February 6, 2005

R.I.P., DR. MAYR

Ernst Mayr, Pioneer in Tracing Geography's Role in the Origin of Species, Dies at 100 (Carol Kaesuk Yoon, New York Times, February, 5th, 2005)

Dr. Ernst Mayr, the leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th century, died on Thursday in Bedford, Mass. He was 100.

Dr. Mayr's death, in a retirement community where he had lived since 1997, was announced by his family and Harvard, whose faculty he joined in 1953.

He was known as an architect of the evolutionary or modern synthesis, an intellectual watershed when modern evolutionary biology was born. The synthesis, which was described by Dr. Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard as "one of the half-dozen major scientific achievements in our century," reconciled Darwin's theories of evolution with new findings in laboratory genetics and in fieldwork on animal populations and diversity.

One of Dr. Mayr's most significant contributions was his persuasive argument for the role of geography in the origin of new species, an idea that has won virtually universal acceptance among evolutionary theorists. He also established a philosophy of biology and founded the field of the history of biology.

"He was the Darwin of the 20th century, the defender of the faith," said Dr. Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis, a historian of science at the University of Florida.


-Ernst Mayr dies, aged 100 (Michael Hopkin, 2/04/05, Nature0
-Ernst Mayr, 100; Biologist Explained Species Shifts in Darwin's Theory of Evolution (Thomas H. Maugh II, February 5, 2005, LA Times)
While cataloging his prizes, he became acutely aware that the existing methods of determining species identifications were woefully inadequate. Two major schools of thought then prevailed. One school, founded by the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus, judged species identity simply by physical appearance.

A more modern school of thought turned to genetics for defining species. But both had their shortcomings. Linnaeans, for example, considered the snow goose and the blue goose of the northern United States separate species because they looked so different. But later workers determined that they are simply color variations of the same bird.

At the opposite extreme, virtually all organisms — even within the same species — are slightly different genetically, so geneticists were identifying more species than could be justified.

Mayr offered a more practical definition, concluding that species are groups of animals that can interbreed and produce offspring. Blue geese and snow geese can mate and produce offspring; hence they are the same species. For the first time, biologists had an objective and logical way to distinguish among species.


-Seminal Evolutionist Ernst Mayr Dies (Patricia Sullivan, February 5, 2005, Washington Post)
The Washington Post Book World said of his "The Growth of Biological Thought" (1982), "It seems safe to say that this magisterial study -- all 974 pages of it -- is one of the greatest works ever on the history of science."

Ernst Mayr (The Economist, Feb 10th 2005)
CHARLES DARWIN'S most famous book is called “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”. That is not, however, what it is actually about. Natural selection is there in abundance. Darwin shows how small, heritable variations that improve survival and reproduction will accumulate over the millennia. He also shows that groups of similar species have descended from common ancestors. But on the origin of those species—exactly how one ancestral species divides into many—the book is largely silent.

Darwin did not know the answer to this question, and nor did anyone else until Ernst Mayr, a biologist working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, enlightened them. First, in 1942, he published “Systematics and the Origin of Species”. This got to the heart of the problem by defining what a species actually is—not a group of individuals that look alike, but a group that can breed among themselves but not with others. That now-routine observation cleared the way to ask how such “reproductive isolation” comes about. Mr Mayr's answer was that bits of large interbreeding populations sometimes get isolated from the main (climate change may break up a range, for example). Natural selection will then do its work on the isolated sub-populations. To the extent that these sub-groups throw up different genetic mutations for selection to work on, and are subjected to different selective pressures, they will evolve in different directions. Eventually, they will become new species.

No doubt, many biologists reacted to this idea in the way that Thomas Henry Huxley reacted to Darwin's when he first heard it: “How extremely stupid not to have thought of that.” But it was Mr Mayr who did the thinking, and thus solved what Darwin and his contemporaries referred to as “the species problem”—in other words, why life on Earth is so diverse.


Thanks for all the good times.

FROM THE ARCHIVES:
Ideological Opposition to Darwin's Five Theories (Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument)

I consider it necessary to dissect Darwin's conceptual framework of evolution into a number of major theories that formed the basis of his evolutionary thinking. For the sake of convenience, I have partitioned Darwin's evolutionary paradigm into five theories, but of course others might prefer a different division. The selected theories are by no means all of Darwin's evolutionary theories; others were, for instance, sexual selection, pangenesis, effect of use and disuse, and character divergence. However when later authors referred to Darwin's theory thay invariably had a combination of some of the following five theories in mind:

1. Evolution as such. This is the theory that the world is not constant or recently created nor perpetually cycling, but rather is steadily changing, and that organisms are transformed in time.

2. Common descent. This is the theory that every group of organisms descended from a common ancestor, and that all groups of organisms, including animals, plants, and microorganisms, ultimately go back to a single origin of life on earth.

3. Multiplication of species. This theory explains the origin of the enormous organic diversity. It postulates that species multiply, either by splitting into daughter species or by "budding", that is, by the establishment of geographically isloated founder populations that evolve into new species.

4. Gradualism. According to this theory, evolutionary change takes place through the gradual change of populations and not by the sudden (saltational) production of new individuals that represent a new type.

5. Natural selection. According to this theory, evolutionary change comes about throught the abundant production of genetic variation in every generation. The relatively few individuals who survive, owing to a particularly well-adapted combination of inheritable characters, give rise to the next generation.


After sufficient prodding, we decided to take a look at Ernst Mayr's supposedly more scientific version (more so than Richard Dawkins) of the modern theory of Darwinism. As you can see from the above, it's not much different than Dawkins's-- "the minimal theory that evolution is guided in adaptively nonrandom directions by the nonrandom survival of small random hereditary changes."--though certainly more verbose. What's startling though is the degree to which it's anti-scientific.

The first two subtheories are fairly uncontroversial. Everyone accepts that evolution has occurred, that species today are different than those which preceded them, and that even within a species change occurs over time. The middle subtheory, that geography influences species, seems confirmed, in part, by observation--which is to say that penguins seem better adapted to cold than emus--though it concludes with a mere assertion that this is sufficient to cause new species to arise too. The fourth seems somewhat Jesuitical--a rebuke to Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium thinking--though neither is based on evidence. Finally, the last is simply false. We see no evidence that there is significant genetic variation in every generation of any species, while the notion that few individuals survive from each generation, never mind so few that we can say they are better adapted than their less mutated brethren, is risible. The problem for Darwinism is that the last subtheory--natural selection--is the thread by which the whole project hangs and it is wrong on its face.

So, what's going on here? If Ernst Mayr is the avatar of neo-Darwinism, how can his version of the theory be so weak as to not withstand basic scrutiny? Well, Mr. Mayr gives up the game easily when he disavows the idea of Darwinism as a physical science and describes it instead as a philosophy or a historical narrative, Darwin's Influence on Modern Thought: This article is based on the September 23, 1999, lecture that Mayr delivered in Stockholm on receiving the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Science (Ernst Mayr)

Darwin founded a new branch of life science, evolutionary biology. Four of his contributions to evolutionary biology are especially important, as they held considerable sway beyond that discipline. The first is the non-constancy of species, or the modern conception of evolution itself. The second is the notion of branching evolution, implying the common descent of all species of living things on earth from a single unique origin. Up until 1859, all evolutionary proposals, such as that of naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, instead endorsed linear evolution, a teleological march toward greater perfection that had been in vogue since Aristotle's concept of Scala Naturae, the chain of being. Darwin further noted that evolution must be gradual, with no major breaks or discontinuities. Finally, he reasoned that the mechanism of evolution was natural selection.

These four insights served as the foundation for Darwin's founding of a new branch of the philosophy of science, a philosophy of biology. Despite the passing of a century before this new branch of philosophy fully developed, its eventual form is based on Darwinian concepts. For example, Darwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.


-ERNST MAYR: WHAT EVOLUTION IS: Introduction by Jared Diamond (Edge, 10.31.01)
EDGE: To what extent has the study of evolutionary biology been the study of ideas about evolutionary biology? Is evolution the evolution of ideas, or is it a fact?

ERNST MAYR: That's a very good question. Because of the historically entrenched resistance to the thought of evolution, documented by modern-day creationism, evolutionists have been forced into defending evolution and trying to prove that it is a fact and not a theory. Certainly the explanation of evolution and the search for its underlying ideas has been somewhat neglected, and my new book, the title of which is What Evolution Is, is precisely attempting to rectify that situation. It attempts to explain evolution. As I say in the first section of the book, I don't need to prove it again, evolution is so clearly a fact that you need to be committed to something like a belief in the supernatural if you are at all in disagreement with evolution. It is a fact and we don't need to prove it anymore. Nonetheless we must explain why it happened and how it happens.

One of the surprising things that I discovered in my work on the philosophy of biology is that when it comes to the physical sciences, any new theory is based on a law, on a natural law. Yet as several leading philosophers have stated, and I agree with them, there are no laws in biology like those of physics. Biologists often use the word law, but for something to be a law, it has to have no exceptions. A law must be beyond space and time, and therefore it cannot be specific. Every general truth in biology though is specific. Biological "laws" are restricted to certain parts of the living world, or certain localized situations, and they are restricted in time. So we can say that their are no laws in biology, except in functional biology which, as I claim, is much closer to the physical sciences, than the historical science of evolution.

EDGE: Let's call this Mayr's Law.

MAYR: Well in that case, I've produced a number of them. Anyhow the question is, if scientific theories are based on laws and there aren't any laws in biology, well then how can you say you have theories, and how do you know that your theories are any good? That's a perfectly legitimate question. Of course our theories are based on something solid, which are concepts. If you go through the theories of evolutionary biology you find that they are all based on concepts such as natural selection, competition, the struggle for existence, female choice, male dominance, etc. There are hundreds of such concepts. In fact, ecology consists almost entirely of such basic concepts. Once again you can ask, how do you know they're true? The answer is that you can know this only provisionally by continuous testing and you have to go back to historical narratives and other non-physicalist methods to determine whether your concept and the consequences that arise from it can be confirmed.

EDGE: Is biology a narrative based of our times and how we look at the world?

MAYR: It depends entirely on when in the given age of the intellectual world you ask these questions. For instance when Darwin published The Origin of Species, the leading Cambridge University geologist was Sedgwick, and Sedgwick wrote a critique of Darwin's Origin that asked how Darwin could be so unscientific as to use chance in some of his arguments, when everyone knew that God controlled the world? Now who was more scientific, Darwin or Sedgwick? This was in 1860 and now, 140 years later, we recognize how much this critique was colored by the beliefs of that time. The choice of historical narratives is also very time-bound. Once you recognize this, you cease to question their usefulness. There are a number of such narratives that are as ordinary as proverbs and yet still work.

EDGE: Darwin is bigger than ever. Why?

MAYR: One of my themes is that Darwin changed the foundations of Western thought. He challenged certain ideas that had been accepted by everyone, and we now agree that he was right and his contemporaries were wrong. Let me just illuminate some of them. One such idea goes back to Plato who claimed that there were a limited number of classes of objects and each class of objects had a fixed definition. Any variation between entities in the same class was only accidental and the reality was an underlying realm of absolutes.

EDGE: How does that pertain to Darwin?

MAYR: Well Darwin showed that such essentialist typology was absolutely wrong. Darwin, though he didn't realize it at the time, invented the concept of biopopulation, which is the idea that the living organisms in any assemblage are populations in which every individual is uniquely different, which is the exact opposite of such a typological concept as racism. Darwin applied this populational idea quite consistently in the discovery of new adaptations though not when explaining the origin of new species.

Another idea that Darwin refuted was that of teleology, which goes back to Aristotle. During Darwin's lifetime, the concept of teleology, or the use of ultimate purpose as a means of explaining natural phenomena, was prevalent. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant based his philosophy on Newton's laws. When he tried the same approach in a philosophy of living nature, he was totally unsuccessful. Newtonian laws didn't help him explain biological phenomena. So he invoked Aristotle's final cause in his Critique of Judgement. However, explaining evolution and biological phenomena with the idea of teleology was a total failure.

To make a long story short, Darwin showed very clearly that you don't need Aristotle's teleology because natural selection applied to bio-populations of unique phenomena can explain all the puzzling phenomena for which previously the mysterious process of teleology had been invoked.


Out of all that, the comparison to Aristotle and Plato, etc., we might extract just this: "Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain." In other words, Darwinism is really just a replacement Creation myth, one that tries to displace God and substitute Nature in explaining how the world around us came into being.

Mr. Mayr states this himself, in no uncertain terms:

"There is indeed one belief that all true original Darwinians held in common, and that was their rejection of creationism, their rejection of special creation. This was the flag around which they assembled and under which they marched. When Hull claimed that "the Darwinians did not totally agree with each other, even over essentials", he overlooked one essential on which all these Darwinians agreed. Nothing was more essential for them than to decide whether evolution is a natural phenomenon or something controlled by God. The conviction that the diversity of the natural world was the result of natural processes and not the work of God was the idea that brought all the so-called Darwinians together in spite of their disagreements on other of Darwin's theories..." (One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought)

It's inappropriate then to even look to Darwinism to offer scientific justifications for itself--it is in no sense a science. Rather, it is an alternative religion and like all religions depends for its validity on the faith of its adherents. So, yes, Mr. Mayr does ultimately offer a more coherent case for Darwinism than does Mr. Dawkins, but it is a less not a more scientific case. It is an argument from faith.

MORE:
-ESSAY: The concerns of science (Ernst Mayr, July-August 1999, Skeptical Inquirer)
-CV: Ernst Mayr
-Ernst Mayr Library
-PROFILE: Ernst Mayr, Darwin's Disciple (Christine Bahls, Nov. 17, 2003, The Scientist
-PROFILE: The Big Picture: Ernst Mayr: Evolutionary biologist (Beth Potier, Harvard Gazette)
-EXCERPTS: from Ernst Mayr's "Toward a New Philosophy of Biology"
-Ernst Mayr and the Evolutionary Synthesis (PBS.org)
-ESSAY: Nature, Freedom, and Responsibility: Ernst Mayr and Isaiah Berlin (Strachan Donnelley, Winter, 2000, Social Research)
-ARCHIVES: "ernst mayr" (Find Articles)
-REVIEW: of The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, Ernst Mayr + William B. Provine (editors) (Danny Yee)
Fred Hoyle, Mathematics of Evolution

"The ability of species to adapt by changing one base pair at a time on any gene, and to do so with comparative rapidity if selective advantages are reasonably large, explains the fine details of the matching of many species to their environment. It was from the careful observation of such matchings by naturalists in the mid-nineteenth century that the Darwinian theory arose. Because the observations were made with extreme care, it was highly probable that immediate inferences drawn from them would prove to be correct, as the work of Chapters 3 to 6 shows to be the case. What was in no way guaranteed by the evidence, however, was that evolutionary inferences correctly made in the small for species and their varieties could be extrapolated to broader taxonomic categories, to kingdoms, divisions, classes, and orders. Yet this is what the Darwinian theory did, and it was by going far outside its guaranteed range of validity that the theory ran into controversies and difficulties which have never been cleared up over more than a century."

-The Evolution of Ernst: Interview with Ernst Mayr: The preeminent biologist, who just turned 100, reflects on his prolific career and the history, philosophy and future of his field On July 5, renowned evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr celebrated his 100th birthday. He also recently finished writing his 25th book, What Makes Biology Unique?: Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline [Cambridge University Press, in press]. A symposium in Mayr's honor was held at Harvard University on May 10. Scientific American editor and columnist Steve Mirsky attended the symposium and wrote about it for the upcoming August issue. On May 15, Mirsky, Brazilian journalist Claudio Angelo and Angelo's colleague Marcelo Leite visited Mayr at his apartment in Bedford, Mass. (Scientific American, 7/06/04)
Claudio Angelo: What is the book about?

Ernst Mayr: What the book is about. (Laughs.) Primarily to show, and you will think that this doesn't need showing, but lots of people would disagree with you. To show that biology is an autonomous science and should not be mixed up with physics. That's my message. And I show it in about 12 chapters. And, as another fact, when people ask me what is really your field, and 50 years or 60 years ago, without hesitation I would have said I'm an ornithologist. Forty years ago I would have said, I'm an evolutionist. And a little later I would still say I'm an evolutionist, but I would also say I'm an historian of biology. And the last 20 years, I love to answer, I'm a philosopher of biology. And, as a matter of fact, and that is perhaps something I can brag about, I have gotten honorary degrees for my work in ornithology from two universities, in evolution, in systematics, in history of biology and in philosophy of biology. Two honorary degrees from philosophy departments.

Steve Mirsky: And the philosophical basis for physics versus biology is what you examine in the book?

EM: I show first in the first chapter and in some chapters that follow later on, I show that biology is as serious, honest, legitimate a science as the physical sciences. All the occult stuff that used to be mixed in with philosophy of biology, like vitalism and teleology-Kant after all, when he wanted to describe biology, he put it all on teleology, just to give an example-all this sort of funny business I show is out. Biology has exactly the same hard-nosed basis as the physical sciences, consisting of the natural laws. The natural laws apply to biology just as much as they do to the physical sciences. But the people who compare the two, or who, like some philosophers, put in biology with physical sciences, they leave out a lot of things. And the minute you include those, you can see clearly that biology is not the same sort of thing as the physical sciences. And I cannot give a long lecture now on that subject, that's what the book is for.

I'll give you an example. In principle, biology differs from the physical sciences in that in the physical sciences, all theories, I don't know exceptions so I think it's probably a safe statement, all theories are based somehow or other on natural laws. In biology, as several other people have shown, and I totally agree with them, there are no natural laws in biology corresponding to the natural laws of the physical sciences.

Now then you can say, how can you have theories in biology if you don't have laws on which to base them? Well, in biology your theories are based on something else. They're based on concepts. Like the concept of natural selection forms the basis of, practically the most important basis of, evolutionary biology. You go to ecology and you get concepts like competition or resources, ecology is just full of concepts. And those concepts are the basis of all the theories in ecology. Not the physical laws, they're not the basis. They are of course ultimately the basis, but not directly, of ecology. And so on and so forth. And so that's what I do in this book. I show that the theoretical basis, you might call it, or I prefer to call it the philosophy of biology, has a totally different basis than the theories of physics.

If I say so myself, I think this is going to be an important book. The philosophers of course will ignore it, it's bothersome, it doesn't fit into their thinking. And so the best way is to just forget it, put it under the rug. But those who take it seriously will say, well, gee, that's not something I know how to deal with. But this fellow Mayr seems to have something here, nobody else has made that so clear, nobody else has shown that, really, biology, even though it has all the other legitimate properties of a science, still is not a science like the physical sciences. And somehow or other, the somewhat more enlightened philosophers will say we really ought to deal with that. But so far they haven't.


We're big fans of Ernst Mayr, precisely because in amongst all the pseudo-scientific cant he makes admissions like those above, but the idea that biology is a philosophy (or religion) not a real science is hardly revolutionary.

Posted by Peter Burnet at February 6, 2005 11:14 AM
Comments

"...the defender of the faith"

Dr. Smocovitis is more accurate than she knows.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at February 5, 2005 7:31 AM

It seems going a bit far to call those five theses "theories" -- "ideas" or "principles" might be more accurate. A theory has ideas that are derived from other ideas and can be compared to empirical evidence.

Posted by: pj at February 5, 2005 8:20 AM

But the great thing about Mayr is that he recognized it's all just a philosophy. We can't recommend The Growth of Biological Thought highly enough.

Posted by: oj at February 5, 2005 8:26 AM

i don't know why mayr said there were no "laws" as a basis for biological science; they are the same laws as govern all physical aspects of the universe. for example, you aren't going to have an organism that exists without energy input.

mr judd, it seems like the main point of darwinism you disagree with is "survival of the fittest", and that some of the other points are agreeable to you; is this an accurate statement of your position ?

i was reading an article years ago, where the author was discussing how "fittest" is not a constant criteria, and when the environment changes, characteristics that were once advantageous could become disadvantageous, and vice versa -- i.e luck plays a big part in survival. the article also discussed how long term stasis in the environment actually weakend the organisms inhabiting it; challenge produced greater health in the inhabitants.

Posted by: cjm at February 5, 2005 4:42 PM

oj, pj, Peter (actually anybody) : have you read any Neil Stephenson? Cryptonomicon or System of the World particularly. If you have I'd like to know what you thought. Got a reason for asking, thanks in advance.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 5, 2005 6:19 PM

cjm: imagine that you are : (1) profoundly dissatisfied with Christianity; (2) profoundly need ful of the sorts of answers that it provides and the questions that it asks; and (3) a genius. What sort of system of thought might you produce? Consider both plaintext and encrypted aspects of your system.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 5, 2005 6:54 PM

Very nicely put, Peter.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 6, 2005 8:46 AM

Randall:

I cannot tell a lie. Mine is just the first cite and tagline. Orrin slipped in with all the meat.

Posted by: Peter B at February 6, 2005 9:06 AM

The Theory of Evolution is hypothetico-deductive, just like virtually any other scientific theory. Becuase it therefore has deductive consequences (many, in fact), it is in fact falsifiable.

Very much unlike Creationism/ID.

At the risk of presumption, Dr. Mayr appeared to neglect one law: all recursive systems incorporating variation exhibit self organized complexity over time.

These sentences are mistaken:

The fourth seems somewhat Jesuitical--a rebuke to Stephen Jay Gould's punctuated equilibrium thinking--though neither is based on evidence.

No, it isn't. Please review what the word "saltational" means.

Finally, the last is simply false. We see no evidence that there is significant genetic variation in every generation of any species

Within a recursive system, any variation is significant.

... while the notion that few individuals survive from each generation, never mind so few that we can say they are better adapted than their less mutated brethren, is risible.

Oh really. Given continental drift, and the climatological specificity of nearly all species, how does one explain the continued existence of terrestrial life otherwise?

Darwin, of course, knew nothing of plate tectonics, and so coudln't know that allopatric speciation was even possible, nor that the main driver for natural selection is the climate variations attending continental drift.

Which also means that requiring speciation to happen on human, rather than geologic, time scales in order for Evolutionary Theory to be true is sheer nonsense.

Given the above, it is also sheer nonsense to continue ranting about "Darwinism." That is pure strawman.

Fundamentally, the question is whether, once life started on Earth by whatever means, subsequent Natural History required repeated ministrations by a deus ex machina.

Remember, all recursive systems incorporating variation exhibit self organizing complexity over time.

That is important to keep in mind when considering whether a materialistic explanation of Natural History can completely account for all observed phenomena.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 6, 2005 1:29 PM

Meat? Gristle more like.

Mayr says biology is in some ways different to other physical sciences. He does not say it isn't science. It is science.

I posted the following elsewhere but it seems more appropriate here:

Orrin and Peter keep insisting that Darwinism is just our Faith, just like Christianity is their Faith.

But they don't really think that. If they really thought that, they might not be so openly mocking for fear of causing deep personal offence. (At least, Peter might not.)

There's a reason you can confidently mock (or clumsily and ignorantly attempt to ridicule) darwinism, without fear of facing bombs from violent darwin-fundamentalists.

The nature of belief among its proponents is not in the same category as religious Belief. Darwinism does not inform moral or political beliefs, it has no great emotional hook and it doesn't promise an afterlife. It's just a good, simple explanation for stuff happening.

You tacitly aknowlege this category-difference by being far more rude about it, and dismissive of its credibility, than you ever would be about Islam or Judaism if you were debating with a Muslim or a Jew.

Posted by: Brit at February 6, 2005 5:56 PM

I think I can take credit for introducing Orrin to Mayr. How he managed to form a complete attitude to darwinism without knowing him puzzles me, but there you are.

In these latest posts, Orrin makes a slight advance over his previous statements. He has now explicitly stated that, in his view, there can be no science of biology.

Mayr never said that.

However, if accepted, it puts paid to any attempts to push ID or any other Big Spook alternatives into the schools.

Then we would be left with a strange conclusion, at least as regards public education in America: no biology of any kind can be taught.

I'll give credit to Orrin. Today he has come closer to engaging with Mayr's fundamental argument than he ever has before. He still hasn't quite got there, but we darwinists are accustomed to incremental progress.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 6, 2005 6:52 PM

Oh, for Pete's sake, Brit. Doesn't inform moral or political beliefs? Has no great emotional hook? Are you serious? That's nuts. Nonsense on stilts, to quote you back. To pull just one example that leaps to mind:

Opening statements pictured the trial as a titanic struggle between good and evil or truth and ignorance. Bryan claimed that "if evolution wins, Christianity goes." Darrow argued, "Scopes isn't on trial; civilization is on trial." The prosecution, Darrow contended, was "opening the doors for a reign of bigotry equal to anything in the Middle Ages." To the gasps of spectators, Darrow said Bryan was responsible for the "foolish, mischievous and wicked act." Darrow said that the anti-evolution law made the Bible "the yardstick to measure every man's intellect, to measure every man's intelligence, to measure every man's learning." It was classic Darrow, and the press--mostly sympathetic to the defense--loved it.


State v. John Scopes ("The Monkey Trial")

So you're telling me you're for Truth versus Ignorance for reasons that have no emotional appeal! Come on, guys.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 6, 2005 6:55 PM

Jeff:

Ok, let's talk logic. It is all well and good to say that the proposition that I went to China yesterday in falsifiable, but isn't the real question whether the proposition that I went to Europe yesterday is verifiable?

Brit:

I believe I have just been accused of blasphemy. I didn't realize such was possible when directed against natural scientists. Humble apologies to you and your family.

Posted by: Peter B at February 6, 2005 7:02 PM

Orrin and Peter keep insisting that Darwinism is just our Faith, just like Christianity is their Faith.

My God, Peter, you suggested a parallel between Brit's beliefs and a religious person's! Well, at least you didn't imply he was descended from one of the lower animals. Still, I insist you take that back, right now.

Posted by: joe shropshire at February 6, 2005 9:29 PM

Peter:

It all depends whether you require scientific theories to prove negatives. The term hypothetico-deductive has a precise meaning with regard to scientific theories. Evolutionary theory fulfills that meaning every bit as much as any other scientific theory you could mention.

Does that make evolutionary theory Correct or complete? No.

But like other aspects of rational inquiry, it is spartan and meritocratic. Which means it is distinctly different from religion, which is both baroque and monarchic.

Joe:

In a recent post, I brought up the dialectical vs. rhetorical elements of this discussion. The Scopes Monkey trial is a classic example of the distinction between the two.

The State of Tennessee was pursuing a dialectical argument, Darrow rhetorical. It was almost as if two ships were passing in the night.

Given the law in question, the dialectical argument was bound to win the battle. Unfortunately, it also, by exposing the underlying theological nonsense, lost the war.

In the late 20th/early 21st century within which we live, Brit is exactly right. Naturalistic evolutionary theory does not inform moral questions, has absolutely no emotional component, and offers absolutely nothing other than how a self contained system changes over time.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 6, 2005 9:38 PM

This is why I duck-and-cover whenever you guys start slugging each other on Darwinism. I pull out my little umbrella of Thomism and cringe until it hits, like Wile E Coyete.

Posted by: Gideon at February 6, 2005 11:56 PM

Peter:

The point of that post was to show that you can't 'blaspheme' and I don't take personal offence in debates about darwinism.

(I take offence at dishonest arguments, but that's a different kind of offence and applies in any sphere)

My 'belief' in darwinism consists of my accepting it as the best scientific explanation of natural history. If some better explanation comes up, or it is disproven, I will dump it.

It is in the same category as a 'belief' in general relativity or Newtonian physics.

Joe:

It is possible to be both a Christan and a darwinist, if you want to be. Or a Jew and a darwinist. Some darwinists are left-leaning in their political beliefs. The ones on this site vote republican. Weird, huh?

Posted by: Brit at February 7, 2005 4:18 AM

But Jeff, evolution must have occurred on a human time scale. Otherwise, where did humans come from?

Why is it wrong to expect evidence of speciation when our own sudden appearance happened so recently? I am sure that even Newton had a bruise from the apple.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 7, 2005 5:21 AM

Randall:

The "human time scale" I was referring to is recorded history, which is no more than 1/500 (and maybe as little as 1/2000) of the time since humans appeared.

It isn't wrong to expect evidence of speciation--it is all over the place (for one occurring in human time, see human lice). Which is why no one, Young Earth Creationists aside, disputes that evolution has happened.

The fundamental question is whether Natural History can be accounted for by self contained explanations. If life, being a recursive system exhibiting variation, does not develop self organized complexity over time, then it breaks the law of recursive systems.

Ignoring the details of Evolutionary Theory for a moment, I can't think of any characteristic of life on earth that would cause recursion to break down. Can you?

If you can't, then you must acknowledge that, regardless of implementation details, it is possible life as we know it is the result materialistic, random, non-teleological processes.

Brit:

The point of that post was to show that you can't 'blaspheme' ... (I take offence at dishonest arguments, but that's a different kind of offence and applies in any sphere)...It is in the same category as a 'belief' in general relativity or Newtonian physics.

Exactly.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 7:32 AM

Actually, I take back my question, because it doesn't ask what I meant to ask (and is stupid, on the face of it).

What I really meant to ask is why anyone is attracted to the study of a theory that cannot be proven / demonstrated for another billion years? What is the attraction?

And I mean this in all seriousness. If it is truly science, why aren't its adherents skeptical? The skeptics are labeled as fanatical religious zealots. And stupid phrases come out like, "Evolution doesn't need to be proven."

I can see making use of a theory / model that has proven useful to predict an outcome (e=mc2 comes to mind). But listening to someone like Dawkins talk, it seems that his life's goal is to make fools out of Christians, like some priest ran over his puppy when he was a kid.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 7, 2005 7:48 AM

Jeff:

Not only is it not wrong to anticipate that evolution would have occured during human history, the failure of it to occur has led to the various hoaxes and their easy acceptance. Judith Hooper is especially good on that point.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 7:55 AM

Randal:

Rival religious sects always argue that way.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 8:03 AM

Brit:

It's nothing like because there is no experiment nor observation to support the theory. It's pure faith.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 8:04 AM

Okay, I posted while you were posting. If lice is enough proof for everyone, then so be it.

My problem is that once we get into gigantic time scales, I begin to wonder where the universe came from in the first place, and I begin to think about God, and creation naturally follows. I'm actually quite content with the idea that God set the universe in motion (and is not meddling with it). Humans, however, are special, and were quite obviously (to me) a function of meddling.

Regarding recursive systems. Sure, whatever you say. All I know is that I try to flatten recursion in my programs or I run out of stack space.

Posted by: Randall Voth at February 7, 2005 8:07 AM

Harry:

Mayr says that. Some biology obviously meets the test of science. It's just Darwinism that meets Mayr's criteria for a philosophy.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 8:10 AM

Randall:

Ask him what the lice evolved into. The answer? Lice.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 8:34 AM

Randall:

"What I really meant to ask is why anyone is attracted to the study of a theory that cannot be proven / demonstrated for another billion years? What is the attraction?"

Good question.

Personally, just because I'm curious about how life works.

Natural historians like it because it helps them to classify things and work out how things are related. Generally it's always going to be useful to know about how things work, often in ways that are surprising.

Here's a non-medical practical application at random: (Darwinist) biologists study gene flow (look it up on Wikipedia if you haven't heard of it). If you have a GM crop with a herbicide-resistant gene, you don't want that gene migrating to, for example, weeds. So you need to know something about gene flow.

One thing you've got to realise about darwinism, is that it has developed from the practical study of natural history. It explains real life stuff. Darwin himself spent his life studying plants and animals. Read any introduction to darwinism as it is today ('modern synthesis') and you'll find it crammed to bursting with real examples.

Most of the debates on here are essentially rational. As Harry points out, all of Orrin's objections are based upon induction and reasoning.

On Mayr, for example, Orrin attacks darwinism by pretending that Mayr admits it isn't science in his introduction. He conveniently ignores the several hundred pages of hard, practical evidence and exposition that follow.

Posted by: Brit at February 7, 2005 9:41 AM

Brit:

Pretends? How much clearer could Mayr be about it?

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 11:05 AM

Randall:

You asked for an example of a new species.

Human lice evolved from lice that afflicted the common ancestor between us and the other primates.

The human lice cannot survive on other primates, nor interbreed with their lice. Therefore, it fulfills every requirement for a new species.

That is not the same as a new genus, order, family, phylum, kingdom, etc. Within the realm of honest argument, it isn't acceptable to use--as some do--the word species when invoking the requirements of one of broader hierarchical levels.

Your conclusion requiring a deus ex machina in order for humans to exist may well be true, but there is no evidence supporting it, nor does anything in a naturalistic explanation require it.

Regardless of the objective truth, it might be philosophically preferable people believe God had homo sapiens in mind and ran the show in such a way that we are the result. However, that is a dialectical argument, and should me made as such.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 11:16 AM

Orrin:

What the hell, let's have a (doubtless futile) go at debunking this one once and for all.

I've read your Mayr passages and re-read them. Nowhere does he say the biology isn't a science. He says it has differences from other physical sciences. He says that it isn't based on laws, as physics is, but on concepts, the validity of which can be shown by repeated testing with practical real-life observations.

It's always you, Orrin Judd, who casually concludes with a tag line saying "thus Mayr admits darwinism isn't a science".

Well, ignoring for a moment the glaring error that Mayr is talking about biology as a whole, not just darwinism specifically (so you think biology isn't a science?) let's look at the sentence from the interview which could most reasonably be contrued as supporting your interpretation:

"...biology, even though it has all the other legitimate properties of a science, still is not a science like the physical sciences."

Is it just me, or is the phrase "like the physical sciences" actually there, proud and visible, for all to see.

And is the phrase "it has all the other legitimate properties of a science" also very obviously in existence.

Of course, we could just choose to ignore this, in a Michael Moore-style 'quote the bit which seems to support our hypothesis and leave out the bit which explains what he actually means' sort of way.

Or we could behave like adults.

Posted by: Brit at February 7, 2005 11:38 AM

Brit:

Yes, as he says it's not a physical science. It's a social science like philosophy or history. The argument that when he says it's not a science means he thinks it is one is symptomatic of your problem.

Note, as Harry is incapable of, how Mayr differentiates evolutionary biology even from biology, or real science:

"One of the surprising things that I discovered in my work on the philosophy of biology is that when it comes to the physical sciences, any new theory is based on a law, on a natural law. Yet as several leading philosophers have stated, and I agree with them, there are no laws in biology like those of physics. Biologists often use the word law, but for something to be a law, it has to have no exceptions. A law must be beyond space and time, and therefore it cannot be specific. Every general truth in biology though is specific. Biological "laws" are restricted to certain parts of the living world, or certain localized situations, and they are restricted in time. So we can say that their are no laws in biology, except in functional biology which, as I claim, is much closer to the physical sciences, than the historical science of evolution."

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 12:43 PM

Jeff:

Lice aren't different species--they can interbreed just fine, though they don't for obvious reasons (except when men lie down with dogs...)

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 12:45 PM

He doesn't say it is a 'social science' anywhere. That's your transparent attempt to assign it to the group 'pseudo-science'.

He says it is a science which has differences to other physical sciences. Newtonian physics, for example, has laws which apply universally. Biology is more specific and more practical: different things apply locally.

So biology is a science, according to Mayr. It is testable. So your oft-repeated statement: "Mayr admits darwinism (actually, he's talking about biology) is not a science" is inaccurate.

It's not an accidental inaccuracy either. You're not that brainless. It's a deliberate lie. A whopper. An untruth. A naughty, naughty fib.

Posted by: Brit at February 7, 2005 1:17 PM

So we can at least agree that he says evolutionary biology is not a physical science (though biology in general is).

If you think "social science" pejorative--which I certainly don't--we can settle on his own term: "historical science."


"Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes. Instead one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative reconstruction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain."

As you can see, he's capable of acknowledging that it's not testable--which is why it isn't science--even if you aren't.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 1:56 PM

OJ:

Some research would avoid such blanket, baseless, assertions. See If These Lice Could Talk

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 1:57 PM

OJ:

You fail to recognize that laws and experiments are not the only means of testing a hypothesis.

Just as with plate tectonics, notably immune to laws and experiments, the deductions following from hypotheses must match the available observations.

If plate tectonics is a science, then so is evolutionary biology.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 2:06 PM

Jeff:

That is one amazing article. I had no idea hominoids had "burst" out of Africa several times. From the opening sentence I was grabbed:

"Contempt is never wise in biology. The creature that you look down on as lowly, degenerate, or disgusting may actually turn out to be sophisticated, successful, and--in some cases--waiting to tell you a lot about yourself. That's certainly the case for lice."

Do you consider this an illustration of the romantic heroism that beats in the heart of every evolutionary biologist, or is it just their equivalent of "Blessed are the meek."?

Posted by: Peter B at February 7, 2005 2:32 PM

Jeff:

Plate tectonics is rather easily measured and observed and was not credited until it was.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 2:42 PM

Jeff:

Yes, but the lice can breed, so they aren't separate species by any but Darwinian definition. Indeed, were you just the tiniest bit open-minded their breeding capacity would trouble you.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 2:49 PM

From your Mayr quote above:

"There are hundreds of such concepts. In fact, ecology consists almost entirely of such basic concepts. Once again you can ask, how do you know they're true? The answer is that you can know this only provisionally by continuous testing..."

Posted by: Brit at February 7, 2005 4:43 PM

OJ:

Read the article.

The first proof of plate tectonics was ...

allopatric evolution.

Had that not been the case, then evolution would have been completely falsified.

You know this, of course. The question is whether you can participate in this discussion without the usual barnyard of rhetorical obfuscations.

So far, indications are not promising.


Peter:

You have a point?

I would have thought you might have been more taken by the astonishing correlation between the human lice DNA changes and human evolution.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 5:19 PM

Jeff:

No. The first proof was measurements:

http://www.visionlearning.com/library/module_viewer.php?mid=65&l=&c3=

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 5:24 PM

Brit:

Yes, we can measure changes in ecology. It's a natural science.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 5:28 PM

OJ:


Like I said, the very first proof of continental drift was by fossils, and divergence clinched it.

But don't trust me, read the third para of your cite:

He collected data from the continents on both sides of the Atlantic, finding that fossils and rock types along the eastern coast of South America matched those on the western coast of Africa.

Had this gone further, although, given the subject, it wouldn't have been appropriate, it would also have mentioned the African and South American fossils were identical until a specific point in the rock strata, when they began to diverge.

That was before paleomagnetic measurements, and long before anything so sophisticated as lasers & GPS.

Oh, and while I am on it, you should really stop abusing the analogy, which you do by intentionally conflating the terms species and kingdoms.

No surprise there.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 7, 2005 10:04 PM

Jeff:

Yes, note the difference. Fossils suggested the continents had been joined at some point. Live observation and measurement confirmed it.

Fossils suggest that species evolved. Live observation and experimentation suggest nothing about the mechanism whereby they do.

Meanwhile, the apparent divergence of certain strains of lice proved illusory when it turned out they could breed. Similarly though men apparently diverged into various races in reality they remained the same species. Telling blows to the philosophy of Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at February 7, 2005 10:52 PM

Hoots crivvens, OJ. You're just so...shameless.

Posted by: Brit at February 8, 2005 3:56 AM

OJ:

What all observations in the field strongly suggest is that changes in life over time are due solely to naturalistic influences, and that continental drift has been a major component of those naturalistic influences.

The divergence of lice strains is not illusory, it is in their DNA. So that isn't a telling blow.

And the sentence following is also wrong for the same reason--allele frequencies changed over time in humans and, given sufficient time and isolation, would have ultimately resulted in separate species.

But the main takeaway from observations in this thread and others is that you aren't capable of an honest discussion on this topic. Your willful denial of the plain text in your own citation is clear demonstration.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 7:28 AM

Jeff:

"would have ultimately resulted in separate species." is a statement of faith, not of science. The ability of lice and humans to keep breeding long after they diverged and their DNA began to demonstrates just how resistant species is to nature. Natural Selection can not withstand observation. The faithful just choose not to observe.

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 7:50 AM

OJ:

It is a statement that what has happened in the past will continue to happen in the future. It is no more a statement of faith than observing that the planets will still be orbiting the sun tomorrow, or a million years from now.

Given enough time and enough isolation, life diverges because that is what all recursive systems do, and they do it without any deus ex machina.

Hence naturalistic allopatric evolution proving continental drift.

I would have thought you would apologize for your erroneous assertion by now, BTW.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 11:46 AM

Jeff:

Yet no amount of divergence leads to speciation. Thus it is mere faith.

What assertion has offended your delicate sensibilities now?

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 11:55 AM

OJ:

On what do you base your assertion that human lice breed with other lice?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 12:39 PM

Jeff:

Oh, great. You are perfectly willing to take this guy's word for it when he says homo sapiens may have got it on with homo erectus (yuck!), but we are supposed to assume their lice were more discriminating until we have laboratory proof otherwise?

Posted by: Peter B at February 8, 2005 1:23 PM

Peter:

Given OJ's record of baseless assertions, deliberate obfuscation and the entire barnyard of deliberate logical fallacies, is it out of bounds to wonder whether he is just making it up?

Heck--OJ contradicted himself with the article he cited.

So, absent some substantiating evidence from OJ, I am going to put more credence in an article that also notes human lice are so specialized, they can't survive more than a few hours away from the human body.

The conversation has drifted from what I think is the pivotal point:

The fundamental question is whether Natural History can be accounted for by self contained explanations. If life, being a recursive system exhibiting variation, does not develop self organized complexity over time, then it breaks the law of recursive systems.

Ignoring the details of Evolutionary Theory for a moment, I can't think of any characteristic of life on earth that would cause recursion to break down. Can you?

If you can't, then you must acknowledge that, regardless of implementation details, it is possible life as we know it is the result materialistic, random, non-teleological processes.

In your other post today on evolution, the article quoted several people for whom the notion of naturalistic, non-teleological, evolution is a priori wrong.

Ignoring the details of precisely how evolution occurred (I, for one, am perfectly willing to admit Darwin overegged pure selection. But he preceded the first notions of continental drift by 50 years, and allopatric evolution seems both naturalistic and abundantly well documented), in order for that a priori case to hold, then the point to be proven is that the Law of Recursive systems does not hold for life.

Despite holding for every other known recursive system, and despite life having no known barriers to self generated complexity.

One thing is certain: the theological axe grinders are dead set against any alternate explanation.

That is wonderful, but rational inquiry it is not.


Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 2:03 PM

Jeff:

It's no big deal to get what Darwinists call different "species" of lice to breed:

http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6370

Recursion breaks down precisely because it never produces species.

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 2:53 PM

OJ:

Do you even read what you cite?

I was clearly talking about human lice with respect to lice afflicting other animals.

By contradicting my statement, you were in effect asserting that human lice bleed with those of other animals.

However, the article you cited discusses only human head and body lice interbreeding, and says nothing about breeding with other animals.

So, are you sloppy, or engaging in deliberate obfuscation?

Either way, the biggest barrier to alternate theories of natural history is that their adherents routinely resort to such nonsense.

And your last statement is just a laughable example of taking as true what you haven't yet come close to demonstrating.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 3:31 PM

Jeff:

Get one from a homo erectus and one from a homo sapiens sapiens and they'll breed just as the Galapagos finches easily crossbreed just as all the various ethnicities of humans breed without much trouble. Differentiation doesn't lead to speciation. We've yet to find the mechanoism that cauises speciation but it seems most likely to come from without the biosystem.

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 3:37 PM

OJ:

Get one from a home erectus?

How about you just stop the nonsense.

You clearly portrayed as fact something which is not.

Which makes at least two howlers in one discussion.

Or as Brit said:

It's a deliberate lie. A whopper. An untruth. A naughty, naughty fib.

It doesn't speak well of your viewpoint that the panoply of evasions is required in its service.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 5:55 PM

Jeff:

Are you doing your Richard Dawkins imitation again?

Posted by: Peter B at February 8, 2005 6:36 PM

Peter:

do you have any idea what blasphemy I comitted this time? Jeff seems to wrought to tell me.

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 7:54 PM

Peter:

You are a lawyer, read the evidence.

Does OJ reach the level of intellectual integrity you would be proud to call your own?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 8, 2005 8:47 PM

Jeff:

What sin are you referring to?

Brit was upset that I called what Mayr says is not a physical science a social science, though I did not think that pejorative. I'm willing to settle on Mayr's term for it: historical narrative.

Posted by: oj at February 8, 2005 8:56 PM

Oh deeply, deeply upset.

It's a tricky one for you OJ. I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly) that you don't want your commentors to consist entirely of yes-men.

A ding-dong battle is enjoyed by all - but I can't see how it pays to treat smart dissenters like idiots. Tends to have an effect opposite effect to the one desired.

Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 4:47 AM

Orrin:

Beats me. Maybe we should cool it with the lice jokes.

Brit/Jeff:

Consider the following proposition: "The decline of the Roman Empire was caused by inflation and profligate fisal policy." To buttress this argument, I have found endless records (and am finding more every day) showing rampant price increases, more and more bankruptcies, tax sales, Senate debates revealing carefree spending and punitive taxation, revolts in the street over skyrocketing bread and wine prices, a debased coinage and a constant outflow of capital to faraway parts. Military mutinies over worthless script became more and more common, etc, etc, etc. The document record is so rich that I can't believe anyone would contradict me.

Now, is my original proposition economics or history? Is the person who says: "No, all that was just a consequential effect. It was caused by a general moral and religious decline and a steady decrease in notions of civic responsibility and duty." to be scorned for ignoring all that great evidence? Should we go to court to keep that thinking out of economics classes?

Posted by: Peter B at February 9, 2005 6:34 AM

And I swear I will smash the screen if Jeff's response even mentions "recursive systems."

Posted by: Peter B at February 9, 2005 6:36 AM

Peter:

I confess I don't understand the point of the analogy.

Is it:

1) darwinism is not a science because it deals with things that happened in the past
2) the mechanisms noted by darwinism are not necessarily the only things that could explain evolution
3) 'there are more things in heaven and earth...' etc
4) science and faith are equally valid, or, statements of faith should be considered in the science class?

Or none of the above? If you can clarify I promise I'll attempt to answer it.

Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 7:44 AM

OJ:

To me, it is an intellectual integrity issue.

If I asserted that evolution was the first proof of continental drift. You say no. Cited article clearly says evolution. Now one would think at least some acknowledgment of the mistake would be in order, if mistake it was.

Similarly, I assert that human lice have evolved along with humans, to the point where they no longer breed with lice from other primates. You says they interbreed freely, (by direct implication with other primates), and cite that as proof positive materialistic evolution is false. Unfortunately, the cited article says human lice interbreed freely with human lice.

Now one would think at least some acknowledgment of the mistake would be in order, if mistake it was.

Similarly, in discussing whether the Theory of Evolution constitutes a scientific endeavor, You treated us to the most shamelessly dishonest discussion I have ever seen.

Which, given the quality of your writing elsewhere (including a very impressive recent article on Tech Central Station) is singularly puzzling. Presuming you wish to convince those of us who disagree, promoting your point of view with transparent chicanery leads to the impression that there is nothing else for you to use.

Peter:

If there was similar quality and quantity of evidence to support the alternate explanation, then clearly that should be included.

Unfortunately, Intelligent Design is a God-of-the-Gaps argument--it lives only where there is no evidence (or, more to the point, evidence it simply ignores.)

Using your hypothetical again. Lets say someone wants to teach as history the general moral and religious decline, but cannot define what is moral or religion, and says the proof is precisely where there is nothing.

That is akin to what ID wants to do. Neither Intelligence nor Design is defined, and the proof of these undefined quantities lies in appeals to incredulity.

What's worse, unlike your hypothetical, once ID is accepted as the answer, then it prohibits all further inquiry into the question.

And finally, I bring up recursion because it is the law that supposedly is absent from the Theory of Evolution. My argument is a strong syllogism requiring demonstrating how some specific characteristic(s) of Natural History render recursion inoperative.

Fundamentally, regardless of details, opponents of the ToE base their opposition solely on dialectical grounds--they are completely opposed to any naturalistic explanation, full stop.

So it is more than just the mechanistic details we are talking about (I agree with OJ that simplistic Natural Selection is insufficient explanation).

The syllogistic argument states that, whatever the details, Natural History is completely naturalistic.

The theological argument simply states that must not be, yet is unable to come to grips with the syllogism.

Besides, you really wanted a new, bigger, LCD monitor. I know that, and am enabling you.:)

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 8:03 AM

Jeff:

It was not evolution but the absencve of evolution that suggested continental drift. had speciation occurred it would not have been so easy to see that the contionents had been joined. it's a fairly basic point you're not grasping.

Lice which Darwinists claim have speciated turn out not to have, just as Darwin's finches hadn't. I don't know if anyone's ever bred lice from other primates with human ones but it would be unsurprising if they too can breed.

Here's something to consider: if you think I'm, in tellectually honest everywhere else but in regard to discussing your faith, perhaps the fault lies in your reading, not my writing. No one can be truly open-minded about their own faith, that's the nature of faith. There's no reason you'd be unique.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 8:16 AM

Brit:

Not idiots, just fanatics and fools.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 8:19 AM

If Jeff and I are fanatics, we're pretty feeble ones. Our own humble blogs are devoid of darwinist rants, and I hardly ever think about allopatric speciation before breakfast.

Given the amount of time I've wasted sparring with you I can hardly disagree with the 'fool' bit, but it's been terrific fun.

Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 8:28 AM

Brit:

Mainly 2.

Jeff:

"If there was similar quality and quantity of evidence to support the alternate explanation, then clearly that should be included."

I see, so we need to find fossils with angel dust on them to satisfy you.

That is absurd. I could amass realms of evidence to support astrology. Plenty of smart people in the Far East think they have it. The problem isn't lack of evidence, the problem is in the underlying theory of what determines human character and whether the future is determined by planetary influence. If you believe they do, you will find oodles of evidence to back you.

If the opening proposition that life in all its infinite complexity could have evolved from completely natural forces without design or direction is a scientific proposition, how can you say the proposition that it couldn't have isn't?

You are just being tautological when you say: a)only scientific (physically observable and measurable) evidence is acceptable to describe or reveal reality and b)scientific evidence by definition excludes the non-natural, or even the theoretical possibility of the non-natural and therefore c)non-natural propositions cannot be be used to describe or reveal life.

What you seem to be saying is that your theory must be accepted no matter how much or how little evidence exists at any one time or how many gaps, implausibilities or illogical "just so" stories abound because your theory defines reality (in a limiting way) and guarantees its that its premises will be self-fulfilling. If you run into roadblocks, you just change the components of theory, but you have protected yourself completely from all fundamental challenges. That may accord with your definition of science, but it is hardly worthy of a seeker of truth. Your definition of science is becoming more and more constricted and further and further from "knowledge", its original meaning.

Posted by: Peter B at February 9, 2005 9:16 AM

Peter:

One of the things that makes it a religion is that its adherents demand that it be disproved rather than offering proof of it themselves.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 9:31 AM

Brit:

Yes, the nature of fanaticism is to accept something without thinking about it.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 9:32 AM

Jeff:

You're aware that the syllogistic nature of the Natural Selection argument is not a point in its favor?

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 9:38 AM

OJ:

This is classic nonsense:

It was not evolution but the absencve of evolution that suggested continental drift. had speciation occurred it would not have been so easy to see that the contionents had been joined. it's a fairly basic point you're not grasping.

The fossils on both sides of the shared coastlines were identical at any given strata, until a certain point, then they diverged.

The fossils were not identical across the strata, so there was evolution over time.

And following the continental separation, allopatric evolution guaranteed ongoing evolution would be different between the two landmasses.

It is the inception of that difference that absolutely proved, and dated, the separation of the two continents.

Surely, you know this.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 11:29 AM

Jeff:

The similarity of "species" on different continents suggested that life might arise in roughly the same forms anywhere. A possibility that's still not ruled out.

Continental drift was proved by measuring the drift.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 11:47 AM

Peter:

We seem to be at the crux of the issue.

What is a 'darwinist'? Is he somebody who swallows whole all the works of Charles Darwin, as if The Origin of the Species was Holy Scripture?

No, he isnt. Otherwise the science yes, I call it a science of evolution would never have changed and developed and improved as it has.

Darwinism, also known as Modern Synthesis, also known as the Theory of Evolution refers to a raft of scientific concepts yes, concepts, as Orrin says and processes, only some of which even came from Charles Darwin.

A darwinist is somebody who accepts that some or all of these concepts and processes to greater or lesser degrees are the best available explanations , according to the best of our current knowledge, of how evolution has happened.

Now, why do darwinists accept these concepts but not, for example, Intelligent Design? Is it because theyre close-minded? Yes and no.

The concepts that are allowed in must be testable, observable, sufficient and necessary to explain an observation or a gap in the theory, and be backed by evidence. If they are not any of these things, they wont be allowed in. In this sense, scientists are close-minded.

But in another sense, scientists are extremely open-minded. Literally anything is allowed in if it meets these criteria. All sorts of weird stuff has been let in. I think genetic drift is basically weird. But it meets all the criteria.

If overwhelming evidence of a Designer were found, wed have to accept it. And even the things that are allowed in are subject to revision, and their relative importance is revised all the time.

Now, if you dont work to the same criteria, and value Faith as highly as these criteria, thats fine. But were never ever going to agree, and theres little point arguing. I base and revise my beliefs according the scientific criteria, you dont. And probably, never the twain shall meet.

But thats my answer to the economics analogy.

Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 11:52 AM

And just in case you're interested, here's a bit of something I wrote for something else, which attempts to summarise as succinctly and plainly as possible, what those concepts are which form 'modern synthesis' or 'darwinism':

First, evolutionary biologists think of species not as Platonic types, but as populations of unique individuals. (This is just one of the basic things that OJ fails to engage when he attacks the darwinist explanation of speciation - theyre still lice etc - despite claiming to have read Mayr, who explains population thinking very clearly.)

Within populations you have genetic variation (ie. not all members of a population are identical). This happens because of chance mistakes in the DNA copying process (mutation) and because the combination of genes in an organisms offspring is different to the original combination in the parent (recombination). Both of these phenomena have been observed, tested and are uncontroversial scientific facts. But they dont explain evolution on their own.

So, how does evolution happen?

Evolution, according to darwinists, consists essentially in changes in the 'allele frequency' (dont switch off Ill explain it) in a population between one generation and the next.

Allele frequency refers to the amount of diversity (richness) in a populations gene pool.

(Basically, an allele is any variant of a gene which occupies the same position on a chromosome, eg. a single gene might control the colour of a flowers petals, but there might be variants (alleles) of the gene, resulting in different colours. The allele frequency is the percentage of chromosomes within a population that carry that particular allele in that position on the chromosome. So, for example, if one in five flowers within a population carry an allele for red petals, then the frequency of that allele is 20%.)

So how does allele frequency change between generations, according to Darwinists?

Basically, three things that we know of (concepts, principles, phenomena, observations whatever you want to call them) affect allele frequency:

1) natural selection (the process by which some characteristics are more consistent with survival and reproduction than others in the environment)

2) genetic drift (the sampling effect on a population of the fact that allele frequencies in a population vary randomly from generation to generation. So if the frequency of an allele is 20%, then although probability dictates that one in five individuals in the next generation will have it, that is only a probability, so you can have fluctuations. These are unnoticeable in large populations but could be very important in small ones)

3) gene flow (the transfer of genes between one population and another, usually through migration and immigration)

There is some debate about the relative importance of these three causes of allele frequency changes in the history of evolution, but natural selection is generally accepted to be the primary factor.

So those are the factors which darwinists think cause changes in populations from generation to generation (evolution.) You get new species (speciation) when groups within a population become reproductively isolated, usually because of geographic changes.

Gradually the allele frequencies within each new population changes from generation to generation until theyre different enough that we can call them different species (the usual test being that they cant breed with each other).


Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 11:59 AM

OJ:

Yes, I am aware of that.

However, if you can't find a flaw in the syllogism argument, then you are well and truly at sea.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 12:02 PM

Brit:

Mayr merely proposes that species can be differentiated by their not breeding, but fails to reckon, as you do, with the fact that what he calls different species could breed. All of the divergence you sight never produces genuine speciation. No Laplander has ever bred with an Aborigine, yet they are the same species.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 12:37 PM

Jeff:

There are no flaws in syllogisms--like Darwinism, I.D. and Creationism--that's what makes them bogus. Baseless assertion plus baseless assertion = conclusion.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 12:40 PM

"No Laplander has ever bred with an Aborigine, yet they are the same species".

First, how do you know?

Second, the point is not whether they have, but whether they can. That's clear enough.

Posted by: Brit at February 9, 2005 1:00 PM

Brit:

No, it's not clear at all:

"You get new species (speciation) when groups within a population become reproductively isolated, usually because of geographic changes."

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 1:15 PM

Brit:

"The concepts that are allowed in must be testable, observable, sufficient and necessary to explain an observation or a gap in the theory, and be backed by evidence."

How can a "gap" be observable, testable or backed by evidence? I think you're cooking the books there.

(Thank-you for your time. I do, in fact, understand the objections to calling ID a science, in some ways even perhaps more than creationism. But, whether you think it is nonsense or not, it should have a place in debate on the philosophy of science. Trying to foreclose that debate seems to me to be the not-so-subtle political agenda of far too many scientists. What would you say to someone who said arguments against the existence of God have no place in a religion or theology course or that natural healing should never be taught in medical school?)

Posted by: Peter B at February 9, 2005 1:38 PM

OJ:

You are right there are no flaws in correct syllogisms. However, you continually insist there are in this one. Therefore, it should be an easy exercise to point out specifically what it is about the recursive system that is Natural History that prevents it acting like all other recursive systems.

Or, alternately, you can point out the characteristic that excludes Natural History from the syllogism in the first place.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 1:56 PM

OJ:

The similarity of "species" on different continents suggested that life might arise in roughly the same forms anywhere. A possibility that's still not ruled out.

Continental drift was proved by measuring the drift.

Is wholly wrong. It is the dissimilarity of species starting at a specific strata that clinched the argument. Before that strata, at any given strata, the species were the same on both sides. Following, they became increasingly different. Before, dinosaur species were the same on both sides. After, they became increasingly different.

This result follows every geologic action that has isolated breeding populations.

That is how the fact of continental drift was proved. Measurements decades later demonstrated it is an ongoing process.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 2:02 PM

Peter:

You have highlighted the fundamental problem with ID.

All ID has is gaps. Further, it fundamentally relies on the existence of some form of complexity that could not have come into existence except all at once, with the odds of even one such occurrence being essentially zero.

Unfortunately, there are many cases where that argument has been used, and subsequent discoveries have shown the fallacy. At one time, ID was "proven" because there is no way a wing could evolve from a feather. (One of OJ's book reviews repeats this canard, BTW) True as far as it goes, but it was a "gap" argument that collapsed the moment fossils demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that feathers evolved from scales, and preceded wings.

Existing ID arguments pursue exactly the same line of reasoning, only this time at the cellular level. Unfortunately, though, some examples they have picked have turned out to be co-options of other, simpler, pre-existing structures.

The question one must ask, then, is how many gaps arguments have to turn out fallacious before considering the whole enterprise inadequate.

This is in contrast with the modern synthesis Theory of Evolution. Unlike ID, the ToE has stringent deductive requirements; some of which are also gaps. However, in every case where a previous gap has been illuminated, the resulting observations confirmed, rather than contradicted, the ToE.

I don't think any of this is foreclosing the debate. If, in fact, there is a factual basis for ID, then the material consequences of that basis will be there for the discovering. When that happens--and it most assuredly has not happened yet--then it will qualify as a competing, and possibly triumphant, explanatory ToE.

I have more--but no time at the moment. Part of the reason I post so much on this topic is that I find it interesting in ways far beyond the factual basis of Evolutionary Theory.

The other part is the continual challenge of holding OJ to anything like rigorous rhetorical standards.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 3:18 PM

Jeff:

Of course there is a factual basis for ID. It's the same factual basis as for natural evolution. One says it happened this way, the other says that way. You may well be right that one is right and the other wrong, but that doesn't mean the other isn't factually based. My goodness, natural evolution has had to make torturous revisions and sharp right turns in response to new facts many times. Does that mean the previous theory wasn't factually based? Are you telling me all scientific facts are not to be trusted because the underlying theory may prove wrong. OK.

Posted by: Peter B at February 9, 2005 4:46 PM

jeff:

No. The theory was widely disbelieved until measured.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 6:26 PM

Jeff:

The I.D. gaps are identical to the Darwinian gaps. Neither has been demonstrated--they just propose a hypothetical mechanism for crossing the gaps that fits existing evidence. You may as well substitute fairies for Natural Selection and Intelligent Design.

No mathematicfian or other rational critic thinks Darwinism can produce the complexity you refer to in the time allotted.

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 6:29 PM

Peter:

That simply isn't true.

Most science is hypothetico-deductive. That is, the hypotheses has attendant deductions that must be consistent with known observations; it may also have deductions that must be consistent with as yet unknown phenomena. (For a fuller discussion, and a jaw-dropping display of obfuscation with intent, see the thread I cited above)

Without a great deal of effort, I can name a half dozen deductive consequences of the ToE. Should any of them prove untrue, ToE either folds completely, or requirese significant modification.

This is the starkest contrast with ID. Neither you, OJ, nor anyone else can identify even one deductive consequence of ID.

No deductive consequences, no criteria against which to judge ID.

No criteria, no science.

So I'm not telling you all scientific facts are not to be trusted.

But I am telling you there is a glaring difference between the ToE and ID--deductive consequences.


OJ:

There you go with obfuscation again. I never mentioned belief, I said proof. The two are different, or hadn't you heard?

Do you wish to contest my assertion that the fossil evidence did not prove that Africa and South America had at one time been joined?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 9, 2005 9:45 PM

Yes. The fossil evidence does not prove that the two were ever joined. Ineeed, biology neither provoked nor proved the theory of plate tectonics and continental drift:

http://earthref.org/cgi-bin/er.cgi?s=erda.cgi?n=288

Posted by: oj at February 9, 2005 11:39 PM

You want to be careful using Zimmer. His book 'Parasite Rex' had some whoppers in it.

However, the existence of any sort of parasite does rather put a crimp in creationism, doesn't it?

Orrin is being cute about plate tectonics.

The evidence from biogeography (living) and paleogeography (extinct) was abundant and was agreed by everyone to present some serious kind of problem.

Either the continents had moved relatively, or biogeography, a major support of darwinism, was very different from what it was thought to be.

The difficulty was not evidence but mechanism. No one denied there was a set of facts in search of a theory to explain them.

A theory was at hand (darwinism), but it seemed impossible. Natural selection could not make continents move.

Around 1962, a mechanism was found to move the continents. Biogeography, as deduced on darwinian principles, was reinforced.

Another prediction of darwinism triumphantly proven!

When that happens thousands and thousands of times, you begin to suspect something's going on.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at February 10, 2005 12:47 AM

Harry:

Cartographers had recognized the continents fit together long before there was Darwinism. Geology and measurements confirmed plate tectonics and continental drift. Biology was never a significant factor.

What's wrong with parasites?

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2005 12:55 AM

Jeff:

Careful, now. You've been howling at Orrin about intellectual integrity, but you're skating on thin ice here. I said facts, not deductive consequences. You are quite right that I can't make any deductive consequences from ID, but that may have more to say about me than ID. You aren't going to trap me into shilling for ID, so stop trying. But a fact is a fact and a theory(or deductive consequence)is something else entirely, a difference evolutionary biologists seem determined to fudge and hide from the kids. Funny that physicists, astronomers, chemists, etc. seem to have no such hang-ups.

Posted by: Peter B at February 10, 2005 6:06 AM

Peter:

Perhaps I was too elliptical. Your post appeared (to me)to make the point there is no difference within the context of scientific theory, there is no difference betweeen ID and Evolution.

The reason I brought up deductive consequences in this respect is that while both ID and the ToE have gaps, becuase of deductive consequences, the ToE must be consistent with any new information, or face some form of revision that might include total collapse.

On the other hand, because there are no deductive consequences, for ID, no possible combination of new information can have any effect on ID whatsoever.

Evolutionary biologists are no different from any other scientific discipline in distinguishing facts from theory, or paying attention to deductive consequences thereof.

I just finished reading a paleontology book. It was no different from a book I read on cosmology recently in how it considered various explanations for certain phenomena, and how those explanations fared with respect to observations and deductive consequences.

That is why the ToE is science, and ID is not.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 7:10 AM

Peter:

Perhaps I was too elliptical. Your post appeared (to me)to make the point there is no difference within the context of scientific theory, there is no difference betweeen ID and Evolution.

The reason I brought up deductive consequences in this respect is that while both ID and the ToE have gaps, becuase of deductive consequences, the ToE must be consistent with any new information, or face some form of revision that might include total collapse.

On the other hand, because there are no deductive consequences, for ID, no possible combination of new information can have any effect on ID whatsoever.

Evolutionary biologists are no different from any other scientific discipline in distinguishing facts from theory, or paying attention to deductive consequences thereof.

I just finished reading a paleontology book. It was no different from a book I read on cosmology recently in how it considered various explanations for certain phenomena, and how those explanations fared with respect to observations and deductive consequences.

That is why the ToE is science, and ID is not.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 7:11 AM

Peter:

Sorry, that first sentence was supposed to read "...to make the point that within the context ..."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 7:14 AM

OJ:

You really must read your cites.

From pages 4 & 5:

"[Fossil] similarities had been recognized since the [mid-1800s], but they had been made newly problematic by Darwin's theory of evolution. If plants and animals had evolved independently in different places ... then why did they look so similar? Suess explained this conundrum to ... an ancient supercontinent called Gondwanaland."

This was in the late 1800s.

Harry's characterization is identical to what the cite says--either evolution was wrong, or the continents had once been joined, then moved.

Something had to give. It was the continents.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 7:29 AM

Jeff:

Yes, if you'll read that you'll notice the question is why is life so similar everywhere. Continentalization didn't lead to much differentiation. Darwinism didn't happen.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2005 9:29 AM

OJ:

You need to read more, and obscure less.

Up until a certain point, dinosaur fossils were identical on both sides of the coincident African/South American coastlines.

After that point, there were an increasing number of dinosaur species found on one side, but not the other.

If I remember correctly, a book from the Scientific American library "Fossils" lays out the case very clearly.

And if you will read:

"[Fossil] similarities had been recognized since the [mid-1800s], but they had been made newly problematic by Darwin's theory of evolution."

is the author's judgment, not mine.

But regardless of your syntactical distortions, this points out why the Theory of Evolution is science, and ID is not.

The observation forced, because of competing deductive consequences, reconsidering either the ToE or extant geological theories.

On this, as with everything else, ID is completely mute.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 11:40 AM

"If plants and animals had evolved independently in different places ... then why did they look so similar?"


Because they haven't differentiated despite continentalization.

We would expect them to be similar if designed, not if selected, and they are.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2005 11:46 AM

OJ:

Similar is not identical, which by definition means differentiation.

And of course you have resolutely ignored the localized differentiation following continental breakup.

Before, there are no species types not found on both sides.

After, there are many found on one, or the other, but not both.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 3:18 PM

Humans, dogs, horses, cows...you can't even count how many are found on all. Of course the rise of everything from just one location suggests the wisdom of the Garden of Eden myth.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2005 3:21 PM

"Humans, dogs, horses, cows..."

Some of those are not even species.

Posted by: creeper at February 10, 2005 5:58 PM

Or were not found on all continents.

Posted by: creeper at February 10, 2005 5:59 PM

"Of course the rise of everything from just one location suggests the wisdom of the Garden of Eden myth."

Or Pangaea.

Posted by: creeper at February 10, 2005 6:01 PM

Creeper:

Appalling, isn't it?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 10, 2005 10:01 PM

Jeff,

"Appalling, isn't it?"

Have a look at this one:
http://www.brothersjudd.com/blog/archives/020321.html

Posted by: creeper at February 11, 2005 3:07 AM

Creeper:

It is funny how this subject makes some people completely abandon rational discourse.

In this thread alone we find that lice "breed freely," even though they don't. And that the Theory of Evolution had nothing to do with confirming Continental Drift, even though it forced the contradiction with existing geological theories.

Finally, related to the discussion you pointed to, ID is a science, even though no discovery can have any impact on it whatsoever. And Evolutionary Theory is a religion, despite having to stand up--and change in response--to every observation within its problem space.

There is a word for these sorts of distortions when communists do it: propaganda.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 11, 2005 6:08 AM

creeper:

They can all breed.

Which race do you believe not human?

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2005 8:17 AM

Jeff:

Darwinism hasn't responded to any of the problems with it nor even blinked as each cited instance of Natural Selection turned out to be a hoax. It is identical to I.D. and Creationism.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2005 9:06 AM

Orrin,

"Which race do you believe not human?"

I'm not entirely sure what you're referring to here? Something I said? If so, what?

Posted by: creeper at February 11, 2005 11:44 AM

Orrin,

"They can all breed."

Is that the definition of species, or the definition of being found on all continents? That it can breed?

Posted by: creeper at February 11, 2005 11:48 AM

OJ:

The only way you can reach that conclusion is by twisting every relevant concept well beyond recognition.

You have done often before as well as here, but rarely so obviously.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 11, 2005 11:49 AM

Orrin,

"Darwinism hasn't responded to any of the problems with it"

If that were the case, there would be no modern synthesis.

There is, however, a modern synthesis.

"It is identical to I.D. and Creationism."

In what way are I.D. and Creationism falsifiable?

Posted by: creeper at February 11, 2005 11:56 AM

In what way are I.D. and Creationism falsifiable?

They aren't--that's what makes them identical to Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2005 1:56 PM

Creeper:

I'm sure you notice that empty slanging backed up by misdirection and deceit strongly indicate his argument is built on quicksand.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 11, 2005 7:30 PM

Jeff:

You guys chose the turf.

Posted by: oj at February 11, 2005 7:50 PM

"You guys chose the turf."

I'm pretty sure it was you that picked the subject. You even have a little category for it on your blog.

Posted by: creeper at February 12, 2005 4:26 AM

Creeper:

There you go again, clouding the issue with facts.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at February 12, 2005 6:44 AM

I apologize profusely.

It shall happen again.

Posted by: creeper at February 12, 2005 1:18 PM

creeper:

The turf is Darwinism--it is quicksand because entirely circular.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2005 1:52 PM

Orrin,

I know Creationism, and especially your brand of it, is extremely circular.

And it is very much a turf that you choose.

Posted by: creeper at February 12, 2005 4:00 PM

creeper:

That's exactly my point. There's no difference between the two. They're both religious.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2005 5:37 PM
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