Is Darwinism bad science today?

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Is Darwinism bad science today?

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1johnumana Primeira Mensagem
Jul 18, 2007, 2:16pm

Is Darwinism bad science? As John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty states, "Truth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it, every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to." It has been urged that life could have emerged from a sequence of emergent chemical events, each one more complex than the last. This view is unsubstantiated and I believe false. No scientist has been able to synthesize a single nucleotide from a prebiotic environment. Amino acids yes, but nucleotides no. Why not?

Many of scientists contend that "intelligent design" doesn't have anything to do with science. Science, by its very nature, they contend, has no way to prove or disprove intelligent design. I disagree. True, the focus of science has to be: what can be known from the scientific record? True enough, scientific statements must be verifiable, that is, capable of verification. Science restricts itself to the measurable, observable universe of matter and energy in their various forms. Yet far more can be known from scientific investigation and analysis about ultimate questions than has been recognized by many in the scientific community. In fact, the question "Why is there any matter at all?" is also a scientific question, though we may not yet have an answer to it. Why is there energy? That's a darn good scientific question too.

In considering the evolution/ID debate, I'd like first to offer a distinction that I offered in some of my talks on my recent book, Creation. A great deal of the debate, sometimes rather heated, on evolution suffers from confusion because many scientists fail to distinguish two different senses of the term `evolution.'

MEANING NO. 1: In one sense, evolution means that all life on Earth shares common ancestors (and that different species share common ancestors, such as for example the hippopotamus, dolphin and whale share a common ancestor). It maintains that all organisms on earth are descended from a single common ancestor(s). Professor Darwin's theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true and is proved by the convergence of all of the sciences.

MEANING NO. 2: But `evolution' in Dr. Darwin's sense is taken to mean that a new species originates as a result of "natural selection" - random incremental mutations over millions of years. In this full-blown biological and Darwinian sense, the term `evolution' means a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed and speciated entirely from natural means into Earth's biodiversity that we can observe today. This is the principal tenet of the neo-Darwinists. Darwin's evolution posits that life arose on its own out of inanimate chemical compounds and has gradually evolved over millions of years. Darwin's theory is that all complex species and organs such as the eye and animal instincts evolved by the "accumulation of innumerable slight variations ...." (1859, p. 459).

It is this second meaning of evolution, the theory of natural selection as a theory of emergence of life and origin of species, that is unsubstantiated and false, I argue. Many point to the extensive evidence of common ancestry and conclude from that that theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution has been proved. But that is a non sequitur. Natural selection was Darwin's Wild Guess back in 1850's, a brilliant and interesting theory in the 1800's. But it is less interesting today in view of modern microbiology. Natural selection as theory of emergence of life or of the origin of new species is bad science today; it does not fit observation. No one, not Dr. Darwin or anybody else, has ever observed natural selection lead to the evolution of a single species in the 3.9 billion years since Earth went biotic. To be sure, natural selection (microevolution) is a true force of nature. Natural selection accounts for such things as pesticide resistance of insects (e.g., the mosquitos that survive an application of a given pesticide eventually develop an immunity to it over time), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Wiener cites the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection. That's what the scientific community would have had to discover to find any scientific corroboration for natural selection as a theory of emergence of life or biological evolution of species. Whatever the correct answer to emergence of life or new species is, it's not natural selection. I've offered a new theory of biological evolution in my book, Creation.

Here's a little wager to consider -- my Chihuahua-Wager: We know from mt-DNA studies that all dog breeds evolved from a small group of grey wolves in East Asia. So, why not take a group of grey wolves today and see if the scientific community can come up with anything close to evolving Chihuahuas through whatever selective breeding techniques you choose, but sticking with the group of grey wolves (no introduction of any dog genes permitted)? If the Darwinists are right, surely they would have been able to evolve Chihuahuas by now. I continue to believe that science offers the best hope of finding answers to the Origin of Life questions. Though I am a believer, I do not believe that Holy Scripture was intended to be a science textbook. I also believe we should treat each other with respect in trying to find the answers to these difficult questions, and I applaud the efforts in the scientific community to do so. I submit that the best hope to answer these questions is science and exploration.

John Umana
Washington, DC

Edit your post:
Is Darwinism bad science? As John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty states, "Truth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it, every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to." It has been urged that life could have emerged from a sequence of emergent chemical events, each one more complex than the last. This view is unsubstantiated and I believe false. No scientist has been able to synthesize a single nucleotide from a prebiotic environment. Amino acids yes, but nucleotides no. Why not?

Many of scientists contend that "intelligent design" doesn't have anything to do with science. Science, by its very nature, they contend, has no way to prove or disprove intelligent design. I disagree. True, the focus of science has to be: what can be known from the scientific record? True enough, scientific statements must be verifiable, that is, capable of verification. Science restricts itself to the measurable, observable universe of matter and energy in their various forms. Yet far more can be known from scientific investigation and analysis about ultimate questions than has been recognized by many in the scientific community. In fact, the question "Why is there any matter at all?" is also a scientific question, though we may not yet have an answer to it. Why is there energy? That's a darn good scientific question too.

In considering the evolution/ID debate, I'd like first to offer a distinction that I offered in some of my talks on my recent book, Creation. A great deal of the debate, sometimes rather heated, on evolution suffers from confusion because many scientists fail to distinguish two different senses of the term `evolution.'

MEANING NO. 1: In one sense, evolution means that all life on Earth shares common ancestors (and that different species share common ancestors, such as for example the hippopotamus, dolphin and whale share a common ancestor). It maintains that all organisms on earth are descended from a single common ancestor(s). Professor Darwin's theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true and is proved by the convergence of all of the sciences.

MEANING NO. 2: But `evolution' in Dr. Darwin's sense is taken to mean that a new species originates as a result of "natural selection" - random incremental mutations over millions of years. In this full-blown biological and Darwinian sense, the term `evolution' means a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed and speciated entirely from natural means into Earth's biodiversity that we can observe today. This is the principal tenet of the neo-Darwinists. Darwin's evolution posits that life arose on its own out of inanimate chemical compounds and has gradually evolved over millions of years. Darwin's theory is that all complex species and organs such as the eye and animal instincts evolved by the "accumulation of innumerable slight variations ...." (1859, p. 459).

It is this second meaning of evolution, the theory of natural selection as a theory of emergence of life and origin of species, that is unsubstantiated and false, I argue. Many point to the extensive evidence of common ancestry and conclude from that that theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution has been proved. But that is a non sequitur. Natural selection was Darwin's Wild Guess back in 1850's, a brilliant and interesting theory in the 1800's. But it is less interesting today in view of modern microbiology. Natural selection as theory of emergence of life or of the origin of new species is bad science today; it does not fit observation. No one, not Dr. Darwin or anybody else, has ever observed natural selection lead to the evolution of a single species in the 3.9 billion years since Earth went biotic. To be sure, natural selection (microevolution) is a true force of nature. Natural selection accounts for such things as pesticide resistance of insects (e.g., the mosquitos that survive an application of a given pesticide eventually develop an immunity to it over time), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Wiener cites the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection. That's what the scientific community would have had to discover to find any scientific corroboration for natural selection as a theory of emergence of life or biological evolution of species. Whatever the correct answer to emergence of life or new species is, it's not natural selection. I've offered a new theory of biological evolution in my book, Creation.

Here's a little wager to consider -- my Chihuahua-Wager: We know from mt-DNA studies that all dog breeds evolved from a small group of grey wolves in East Asia. So, why not take a group of grey wolves today and see if the scientific community can come up with anything close to evolving Chihuahuas through whatever selective breeding techniques you choose, but sticking with the group of grey wolves (no introduction of any dog genes permitted)? If the Darwinists are right, surely they would have been able to evolve Chihuahuas by now. I continue to believe that science offers the best hope of finding answers to the Origin of Life questions. Though I am a believer, I do not believe that Holy Scripture was intended to be a science textbook. I also believe we should treat each other with respect in trying to find the answers to these difficult questions, and I applaud the efforts in the scientific community to do so. I submit that the best hope to answer these questions is science and exploration.

John Umana
Washington, DC

2perodicticus
Jul 18, 2007, 2:38pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

3readafew
Jul 18, 2007, 3:07pm

"Why is there any matter at all?" is also a scientific question, though we may not yet have an answer to it. Why is there energy? That's a darn good scientific question too.

The 'Why' questions are left to philosophy, science goes for 'What', 'How', 'Where', 'When', and maybe 'Who'.

The thing almost ALL anti evolutionist use as an argument is 'Evolution means 'this' will change to 'that' which is utter poppycock.

The wolf-dog thing works very well as an example of evolution in its true expected form. Small changes over generations in isolated gene pools cause obvious changes causing more distance splitting the species.

The worst part is most of these arguments utilize logical fallacies to misdirect and confuse the reader. It's a great technique for politics but is worthless for science.

4Glassglue
Editado: Jul 18, 2007, 3:16pm

There is no evolution/intelligent design debate. One is science, and the other is thinly veiled creationism.

We have about as much evidence for the "theory" of evolution as we have for the "theory" of gravity.

5VisibleGhost
Jul 18, 2007, 3:25pm

1> I've offered a new theory of biological evolution in my book, Creation.
*****************
No, sorry, but you haven't. You've proffered a not so original hypothesis that does not come close to overturning descent with modification. It comes nowhere near theory status.

6reading_fox
Jul 18, 2007, 3:30pm

#1 - although it really goes against the grain to even try and discuss positions which are so far apart no agreement is ever likely I'll give it one shot.

Given sufficient time it would be no problem to evolve a group of grey wolves into a dog - although it wouldn't be possible to specify the exact dog characteristics in advance - The problem lies in that this time period is way beyond the ken of any funding body let alone scientists lives. If you can persuede someone to pay me to do so. I'll start the project. Check back for updates every 1000yrs or so.

7Noisy
Jul 18, 2007, 6:09pm

Creation : Towards A Theory of All Things by John Umana PhD

Well, one Thingamabrarian has your book. If you wish to engage with the community, however, it would pay you to invest some time in cataloguing your library on the site, otherwise your efforts might be considered as spamming.

8Mustapha_Mond
Editado: Jul 20, 2007, 2:51pm

This tripe is so full of inaccuracies and WTF? statements, it’s difficult to know which piece of it to even respond.

“Professor Darwin's theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true and is proved by the convergence of all of the sciences.”

The idea that all living organisms have descended from common ancestors was not “professor” Darwin’s. This concept was presented by several others before C.D. as early as Buffon at about 1750. Also, I have no idea what you meant by “proved by the convergence of all the sciences”. Please keep your pseudo-physics out of my biology.

“The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Wiener cites the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection.”

You accept speciation, but you have trouble extrapolating this concept forward in time? You said so yourself (3.9 billion years). You can’t accept that after speciation, separate species can and have diverged into very different organisms? Macroevolution is after all, just the sum total of eons of microevolution.

“But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection. That's what the scientific community would have had to discover to find any scientific corroboration for natural selection as a theory of emergence of life or biological evolution of species.”

I believe you will find enough corroboration in the past 200 years from the scientific community to this effect to completely bury this little book of yours. As you have already alluded to, without acceptance of natural selection as the principle force behind biological diversity, nothing in the life sciences can be explained accurately.

“Whatever the correct answer to emergence of life or new species is, it's not natural selection. I've offered a new theory of biological evolution in my book, Creation.”

If your “new theory” is as profound and paradigm shifting as you claim, then why the teaser? I would think you would present at least a paragraph or two summarizing such a concept. Tell the truth, you are only interested in suckering some poor confused soul into shelling out $15.95.

Your “wager” is the most disgusting & hilarious point you’ve tried to make. You admit that all dog breeds have descended from wolves. This presumably took place via human-induced artificial selection, no? Then you “challenge” us to do it again? If you are claiming that the diversity seen in dogs has been shaped by something other than artificial selection, then again, please PROVIDE a theory and data so that we may debate.

I think that’s enough for now. I look forward to see if we get any replies from our “Dr” friend, or if this was just a piece of spam that he farted out once and will never visit this group again. If you do have anything to add, I hope you will keep your arguments within the parameters of science and keep your philosophical arguments for more appropriate groups and discussions.

Having said all of this I do want to make myself clear on something. I do not wish to alienate any members of this group. One does not necessarily have to give up belief in a supernatural ethos to be an able participant in scientific processes, even in evolutionary biology. However, I do believe that the ideas expressed in this group should be contained within current scientific constraint? explanation? language? paradigm? If anyone feels they can overthrow the current “neo-Darwinian” paradigm by using facts and scientifically peer-approved means, and they want to do so by presenting their argument here, I wouldn’t be happier. I very much love a good, true scientific controversy.

9perodicticus
Jul 20, 2007, 8:49am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

10johnumana
Jul 20, 2007, 2:10pm

“To the best of my knowledge, Darwin was neither a professor nor a doctor (MD or PhD).”
Agreed. I have heard Charles Darwin addressed as Dr. or professor, and so I am using that title as a title of respect because I have enormous respect for him as a scientist and naturalist, and would like to continue doing so. He taught us that resolution of questions of biology require careful and painstaking scientific observation and empirical study. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh beginning in 1825, but later was enrolled by his father in Christ’s College at Cambridge where he obtained the ordinary degree in 1831. I do not hold myself out as an expert in Darwin’s life, but welcome and appreciate your educating me on this subject. I have no interest in writing a polemic against anyone, certainly not against one I hold in such high esteem. But what was known or knowable in 1859 is different from what is known or knowable in 2007, particularly in view of modern microbiology. Thank you.

11johnumana
Jul 20, 2007, 2:56pm

“The 'Why' questions are left to philosophy, science goes for 'What', 'How', 'Where', 'When', and maybe 'Who'.” Perhaps I take a broader view of science than you do. I am not an antievolutionist. Biological evolution as common descent is real, and is proved by the convergence of the sciences -- most recently microbiology and genetic studies in the last 15 years. The question is how does it occur. Is the cause of a new species random mutation or natural selection, as Charles Darwin proposed in 1859? There’s no question but that natural selection is real, as shown by microevolution. But what leads to the origin of a new species? That’s the heart of the debate –- origin of species, after all. There is no interest here in misleading anyone or engaging in the trappings of logical fallacies. It’s the conflation of different senses of the term ‘evolution,’ in my respectful view, that is confusing people. You appear to agree to this extent in stating: “The wolf-dog thing works very well as an example of evolution in its true expected form.” Yes, all dog breeds descend from a small gene pool of grey wolves 15,000 years ago in East China. Every dog on earth bears a common ancestor in that small gene pool. It’s an important model of evolution that cries out for further study. So I leave you with my Chihuahua-Wager previously stated, and appreciate your sharing your views.

12johnumana
Jul 20, 2007, 4:36pm

Response to Message 8 As one biology professor has pointed out, “many discussions of evolution are entangled with emotional and ideological bases and baggage, coming from scientists and non-scientists alike.” I have no interest in becoming entangled in polemics. Common ancestry was Charles Darwin’s theory, though others before him advanced it, as most already are aware. No one ever stated that Darwin was its sole adherent. I do accept speciation, as you state. Biological speciation is real. “But you have trouble extrapolating this concept forward in time?” Yes, that is correct. Extrapolation means conjecturing. Where is the scientific evidence that a single new species of finch or any other species (or genera, families, orders, classes or phyla) resulted from the mechanism of Darwinian random mutation or natural selection? That’s what we’re all waiting for. That’s why your hoped for “extrapolation” remains unsubstantiated and conjectural. Hence, my wager stands. It sets forth a bright litmus scientific test. If the chihuahua is too difficult, perhaps a dachshund would do. For this experiment, you may take as long as you need.

13Mustapha_Mond
Editado: Jul 20, 2007, 7:37pm

Sir, once again you seem to be using some of the best usable examples of speciation through selection that we know of.

“Extrapolation means conjecturing.”

As I’m sure you are aware, a limited fossil record due to the chance occurrence of fossilization means that conjecture is a necessary part of theory building in the realm of macroevolution. However, phylogenetic sytematics as progressed by improving cladistics and molecular biology has been able to provide much of the scientific evidence to support such “conjecture”.

“Where is the scientific evidence that a single new species of finch or any other species (or genera, families, orders, classes or phyla) resulted from the mechanism of Darwinian random mutation or natural selection? That’s what we’re all waiting for.”

Your own example of the Galapagos finches if the EXACT scientific evidence you are asking for! If you can provide a better fitting scientific mechanism explaining the presence of those species on isolated volcanic islands than founder effect and random genetic drift leading to adaptive radiation which is driven by, you guessed it, NATURAL SELECTION, then like I said, please state your proposed theory. In fact, I can provide you with a work of popularized science that can lead you through this mountain of evidence: The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David Quammen

Come on “Professor”! I'll ask you again, what is your testable hypothesis? I sure hope you are going to suggest something other than saltationism or special creation.

14Glassglue
Jul 20, 2007, 5:33pm

#13

Ha! Nicely done.

15johnumana
Editado: Jul 20, 2007, 10:00pm

I am truly not interested in “shooting down” anyone. That is not my objective. I am seeking to encourage open-mindedness on an extremely complex and hotly debated issue, evolution. For example, I agree with you on the chance occurrence of fossilization, and never thought much of the contention that “missing fossils” disprove biological evolution --animals are going to run around here and there and die wherever happenstance leads them and, in any event, most animal remains will deteriorate and not result in fossilization. Phylogenetic trees are an important tool in understanding the evolutionary relationships among taxa. Nor do I place any credence in the so-called “young earth creationists” who assert that that God came down and created the world 10,000 years ago or so in one fell swoop and that it only looks mighty old. That view is both unsubstantiated as well as soundly refuted by the scientific record. I seek to encourage scientific investigation, research and exploration, as that is the only way we will discover the answers to scientific questions. Science frequently advances by trial and error and often by fits and starts. That comes as no surprise and by itself forms no basis for criticism. To be sure, the fact that a scientific theory is conjectural is not tantamount to its disproof. But after all this time since 1859, surely someone -- somewhere – please, anywhere -- would have made progress on laboratory speciation based on altering environmental conditions, were Darwin’s theory of origin correct. Yet, 40 years or so of scientists working with fruit flies has failed to achieve speciation. Not even so much as a little bumble bee. Is it not appropriate to inquire whether something else is going on to explain this planet’s remarkable biodiversity? After 148 years of Darwin’s evolutionary theory, scientists need to stop and think again about subscribing to chance mutations and natural selection as the causative mechanisms for origin of species when no laboratory has yet been able to come up with a single new species even with fruit flies. Whatever the correct answer is, it is not RM + NS, which puts all the weight on chance. Chance is real. But chance is not the explanation for the Mona Lisa.
In any event, I have just ordered Quammen's “The Song of the Dodo,” and look forward to reviewing it when it comes in. Thanks for the reference.

16Glassglue
Jul 20, 2007, 10:24pm

Others in this thread have offered answers to your posed questions. Their answers have even come from tracts in your previous posts. You have already supplied the answers that you're asking for.

17Noisy
Jul 20, 2007, 11:23pm

Woohoo! New species!

18perodicticus
Jul 23, 2007, 10:24am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

19johnumana
Editado: Jul 23, 2007, 4:51pm

An issue was raised about abiogenesis. Abiogenesis refers to the generation of life from non-living matter. My friends at the Geophysical Laboratory in Washington, DC, not too far from here, are hard at work, tracing the sequence of events that led to the complicated interactions of carbon-based molecules. The emergence of life from prebiotic nature is an exciting and relatively new area of scientific research. No scientist has been able to synthesize a nucleotide from inanimate nature. Should they keep trying? Of course, they should. Astrobiology is a new field that is just getting underway, and I fully endorse these efforts. Intelligent design theory is not in opposition to the scientific study of the emergence of life or of origin of species. The more we learn from scientific exploration, the better. To be sure, there is a distinction between (A) the emergence of life and (B) the origin of species. It is logically possible that Darwinian theory might work for A and B, or A only or B only, or neither. The argument is advanced or implied that, because scientists cannot synthesize a nucleotide, does not mean that Darwinian theory of origin of species is wrong. But the problem remains the same for the neo-Darwinists: they have made as much progress at speciation as they have at emerging life from inanimate nature. Something else is going on to explain this planet’s biodiversity other than chance mutations and natural selection. Common descent and biological evolution are givens. The real debate is over the causative mechanism.


Tests of conflicting theories of origins will be conducted by future Mars robotic explorers. The Phoenix mission is scheduled to land a telerobot in the polar region of Mars in May 2008. This mission will look for a 'habitable zone' in the martian soil where microbial life could exist, and also study the geological history of water on Mars. All life contains proteins made up from chains of amino acids. The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), planned for launch by NASA in late 2009, is set to collect martian soil samples and rock cores and analyze them for organic compounds and environmental conditions that could have supported microbial life. The European Space Agency is planning the launch of the ExoMars rover set for launch in 2013. The rover is to grind Martian soil to a powder and test it in a suite of instruments including the Urey Organic Oxidant Detector. (Dr. Urey is known for the famous 1953 experiment with Dr. Stanley Miller in which an electrical discharge in a test tube containing methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water was shown to produce amino acids.) Amino acids are found in inanimate nature including on meteorites. Non-biological processes create a 50/50 mix of left- and right-handed versions of the molecules. Living things, however, use left-handed amino acids (almost) exclusively. The Urey Detector will therefore be looking for the ratio between left- and right-handed amino acid molecules in the search for life on Mars. This is to be followed by NASA’s Mars Astrobiology Field Laboratory planned for 2016, that will also search for life. We know from the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers and other spacecraft orbiting Mars that liquid water covered large portions of the martian surface some two billion years ago or so. Is there or was there once life on Mars? My theory predicts that we will discover a non-biological amino acid mix of left-and right-handed amino acids on Mars -- meaning that there is no life and never has been life on that planet. I predict the same results for the other planets and moons (e.g., Europa, Titan, etc.) in our solar system. The emergence of life takes more than water.

20reading_fox
Jul 23, 2007, 3:46pm

Why do you assume that science has to be able to find an answer in a specific period of time?

If after all avenues have been explored and answer is not forthcoming I may concede that the search was wrong but while new pathways are being discovered, why should we say, "nope we've looked enough this way, the answer must lie elsewhere"?

21Glassglue
Editado: Jul 23, 2007, 3:55pm

"I predict the same results for the other planets and moons (e.g., Europa, Titan, etc.) in our solar system. The emergence of life takes more than water."

Do you think that life has emerged or will emerge anywhere else in the universe? There are what, a billion billion stars in the known universe? If life could emerge here on earth, why not anywhere else with similar conditions?

Conversely, we don't know that life needs the conditions that earth had in order to arise. Maybe different kinds of life would show up depending on the materials and forces present.

Is the privilege of life (or sentience) only fit for us earthlings? To me, it appears that you vie for the exclusivity and superiority of human emergence. From your initial post, I am going to venture a guess that you don't see humanity (or life in general) as a happy cosmic accident. I do see it this way, and I am glad for its occurrence.

22VisibleGhost
Jul 23, 2007, 4:15pm

Dr. John, just a request please. On your long posts could you put in some space breaks or paragraphs? It's hard on my eyes to read one large post.

23johnumana
Jul 23, 2007, 4:50pm

All excellent questions/comments --

"Do you think that life has emerged or will emerge anywhere else in the universe? There are what, a billion billion stars in the known universe? If life could emerge here on earth, why not anywhere else with similar conditions?" I argue that the universe is teeming with life and with intelligent life, though not elsewhere in this sun system.

"Conversely, we don't know that life needs the conditions that earth had in order to arise. Maybe different kinds of life would show up depending on the materials and forces present." I agree that life does not need the specific conditions that earth had in order to emerge, although you're going to need an atmosphere containing some amount of oxygen. When astrobiologists search other star systems, they'll be looking for that element in spectral analyses.

"Is the privilege of life (or sentience) only fit for us earthlings? To me, it appears that you vie for the exclusivity and superiority of human emergence. From your initial post, I am going to venture a guess that you don't see humanity (or life in general) as a happy cosmic accident. I do see it this way, and I am glad for its occurrence." No, I do not believe emergence of life (or origin of species) is accidental or resulting from chance. I too am glad for its occurrence.

24johnumana
Jul 23, 2007, 5:21pm

Dear Reading Fox -- Agree that we should always look, always explore. If there's anything we can say about our species Homo sapiens is that it's an exploring species. You won't find any orangutans putting Rovers on Mars.

25caffron
Jul 23, 2007, 6:16pm

Life in the past on earth isn't even the same as life on earth now. For example, it is generally agreed that the early atmosphere originally did not contain free oxygen, and so the first life forms were anaerobic bacteria. Such life has been displaced by aerobic life now, except in deep ecological niches where oxygen is not found and where anaerobics continue to thrive. Similarly, there are niches where acid-loving and radiation-loving life thrive. Since water (do you count this as "some oxygen") is the most plentiful solvent on our planet, it should not be surprising that it's the solvent of choice selected for here. Others have suggested, however, that ammonia could serve a similar function in a non-aqueous environment.

Very recently the National Academies put out a press release stressing the need to consider not just the life we've seen, but "weird life," alternate potential structures, as we explore other planets, even places within our own solar system, such as the moons of Jupiter and Saturn:
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11919

26odie
Jul 23, 2007, 7:42pm

Add quantum physics to this mix.

****

A friend was at the Smithsonian observing the T-rex reflectively. He wondered, "did Ms & Mr T (rex), who dominated the planet in their day, have even the tiniest notion of a future species we now call homo sapien?"

I wonder if we now, in our wildest imaginations, could think of what the next evolutionary manifestations will be. That would probably fall in the realm of science fiction. Actually I kind of like the version in The Celestine Prophesy.

If the dominators of this planet went from huge reptiles to a soft, squishy ego-maniacs, it really make one wonder...

27VisibleGhost
Jul 23, 2007, 8:28pm

Bacteria will likely win the evolutionary wars. It always does. A human is partly a collection of hundreds of species of bacteria that take up residence in the human form. There's about 475 species living in your mouth right now.

28DaynaRT
Jul 23, 2007, 8:35pm

>27 VisibleGhost: I'm partial to the critters that live on our eyelashes. They really know how to party!

29VisibleGhost
Jul 23, 2007, 8:41pm

Damn, now my eyelashes itch. And my eyebrows. And.............

30Glassglue
Jul 23, 2007, 8:51pm

If the weirdness of hundreds of species living on and in you doesn't quite blow your mind, consider this: Throughout your life, your tissues, bones, cells, etc. all die and are completely replaced. Obviously, this doesn't all happen at the same time, but eventually, there is no organic part of you left that existed when you were a child. I have memories of preschool, but I wasn't even there...

It's a creepy thought.

31DaynaRT
Jul 23, 2007, 9:07pm

monohex, I just noticed, you're my first 99% affinity buddy. Congrats....I think....

32Glassglue
Jul 23, 2007, 9:24pm

Hey Hey! Fleela, your affinity is listed as 96% for me. I'm still not quite sure how the affinity percentage is calculated, or why it's different on both ends. I'm opening myself up to ridicule here, I know. I like to think of myself as smart, but I've been known to get thrown for a loop on seemingly simple equations.

"D-U-M-B everyone's accusin' me!"

-From "Pinhead" by The Ramones

33DaynaRT
Jul 23, 2007, 9:37pm

Yeah, it has to do with the size of the two libraries, book obscurity, and other math concepts that make my brain hurt.

*Sorry for the interruption, now back to your regularly scheduled Internet Debate.

34johnumana
Jul 24, 2007, 8:22pm

Dear Caffron, Quite correct that life in the past on earth isn't the same as life on earth now. The global anoxic environment in the Archean was transformed to the oxygenated atmosphere of the Proterozoic and Phanerozoic during the “Great Oxidation Event,” between ~ 2.25 and 2.05 Ga (Karhu and Holland, 1996). This means that for the first couple of billion years, there was very little free oxygen in earth’s atmosphere at all. Yet life emerged some 3.9 Ga during the extreme anoxic environment of prebiotic earth. It is not surprising that there should be a big difference in the environment needed to support the emergence of anaerobic bacteria, on the one hand, from the oxygenated environment needed to support advanced multi-celled organisms during the Cambrian explosion of life. The 7/6/07 press release of the National Academies to which you referred -- thanks -- is an interesting piece concerning the possibilities for ‘weird life” elsewhere. I certainly agree that life is possible in forms different from those on Earth. Still, I don’t expect that we will find life on Titan, Enceladus or elsewhere in this sun system. But the jury on this, of course, is still out. The NASA and ESA planetary probes in the next few decades that will hunt for organic compounds will be exciting missions. In my view, it is also possible that “water” on certain other habitable worlds in the cosmos will not be H2O. The National Academies raise the possibility that an organism could utilize energy from alternative sources, such as through a reaction of sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, meaning that such an organism could have an entirely non-carbon-based metabolism. I believe that non-carbon-based metabolism is possible, but would be extremely rare in the cosmos.

35johnumana
Jul 24, 2007, 9:13pm

Odie, Thanks for the comments. I guess we can assume that T-rex didn’t anticipate the K-T event either 65 million years ago. Will there be further evolutionary manifestations? New species? I believe that there will be. Biological evolution is real. Extinctions too are real.

36Mustapha_Mond
Ago 15, 2007, 12:29pm

Hey John,

Putting aside origin of life possibilities, we are still waiting to here your explantation of your paradigm shifting theory of speciation. Please provide an outline or paragraph explaining the basics. If not, I think it's safe to assume that your science involves an invisible man who lives way up in the sky.

Yours,

37piefuchs
Ago 15, 2007, 9:05pm

Darwinism is not science - good or bad. Note the lack of Departments of Darwinism - how about the Journal of Darwinist Studies, Rapid Communications in Darwinism. Darwinism is the word used by non scientists to describe something - but never something they actually practise on a day to day basis. Chances are anyone refers to themselves as a "Darwinists" is not looking at DNA sequence similarities in the lab. In fact, chances are they don't like what people who are in the lab say...

Evolution is science - not only is it good science - but it is highly exciting science, as the latest instrument technology, coupled with enhanced computer power, is enabling scientists on a day to day basis to alter their understanding of the sublities of the natural world. One can either practise this research, or read this research from the researchers and get it - or not.

38BillHall
Editado: Mar 6, 2008, 3:56am

Given that I have just joined the Evolve! group, my response to this thread is very late. However, I think I can make a useful contribution.

Responding to the chihuahua wager, would selection work fast enough to evolve chihuahua dogs in the 150 years since Darwin's Origin of Species was published (say, ~ 75 generations)? My guess is that we could be well on the way, but it would probably take several hundred to a thousand years.

More interesting is the factual experiment with the domestication of silver foxes in Russia. Because they can be "farmed" they are a more practical carnivore for this kind of experiment. Essentially full domestication was achieved in 40 years as described by an article the March-April 1999 issue of New Scientist. The full text of this article Lyudmila N. Trut is available on link.

Re the scientific nature of evolution. The philosopher of science, Sir Karl Popper has answered this in the affirmative in his 1972 book Objective Knowledge, and has in fact built a theory of knowledge on evolutionary biology. In some of his earlier works, he had claimed that Darwinism was metascientific rather than a genuine scientific theory. However, as he learned more, not only did he retract the statement, but he built a whole philosophy on it.

Regards,

Bill

39Musereader
Abr 12, 2008, 11:46pm

I can't remember Darwin ever postulating that life arose on its own out of inanimate chemical compounds. Evolution is not concerned with that problem which is a question in it's own right. No evolution can't explain the emergence of life, it never attempts to, that requires a new theory.

I'm sure he said that two separated populations (of the same animal) will evolve to be different from each other by adapting to the prevaling local conditions due to poulation dirift caused by natural selection. (This was the bit he felt was proven by his voyage and observations of the finches)

And then he went on to postulate that this can be a mechanism by which entirely new species can arise, - as the populations could be separated for long enough to for the changes to accumulate to the point where they don't interbreed - and which could explain the preponderance of species we see today, then the rest of the book was involved in postulating how one could test this idea, leaving it up to others to test it and whether sexual selection was a part of natural selection, how you might prove this, the whole book was a hypothesis which he was throwing out for others to test. I've read it as part of my geology degree (not that it was required but I read it anyway)

And species will NEVER evolve into an already existing species, you will never make a fruit fly population evolve into a bee population, but it may evolve into a third kind of population. (You can't make a hal whale half cow thing either) So I can't make your Chihuahuas or Daschunds from those wolves, but I could damn well make something else that is not a wolf.

Dogs evolving from wolves is proven by the fact that dogs exist and have been proved to have evolved from wolves. I don't see why you can't accept that as your proof, why you need it repeating again, when it's been repeated for every single breed of dog, but if we did, then somebody will argue - "but that's artificial selection, not natural".

Once carrots were white - a few centuries ago - now carrots are orange because some dutch gardner decided to breed them in honour of Willim of Orange. Now those orange carrots are different to the few surviving poulations of white carrots, and there used to be purple cabbages too. Many cross breeds of plants exist creating new plants.

How about the fancy rat Rattus norvegicus, but now avalible in lots of different colours not just brown (wild Rattus Norvegicus) and they have sharper noses, the ears are further up, they are longer, have pink noses and hands. They are clearly different breeds from each other (I had a fancy and a wild as pets at the same time) but not yet separated as species, that's happened and been documented in the last 100 - 150 years BTW.

...and that different species share common ancestors, such as for example the hippopotamus, dolphin and whale share a common ancestor...Professor Darwin's theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true. .....and then .....Natural selection as theory of emergence of life or of the origin of new species is bad science today; it does not fit observation. No one, not Dr. Darwin or anybody else, has ever observed natural selection lead to the evolution of a single species in the 3.9 billion years since Earth went biotic.
Am I the only one thinking that these two statements directly contradict each other? Ie - he says dolphins and whales are decended from a common ancestor and then denies this is speciation? when they are clearly different species decended from a common ancestor? Isn't that what speciation is? when two species are decended from the same species? How does he propose that the species split from each other?