Micro vs. Macro

Discussion in 'Creation vs. Evolution' started by Administrator2, Jan 20, 2002.

  1. Administrator2

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    [Administrator: The following thread goes off track rather quickly, but the exchange that continues is interesting and was left in for that reason.]

    DAVEW
    In [a pevious thread], garpier asked about observed instances of macroevolution through mutation. IMO, garpier really didn't get sufficient answers before the thread was closed.

    The short answer, AFAIK, is no, macroevolution as garpier defined it (e.g. if bacteria become a different kind of bacteria, that's microevolution, not macro), has never been observed, mutation or no mutation. But to the best of my knowledge, no evolution, micro or macro, has ever been observed without mutation taking place.

    There are two positions on evolution:

    On the one hand, scientists believe that more-or-less gradual evolution on a small scale eventually adds up to substantial enough changes that we define (arbitrarily) as "macroevolution." Their explanation for why this has never been observed is that even when it works really fast (as it probably sometimes does), it still takes many thousands of years for something to emerge that is so different from its ancestors that we give it a significantly different name (e.g genus, family, etc.). In other words, the reason macroevolution has never been observed is that there have never been people around to observe and record it.

    On the other hand, young-earth creationists believe that there were a few thousand created "kinds" (e.g. cats are considered common descendants from a single "kind"), and that the only evolution that has taken place has been microevolution within those "kinds" (although a process that produces lions, lynxes and leopards seems pretty "macro" to me).

    Creationists further believe that all of this microevolution has taken place during the time that humans have lived on the planet. This raises the obvious question of why our historical writings show no record of any such microevolution going on, given that in this paradigm there were people around to observe it. This seems strange. I mean, if Noah and family got off the ark with a pair (or maybe 7 pairs) of cats, and a few generations later there are all kinds of different cats, from small, spotted lynxes to large, unspotted lions, somebody might have remarked upon it.


    JOHN PAUL
    On the one hand, scientists believe that more-or-less gradual evolution on a small scale eventually adds up to substantial enough changes that we define (arbitrarily) as "macroevolution." … it still takes many thousands of years for something to emerge that is so different from its ancestors that we give it a significantly different name…

    This still confuses me. Why would it be time and not generations that would be needed to observe micro or macro? Why is that organisms that reproduce very quickly (bacteria and viruses come to mind) never appear to change their basic type even after many millions of generations but other organisms are said to evolve into a different type of organism in well less than a million generations?


    This seems strange… somebody might have remarked upon it.

    First question would be- did the people observe it? Next question would be- how would they know what they were observing (if they observed it) was of significance to write down? Were all these post-flood people scientists? It could also be the major variations took place away from human eyes.


    DAVEW
    Actually, the fast generation time for bacteria in labs is a big reason scientists use them a lot for evolutionary studies. The fact that bacteria haven't unanimously evolved into something else suggests that bacteria are really good at occupying their niches -- which they are.


    First question would be- did the people observe it? … It could also be the major variations took place away from human eyes.

    I didn't mean to suggest they would observe it happening in real time, but surely they'd notice a drastic increase in diversity of animals. They may not have been scientists, but they relied on a knowledge of animals for survival (knowing which animals to eat, and which animals would try to eat them).

    If your ancestors warned you about a big spotted cat, you might lump leopards and cheetas together. But when lions and tigers and saber-tooth cats started showing up, woudldn't you get the impression that your ancestors didn't know about them? And warn your offspring about the new dangers?


    DANEEL
    Part of the answer is that as organisms change they change the environment they evolve in. What I mean by this is if there were only bacteria they could change in to other forms that could compete with bacteria and over time find a new niche. Today there are not many new niches. They are mostly full of fairly well adapted species although there is always room for a better species.

    What we need is something like happened 65 million years ago that appeared to clear out the niches and allowed the mammals to fill them. Which group would it be? Maybe the big brained primates?


    ECORI
    i don't think it's very easy to categorize organisms that can reproduce asexually. speciation is not really a useful concept when dealing with bacterial evolution. for something as simple as a bacterium, it would probably be better to look for examples where the "information content of the genome" was increased, and not for instances of "macroevolution".


    GARPIER
    Would not macroevolution be essential to "prove" evolution. If there are no concrete evidences of it doesn't that pose a bit of a problem for the theory of evolution?


    RUFUSATTICUS
    According to evolutionary theory, there is no difference between microevolution and macroevolution.
    Microevolution is evolution apparent within a population, and macroevolution is evolution apparent between populations. The same natural forces are at work in both cases. Both are simply evolution. Genetic differences between populations/species are of the same type as those between individuals of the same population/species. Macroevolutionary differences have been shown to be the result of the accumulation of microevolutionary changes.

    We do not have to directly observe a macroevolutionary change to show that it did indeed happen. Such events leave behind clues. Just as forensic investigators are able to figure out a crime that has no witnesses, evolutionary biologists can figure out evolutionary relationships in extant organisms, correlate that with fossil lineages, and provide explanations for the diversity of life on earth.

    Evolutionary Theory does not make predictions like "E. coli will evolve into a human in 'N' generations." It also does not make claims that a dog must give birth to a cat for macroevolution to occur. Such an event would actually be contradictorily to current science.

    If a theory does not predict 'X' will happen in our lifetime, than the fact that 'X' has not been observed to happen in our lifetime is not a problem for the theory.

    Macroevolution has been observed by humans. For example, the mosquitoes in the London Subway system are a distinct species from the above ground population. The new species is less than 200 years old, because the subway is only about that old. This is an observed instance of speciation, and speciation is macroevolution. Thus it is an observed instance of macroevolution.

    Any questions?


    GARPIER
    You start with a mosquito and end with a mosquito. This is macroeveolution? I'm really confused now. This sounds like the same sort of thing that occurs to come up with a new breed of cat or dog or horse. But the bottom line is there is no new type of animal, just a variation on the original. I think at this pace evolution will need much more time than it has claimed!


    RUFUSATTICUS
    Except that, in this case, the underground mosquito population cannot readily breed with the above ground population. That is a clear instance of macroevolutionary change. Just look again at the definations I provided.

    According to your reasoning though, human and chimp evolution from a common ancestor is just 'microevolution.' Just as the underground mosquitos are still mosquitos, humans and chimps are still apes, primates, mammals, vertebrates, and animals. Nothing new. Just different types. Do you see your error?


    DAVID COX
    And in evolution, you start with the "DNA kind" and end with the "DNA kind". Look ma, no macro!


    GARPIER
    In the first place, I am not claiming that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor. I happen to believe that we were created by God Almighty. Secondly, I do not see an error on my part. The definitions belong to others, not me. There is no proven direct link between apes and humans. Common features do not imply a common ancestor, but rather a common Creator. Do you see your error?


    MILAN
    Well, with that kind of science-fiction reasoning we could also say that common features imply several creators acting as a team with a common plan.


    GARPIER
    You could say whatever you wanted, but if it doesn't line up with the Word of God, you'd be wrong. And that in a nutshell is the problem with TOE. I know I'll be ridiculed and branded as unscientific and unlearned, but that doesn't bother me. I know what the Bible says and I believe it on faith. Not very scientific I guess, but then the alternative of not believing the Bible is not very safe.


    DANEEL
    I don't know why you said that not believing in the bible is very safe. The fact that you believe something does not change reality. It only changes your perception. Anyway, as you have figured out the bible is not a science book. Science uses logic and evidence to determine the way things work. If it doesn't agree with what the bible says that's the way it is. We use the science to learn new things we don't say, well the bible says something else so we can't use that. Where would we be today if that was the way we did science? Does "dark ages" ring a bell?


    DAVEW
    Garpier, thank you for your honesty in admitting that your objection to evolution is religious rather than scientific. I have no objection to those who have that belief and state it honestly. However, it is no help to efforts to remove science from public schools, or to give "equal time" to religious notions based on the Bible. http://www.mesozoic.demon.co.uk/dilemma.htm

    [Administrator: in posting this link, DaveW seems to be invalidating his own argument, but we, also, thank him for his honesty in linking it. ]


    MILAN
    [...]the alternative of not believing the Bible is not very safe.

    So the alternative is between believing in fairy tales or living dangerously. I'd rather live dangerously.


    GARPIER
    Thanks to all who have responded. It is obvious that you do not believe the Bible is the infallible Word of the living God. It has been called a "Fairy tale" by one and dismissed by others. Is the Bible a science book? Obviously not. But when it speaks about science, including origins, it speaks authoritatively and honestly. It has never been proven wrong a single time. I realize that some of you think it is wrong and that it is only myths and legends. I have seen the account of Noah's flood dismissed because to some of you it doesn't make sense or you believe that what is recorded is not scientifically possible. That is your choice to make. And although I know you don't believe it now, one day you will. That isn't some sort of a threat, merely a statement based on the Bible's teaching.

    I've been asked why I would ask a question on science if I don't believe the scientific evidence. The fact is I do believe that science does support Creation. You folks think that science supports evolution. It's all a matter of which bias you are biased with. I know, I know, some of you think that from your perspective you are completely unbiased and are being very objective. I think if your honest with your self you would realize we all have some bias and it does affect the way we view things.

    I could turn the question around and ask what completely objective persons who just happen to believe in evolution are doing here in a forum that obviously doesn't believe the same things you do. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you go away, but rather understand that I ask questions so that I might better understand where you are coming from. Why do you ask questions of creationists? Are you attempting to win us over to your view point, or do you think that we are easy marks because we believe what you have decided (in a completely unbiased manner) is a bunch of myths?

    As to the remark that what I believe would only keep us in the dark ages, I think you need to examine the history of science. Most scientists starting with Galileo and continuing through the middle of the nineteenth century were men and women who believed the Bible and were considered creationists. These are the people who helped bring a end to the dark ages.

    Just because we can't answer all of your questions doesn't mean that we are in error. There are a lot of questions about TOE that you cannot answer also. And one thing that never seems to be brought out here is that while there maybe differences among creationists that you will exploit, why is it that nobody ever comments on the differences between evolutionists?

    One last thought, although I don't have all the answers (and neither do any of you) it is comforting to me to know that my God has all the answers whether you choose to believe Him or not.


    DAVID COX
    The question is, is there a way to effectively remove that bias?

    I submit that there is a way to effectively remove a considerable amount of bias.
    Take your idea, whatever it is, and submit it to a forum of people with different biases than your own. If the forum is large enough and diverse enough, then your biases will be discovered and exposed by those with different biases. The common denominator in this large, diverse population, each member with their own biases, is reason and logic.

    [Administrator: this then becomes ‘truth by majority’ and nothing else.]


    JAYCWRU
    Think about the following: Is it possible that evolution can be reconciled with a different intrepretation of the Bible? If so, tell my why your version is better. If not, tell me why not.


    GARPIER
    A literal interpretation of the BIble rules out evolution completely.

    (I feel like I've stirred up a hornets nest)

    [ January 20, 2002: Message edited by: Administrator ]
     
  2. Administrator2

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    FROGGIE
    It is obvious that you do not believe the Bible is the infallible Word of the living God.

    Yet you are neglecting to describe the majority of Christians on this earth. Of course, truth should not be decided by a popularity contest. But a lot of you on this forum are IMHO over-simplify this issue into a creation=christian versus evolution=atheist argument. Many Christians accept Biblical truth AND evolution. You may not think they are True ChristiansTM, but that is not your decision to make.


    Is the Bible a science book? Obviously not. But when it speaks about science, including origins, it speaks authoritatively and honestly. It has never been proven wrong a single time.

    So you DO think it's a science book. You are claiming that every mention of the natural universe is scientifically correct. Therefore you give the Bible more value than science texts, even though the Bible was written before most scientific advances we have today. To most scientists, this is absurd. I am hopefully going to medical school, and I sure hope that the Bible isn't going to be used as an anatomy or infectious diseases book, even though the Bible does describe some diseases and some anatomy. You may think this example is silly. I don't.
    When a religious group rejects entire scientific theories (evolution, radioactive dating, geology) which were developed by scientists who study the evidence--in favor of a book that they already admit was not meant to be a science book--this is wrong to do.


    I have seen the account of Noah's flood dismissed because to some of you it doesn't make sense or you believe that what is recorded is not scientifically possible. That is your choice to make.

    No, it is not a choice. Whatever happened in the past happened. Whether we choose to believe it or not is irrelevant.

    …every human on this earth is biased (except for me ). But the original discoveries for evolution and an old earth were made by Christians who believed in God. Where was their bias? They didn't set out to disprove the Bible (nor did Galileo) yet they disproved a literal interpretation of it anyway. And much more evidence has accumulated since Darwin's time to support evolutionary theory. Even if scientists are biased now, why did they become biased then when they all believed in God?


    Why do you ask questions of creationists? Are you attempting to win us over to your view point, or do you think that we are easy marks because we believe what you have decided (in a completely unbiased manner) is a bunch of myths?

    I do it because I care about humanity. As a biologist, I believe that many of our behaviors could eventually be understood through the context of evolution. Why are we so territorial, and willing to kill each other for land? Is it because some couple ate fruit in a garden? Perhaps. Believing the Genesis explanation for human behavior has had centuries to help us become better. Has it helped? Maybe, but I think we've reached the limit of it's usefulness.
    It's time to look for other explanations. Watch a discovery channel show about chimps sometime. The similarities will alarm you--they kill each other for territory. Sound familiar? Perhaps studying chimps, knowing that they are our closest relatives, will someday help us understand ourselves so that things like Sept 11 do not happen again.
    That is my hope, as an optimistic scientist and humanitarian. And Gary, unless you are a strict Christian Scientist (the religion), you can't tell me that human progress is wrong and prayer is the only thing we need. We need each other too.


    As to the remark that what I believe would only keep us in the dark ages, I think you need to examine the history of science. Most scientists starting with Galileo and continuing through the middle of the nineteenth century were men and women who believed the Bible and were considered creationists.

    EXACTLY! Darwin included. So why was he so misguided, as were his bible-beleiving Christian contemporaries?


    Just because we can't answer all of your questions doesn't mean that we are in error. There are a lot of questions about TOE that you cannot answer also.

    This is true. And this is why debates between science and religion are often futile. The religion-side advocate will say, "Well science doesn't know everything," and somehow this truth will become translated into, "Therefore science knows nothing and we should just throw it out." Scientists know what the holes in the research are better than even you do, Gary. But they are trying. Every time they give a seminar, or publish a paper, they are inviting criticism and questions. When was the last time you went to church and the pastor had a Q&A session right after his sermon?

    Back to TOE vs YEC. Of course both theories have holes and gaps. But why does TOE provide much better and more predictable explanations than YEC?


    …why is it that nobody ever comments on the differences between evolutionists?

    Oh but they do. Read any scientific journal. There is controversy all over the place. Like I said earlier, scientists are well aware of the current limitations of scientific explanations. You know that this means--job security!


    One last thought, although I don't have all the answers (and neither do any of you) it is comforting to me to know that my God has all the answers whether you coose to believe Him or not.

    So we should believe just because it is comforting? Science doesn't work that way. It may be painful to know the truth, but I believe that it is nearly always better to know than to be ignorant. Like I said earlier, I want to become a doctor. I will unfortunately have to tell patients things that they don't want to hear. Yes it would be comforting if I told all of them, "No, this drug has no bad side effects," or "No, this disease I just diagnosed you with won't hurt a bit--ever!!!" But they would be lies and it would (I believe) hurt them in the long run.

    I'm not trying to take God away from anybody. I don't think that is 1) possible and 2) a good thing for humanity. But what I do want to impress upon people is that they don't have to be afraid of scientific truths. In fact, they should be more afraid of not knowing and understanding them. How would you like to be falsely accused of a crime, Gary, but DNA evidence, when interpreted correctly, will exonerate you? Do you want the jury to be knowledgeable in science? Or do you want them to just have 'faith' in the better sounding lawyer?


    HRG/ALTER EGO
    Common features do not imply a common ancestor, but rather a common Creator. Do you see your error?

    The common creator that used quite different structures for the wings of birds, bats, pterosaurs and insect ? The common creator that equipped bats with sonar and moth with anti-sonar devices ? Come on.

    A creator could have created anything: mammals with bird-type wings etc. Common descent, however, predicts a certain pattern of all properties of life forms: a nested hierarchy. And that's exactly what we observe in nature.

    That's why our observations are evidence for common descent, and not for (although not against either) a common creator. The strength of an explanation depends on the things it cannot explain: its falsifiability. "Goddidit" is not falsifiable and thus explains very little.


    MILAN
    1. I have been teaching life sciences to undergraduate and graduate students for about 20 years. I love teaching, I like to make students think critically about different issues using the evidence available. That is what science is: deriving conclusions without preconceptions, using our reason and the empirical evidence.

    As somebody who has had the fortune to receive a scientific education I feel an obligation to share it with others. It is my vocation, I can't help it. Many people in these fora sometimes say that this may be a waste of time. But I can't help it. I like to encourage people to think critically. I believe that any society would be better off if superstitions and prejudices would be eliminated and reason prevailed.

    This is not only about fundamentalist mythologies. There is also a whole industry out there promoting all sorts of alternative health techniques, new age BS, the power of pyramids, crystal powers, UFOs, and a whole publishing industry selling thousands of books about those things. I believe that people with a scientific education should contribute to make the public think critically about these issues.

    And particularly regarding creationism, this is a certain danger -if only in the USA- because some creationist groups have gathered enough political clout to influence the decision of the boards of education in some states.
    Therefore, it has become a matter of some importance, and it is the duty of scientists to resist this detrimental influence, if we don’t want mythology to be taught as science in schools.
    I'm pretty sure that many of the contributors to this forum, that accept evolution, share the above views.


    2. I was born and grew up in a society (in South America) where fundamentalism , and therefore creationism was less than a rarity.

    I still remember the first time that a couple of Jehovah Witnesses knocked on my door and started talking to me about Genesis (I was over 20 years old). "But this is an allegory", I said, expecting they would say "of course". To my surprise they told me that the events in Genesis were historical, as historical as WWII. I was astonished. I had no idea that anybody took the Bible as a historical document (I must emphasize that all my primary and secondary education was at a Catholic school, and many in my family are Catholic).

    Creationism is essentially a USAmerican epiphenomenon (and let's hope it stays that way). Not living in the USA, my contact with creationists is essentially zero. Therefore these fora allow me to put to work the teaching drive I mentioned in part 1 of my response to a number of people that I don’t meet personally.

    In the end that is what fora are about. It's not extremely interesting to have discussions with people we agree with. Here in England creationism is a non-issue -I don't know anybody who holds that kind of belief. Therefore this forum expands the horizon of beliefs I can interact with.


    JOHN PAUL
    Here in England creationism is a non-issue -I don't know anybody who holds that kind of belief.

    Oh really- explain the following:
    "A recent survey of public opinion in the United Kingdom revealed that 29% of the public believed in an act of creation by God along the lines described in Genesis and 39% believed in the evolutionary scenario. A leading scientist, Prof. Steve Jones, expressed his concern that apparently 16 million people believed the Bible. Science had failed to convince them. But, is that surprising?"

    Taken from the following link [posted above as well]:
    Evolution's dilemma http://www.mesozoic.demon.co.uk/dilemma.htm

    Also you being from South America should know most of the people there are NOT evolutionists- that is my experience from being there. The same can be said for Africa and the Middle East. Creation is much more than an American thing.


    FROGGIE
    Are you using this as support for creationism? I can think of a few ideologies common to the Middle East and Africa that the US of A should stay far far away from. . .


    JOHN PAUL
    No, I was just saying that Creationists are NOT limited to the USA. That has been my personal experience as I have had the opportunity to travel to many countries and speak with many people.


    FROGGIE
    One more thing. . .
    Conducting a poll is absolutely the worst way to glean scientific truths (Unless of course you are doing a science experiment on poll-conducting). If I took a poll right now and asked the following questions:

    1) If you are made out of sugar, would you melt in the rain?

    2) Are antibiotics effective in fighting a cold?

    3) Is the flu the same thing as a stomach virus?

    ...I would most likely get the the answer yes, yes, and yes from most people. However, the correct scientific answer is NO to all questions.


    JOHN PAUL
    This one is funny because back when I was in first grade we were watching the "Wizard of Oz" during school. When Dorothy threw the water on the witch and the witch screamed "I'm melting, I'm melting", I yelled out "You idiot water dissolves". And with that received my first detention.
     

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