do you feel the need to express (and completely mischaracterize) the opinions of others people on this blog? As one of Mikes 'buddies' I find your comment to be completely nonsensical.

      I didn't really have you in mind as one of Egnor's buddies. I was thinking more of his buddies in the Dishonesty Institute, who think nothing of lying about science (such as Egnor's ridiculous caricature "survivors survive") if they think it can further their Wedge Dream (haha, see what I did there?). I find that kind of dishonesty really really annoying.

      What I do NOT agree is either sensible or practical (and hence untrue) is the modern nihilism that is projected by adherents of neo Darwinian thought.

      What do you mean by neo Darwinian thought?

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    3. Oleg,

      I cannot speak for what Mike thinks, but I suspect his position is that certain elements within the academic community use a tautological argument to justify their own personal beliefs, while completely ignoring the (philosophical/metaphysical) implications of the process they promote as a 'proof' of their beliefs.
      There has been much written here on those implications of the various versions of evolutionary theory. I won't dig into it all again.
      For my own part the patterns we see in what is described as 'evolution' hold very different implications than men like Richard Dawkins, for example. That does not make me an ideologue with regards to science or any scientific theory.

      Besides, Oleg your argument/debates with Mike (or Techne - which I missed damn it!) is based on your relative views on the science and the implications of that science.
      That seems to me rational - from both sides - discussion. Even if you/he/we all disagree, the CONTENT of the debates is thought provoking to all concerned.

      Troy,
      I have several books published by that institute and find much of the work included to be profoundly interesting. I have come across no lies. Mistakes, and varying interpretations... but no lies. Further accusing the opposing view point of dishonesty or delusions does nothing to further discussion Troy. You don't like the ID. I get it. No need to accuse these folks of lying or a conspiracy to ... I am not sure what.
      I think ID slightly more sensible than Neo Darwinian thinking, if only because it indicates the necessity of asking 'WHY'. It does not shy away from teleology or purpose.
      That said, I am a creationist and see both schools of thought rather lacking in depth, as well as making some very interesting gains in natural science and philosophy.

      "What do you mean by neo Darwinian thought?"
      In a nutshell nihilism with the pretence of scientific backing via Darwinian theory. Richard Dawkins or Chris Hitchens would be prime examples. The New Atheists are neo-Darwinian nihilists. I don't like what they write or postulate, but I don't think they are liars. They're just wrong from my angle.

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    4. crus: "What do you mean by neo Darwinian thought?"
      In a nutshell nihilism with the pretence of scientific backing via Darwinian theory.


      crus, why don't you familiarize yourself with the term before saying complete nonsense. The Wikipedia article Neo-Darwinism should be a good starting point.

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    5. Crusader, does the term cdesign proponentsists mean anything to you? Does the term wedge strategy? Check it out and you'll see the kind of dishonest antics I'm talking about. It's not a conspiracy theory, it's a conspiracy fact.

      And you obviously have no idea what neo-Darwinism means. It's a school of thought that thinks natural selection was the most important mechanism underlying evolutionary change. That's it. It's not a political point of view. Many,probably most, evolutionary biologists see it differently. Sure, some neo-Darwinists like Dawkins use the science to promote their atheist beliefs, but that doesn't mean that neo-Darwinism itself is an ideology.

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    6. Oleg,

      The question was what I meant by neo-Darwinian THOUGHT (ie not theory - but extensions of theory into philosophy), not what the consensus on a open source encyclopaedia describes it as, or even a textbook definition.
      I am quite aware of the difference(s), and understood that to be the reason for the question.
      Consider: If Troy wants a textbook definition all he needs to do is search the term on Google. He need not question what I mean by my own reference.
      If, on the other hand he wants to know what I mean by 'thought' he would pose a question much like the one he did.
      I explained what I meant by it in response to Troy's question. What does that render your criticism? 'Absolute nonsense', perhaps? Or maybe you just misunderstood the nature of my response and reacted in manner you felt is deserving of an idiotic response? Either way, the matter should now be clear to you.
      BTW I wrote it, I did not 'say' or speak anything aloud. If you're going to nit-pick, perhaps the correct grammar and descriptives should be used?

      Troy,
      What's with you folks (both sides) and Pandas? LOL
      I have not read any panda thumb stuff, in all honesty. Reason? It bores me to death.
      It is simply utterly irrelevant and uninteresting... so if anyone is lying about Panda's, I have not read it.

      NOTE: When people start accusing the opposition of lying it is clear the debate has simply become an argument, and again I lose all interest. I try avoid such futile conflicts, or when unavoidable it is my job to apply sufficient force (often physical) to end them in my proximity or area of operations. I do not desire a busman's holiday. I desire discourse and an exchange of ideas.
      People are often mistaken when communicating and expressing themselves, but to accuse them of lying is a dead end to all discourse.

      "And you obviously have no idea what neo-Darwinism means. "
      You asked what I meant by the phrase 'neo-Darwinian thought'. I told you. If that does not fit your or the self defined neo-Darwinists take it does not come as surprise me at all. Nor does the fact you do not like my synopsis of such philosophies. Nor that neo-Darwinist thinkers are loath to admit the philosophical influence in their work and of their presumptions.

      I do not come here to this blog be quizzed on textbook definitions by you or Oleg.
      I came to express my own ideas on the implications and extensions of various ideas and philosophies, including those connected to neo-Darwinism.
      I see neo-Darwinist THOUGHT (postulations and philosophy a la Dawkins) as Nihilism in scientific drag. Don't agree? Well, fine, and good. Neither of us should lose any sleep over that.

      "..but that doesn't mean that neo-Darwinism itself is an ideology."
      No. I agree. At least not the scientific theories involved. The THOUGHT systems that result from it are foundational for broader belief systems, however. Those systems are an intellectual cul-de-sac.
      That is what I meant, whether you agree or not.

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    7. crus,

      Then we're back to square one. Egnor is not limiting his criticism to a philosophical school of thought, while setting aside a scientific theory. No, he lumps it all together and declares that there is no science of evolution, it's all atheism in disguise. Evolution as a scientific theory, he says, is a tautology.

      Do you see that?

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    8. When people start accusing the opposition of lying it is clear the debate has simply become an argument, and again I lose all interest.

      Well, maybe. It could also be that the opposition is, in fact, lying. Which is exactly what the Discovery Institute does. And their lying is why the term "cdesign proponentist" came about: because they were caught, very publicly, in a very egregious lie.

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    9. Crusader,

      If you are too bored to delve deeper, your choice. Just don't expect to be taken seriously when you declare neo-Darwinism to be equivalent to nihilism. That's just a lazy partisan slogan. What do you even mean by nihilism? Are atheists immoral people?

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    10. "Do you see that?"
      I can see how you would interpret his position that way, yes.
      BUT, I do not think that is the full depth of it. I think he sees evolutionary theory as one of three things depending on the presenter and their own philosophical agenda:
      1) Real and a clear indication of teleology, even in it's modern and incomplete form.
      Or failing that recognition one of the following:
      2) A correlative observation and largely irrelevant to the topics at hand (origins etc)
      3)A tautology (as in survivors survive) being used as a nakedly brazen attempt to undermine any need for further inquiry in fields beyond the scientific.
      This last idea is what is often focused on and raises the eyebrows on both sides of the debate. Due to that focus, I can see why you would interpret this position as you have.
      I simply see it in a different light.

      Troy,
      If that is lying, both sides are guilty of it. If that is famous, I must be living in cave (not Plato's, at the very least).
      The truth of the matter is simple really: Either you believe the universe is random and 'emergent', or you believe there is some sort of designer or intelligence behind the workings of the cosmos.
      All humans, save for the most apathetic of minds, hold some sort of belief in this. Scientists are not immune, and their work is directed and coloured by those assumptions; even if only by the most subtle of degrees.
      Lying is intentional and generally for a purpose (usually selfish). I have found no evidence of this in any of the works I have read from the Discovery institute.
      Bias? Sure. We all have that.

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    11. crus,

      Where among the three of your categories would you put Darwin's prediction of the universal common descent? Teleology? Irrelevant to the origins? Tautology? I don't think it fits in any of them.

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    12. "Just don't expect to be taken seriously when you declare neo-Darwinism to be equivalent to nihilism."
      You asked, I answered. Read above. I really don't care if you take me seriously or not. I do know there are people on this blog that enjoy conversation with me. That is enough for me.

      "That's just a lazy partisan slogan."
      It is my own take on the subject. Insults and ad hominem mean nothing to me Troy. I work everyday with sticks and stones...so names? They very rarely hurt me. Lazy? I could use some lazy. Where can I get it?

      "What do you even mean by nihilism?"
      Definitions again?!
      What do YOU mean by Nihilism, Troy?
      No links now, in your OWN words!

      "Are atheists immoral people?"
      That depends on the Atheist. There are people who engage in immoral behaviour that profess all sorts of different faiths. Their overall morality is not for me to judge. Further morality is often defined very differently. Do you mean a sinner? If so I believe we ALL are- so yes, an Atheist is a sinner.
      Your question would be better posed to an Atheist.
      I cannot answer that for an Atheist, I am not one. He/she could only answer that for themselves.
      I know more than one Atheist that I would not describe as immoral.

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    13. Oleg,

      If I had to pick, I would say Number 1. Teleology.
      The universal ancestor carried the potential to adapt and variate into different creatures/forms for the purposes of spreading life in it's myriad forms to some unknown end. Death and extinction would act as some sort of catalyst in this process.
      That is, of course, assuming we work with the model above and that universal ancestry was somehow proven to be a fact beyond ANY doubt.
      An analogy (admittedly poor - I am almost done for the day, I am tired, and will be leaving to drive home) would be planting a seed. I want to make a shirt, so I plant cotton seed and pick the cotton, weave it, and make a shirt to wear.
      To the seed, cotton bush, and the bird living in it this is not apparent. But to me, the one who has planted the seed, the specific outcome was intended and totally predictable.
      The difference (vast) is that the seed of life was intended to create variation and complexity for some end we do not seem to be able to grasp, at least yet. It is a 'why' question to, not a 'how'.
      Try to think of it as a kind of reverse engineering problem and you'll see the reasoning I suggest more clearly, even if you disagree.

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    14. "What do you even mean by nihilism?"
      Definitions again?!
      What do YOU mean by Nihilism, Troy?
      No links now, in your OWN words!


      You claimed a connection between neo-Darwinism and nihilism, so it's up to you to explain what you meant.

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    15. The difference (vast) is that the seed of life was intended to create variation and complexity for some end we do not seem to be able to grasp, at least yet. It is a 'why' question to, not a 'how'.

      Nice story. How do you suppose it can be verified?

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    16. "You claimed a connection between neo-Darwinism and nihilism, so it's up to you to explain what you meant."

      Neo-Darwinism, when considered from the perspective of it's moral implication and social application, reduces the meaning of life by several factors. Most notably purpose beyond the selfish need to reproduce. Such a philosophical and moral reductionism is nihilistic. Such a bleak outlook is so utterly nihilistic that most New Atheists refuse to even consider it. They preach the gospel, then politely ask you not to adhere to it.

      "Nice story. How do you suppose it can be verified?"
      Verified?
      How do you verify variation in life forms? Go outside and look around. Provided you do not live say in some sterile region of Antarctica or another planet, you will literally see myriad forms of life - much of it interacting and interdependent. Or do you mean how do we verify that cotton is milled from cotton bushes? If that is the case, I would suggest visiting a cotton producing region or watching a film on that (utterly fascinating - almost as much as Panda's digits) subject. I am sure the BBC could help you out with the latter.

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    17. Neo-Darwinism, when considered from the perspective of it's moral implication and social application

      Neo-Darwinism is a scientific point of view about the importance of natural selection - as opposed to other biological processes like genetic drift - in evolution. How on earth do you derive moral implications from that? Like "wow, if selection accounts for more than 50% of evolutionary change, then it's OK to go on a murder rampage"? What the hell?

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    18. Troy,
      Again you seem to have a need to project your own ideas into the words of others.
      Nobody mentioned murderous rampages.
      Stop being so damned paranoid.

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  10. Rex, i think you misinterpret Dawkins and his colleagues when you say 'darwinian nihilism.'

    When I've seen him speak, he truly has an almost child-like fascination with biology and life in general. I really don't think he has a negative, no purpose, no intrinsic value outlook on the human race.

    Also, would animals be 'nihilists?' I mean, they obviously dont have the brain capacity to wonder about things like that, but are they without purpose, other than to complete the food chain?

    And I know, creationists/IDists will fight to the end against the very idea that god didnt put us all here. But it's kind of odd that you guys hold us to scientific rigor, but what are your scientific methods? Simply saying 'oh, well, we need to ask WHY we're here, science cant do that' doesnt gut it. Mainly because science doesnt answer why questions

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    1. "Rex, i think you misinterpret Dawkins and his colleagues when you say 'darwinian nihilism.'"

      I have often pondered that myself, Mulder. I simply remind myself of the bus-ad campaigns and stupid proclamations of faith on their part and am quickly reconfirmed in my suspicion. They would like you to be entranced with the science, but are aware that most people will accept authority; and so they are content with selling atheism via pretension.
      I do not doubt the man's passion for science. I merely suggest it blinds him to the philosophical implications of his 'mission'.

      "Also, would animals be 'nihilists?' I mean, they obviously dont have the brain capacity to wonder about things like that, but are they without purpose, other than to complete the food chain?"
      No. They are animals. Again, just because we do not understand the purpose of a given beast - other than how it may benefit us - does not mean they are devoid of purpose. They exist, are alive, and have a soul. Their purpose may be as profound as our own, but is not apparent to us, or perhaps has not yet come to be.
      Consider: If man is evolved from other pre-human forms, their purpose was to 'evolve' into mankind.

      "And I know, creationists/IDists will fight to the end against the very idea that god didnt put us all here."
      As a creationist, I would say that a fight is only necessary when the godless try to (recently quite frequently) impose their earthly utopia(s) on the vast majority of believers. Otherwise the struggle is theirs, not ours.
      As of ID folks, most of the ones I know are agnostics, and some are even proponents of the pan-spermia model (ie aliens seeding the earth).

      "But it's kind of odd that you guys hold us to scientific rigor, but what are your scientific methods?"
      Again, Mulder: The science is just one tool to answer some of the 'how' questions. We (creationists) do not rely on it, but have interpreted the bulk of it very differently. To us much of the relevant science indicates the necessity of the 'why' questions. A relevant example would be the obvious teleological nature of genetics and evolutionary sciences. Those ideas are exposed to philosophical and theological rigour. Science is largely impotent in these 'why' matters.

      "Simply saying 'oh, well, we need to ask WHY we're here, science cant do that' doesnt gut it."
      I am assuming that is a typo and you mean 'cut it'? (love that type of 'Freudian' typo, do em myself all the time lol)
      At any rate, that's the whole point. One discipline alone (say, the sciences) does not cut it. When science hits a wall in that respect (the 'why' factor), philosophy takes over. The answers/truths sought by the latter method of inquiry are universal and often elusive as well as contentious. But they are the most valuable, and the whole REASON we asked 'how' in the first place.
      This is where it can get admittedly a bit hairy.

      "Mainly because science doesnt answer why questions"
      Precisely.

      Thought provoking questions, Mulder.
      Cheers.

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  11. @KW,
    Wrong again master cutter and paster of bullshit

    You are absolutely right, KW. I did cut and paste from Darwin's Origin of Species which is bullshit from beginning to end!

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    1. oh jebus, cut it out already. Its non-stop with this childish bullshit

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  12. These arguments about predictive power of evolution theory seems very strange to me.

    Predictive power does not mean predicting future - let theory tell me how evolution will go, just as chemistray will not predict what chemical composition of some remote galaxy will be in few billion years :)

    Because we deal with change in time, does not mean we deel with fortune telling.

    What evolutionary theory can predict is, for example:
    1. We'll find more and more fossil evidences of missing links. This is prefectly happens;
    2. We'll be able to observe evolutionary events driven by selection.
    This happens. We observe ample evidence of evolution among bacteria driven by us as a natural selection (from antibiotic-resistant to operation room conditions-resistant). We observe this on plant and animal species - and find that new species can develop very fast, just on our eyes.
    3. We can model evolution and get good CLOSE-RANGE prediction (another is impossible in principle because of unpredictable changes in environment)

    So evolution is observable and experimentally available.
    It is for a long time already not a guesswork based on scarce fossils puzzle pieces.

    Regarding religion, there is a fundamental misunderstanding, I think.
    Religion is NOT about how the world is built and works. Religion does not have onthological value for a very long time already.
    Religion is about HOW PEOPLE SHOULD BEHAVE. Among them and with G-d. Function of religion is ethical and moral, not onthological.

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    1. Pavel:

      I disagree.

      1) The fossil record is a mess for evolution, and you know it. The missing links that have been found (and there are few) tend to be at the level of smaller changes peripherally in the tree of evolution. The base of the tree and branches have the fewest links-- the opposite of what Darwinian theory predicts.

      2) Antibiotic resistance in bacteria has nothing to do with evolution . Darwinian evolution invokes natural selection, and antibiotic resistance is artificial selection. Antibiotic resistance is errant breeding. It's an example of the unintended consequences of intelligent design, and has nothing to do with evolution by natural selection.
      3) Models are examples of intelligently designed evolution.

      And religion is not only about morals and ethics. Religion is about truth, all of it.

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    2. Fossils can be a mess only if they are fragmentary. Regarding missing links, whole series of intermediate stages of many evolutionary steps are found. Go and check online what was found, come on.

      That we introduce selection factors for bacteria, does not matter. This is a pure play of words. For THEM antibiotic is the same selecting factor as salinity and temperature. If the species will evolve by adapting to contamination generated by us, or heating created by us, of salinization created by us, this still NOT an artificial selection.

      Artificial selection is someyhing completely different. This is about conscious selection of offspring for properties desired by us. And this ALSO can be a way to evolution, given enough time and isolation from cross-breeding. Maybe, a million years of artificial selection in one direction can generate a new species. The problem, though, is that genetical variation is artificially reduced. This usually does not happen when a whole population is under some selection pressure. So teh mechanism os selection can make difference between "natural" and "artificial" selection, not picking individuals but putting a whole populaiton under pressure of conditions.
      And this is exactly what happens when you subject bacteria to a new chemical factor - if you do not follow the doctor's instructions and stop you antibiotics course too early :) Do not do selection of bacteris, do extinction! :)

      In general sense, if a species is evolving by adapting to changes generated by another species is NOT an artificial selection. And a key is a mechanism - pressure on entire population.

      RE religion, you did not read carefully. I said what religion is NOT about - it does not explain the laws of nature. It tells about behavior of people. This is it`s practical role for us.

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  13. Oh, yes.

    Models do not become intelligently designed evolution only because we did them. Otherwise, any model of any physical process would be an example of intelligently designed world.
    Models onlt verify what we can find in nature. We do not create new laws of the process, we only make an image of what we have in nature (behavior of genes, population, factorsd). This is the essence of any model! Put what is known, run out of nature and try to see what is the result.

    We do not create alternative world in models, we try to reproduce natural world when we cannt do this directly (when it is too slow or too far or to hot etc. in nature to get our result).

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  14. Mm...
    Another thing about artificial vs. natural selection.
    When we select offspring in artificial selection, we not only artificially and intentionally decrease genetic variability, we also inevitable make these breeds less viable, vulnerable and depending on our care. This is another essential difference from natural selection - breeding does not make breeds more viable and adaptable to natural environment. We create the breed artificially to suit and to esixt in our artificial environment.

    Domestic breeds can go feral and thrive but only if they gradually lose features for what they were bred (feral horses are the example). Many were actually selected to lose tools that make them adaptable in wild nature (like aggressiveness etc.).

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