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Comment: Re:Bigger Problem (Score 1) 493

by bigbird (#40241517) Attached to: Classroom Clashes Over Science Education

Punctuated equilibrium is an attempt to explain the lack of evolutionary change exhibited in the fossil record, in contrast to what is expected by phyletic gradualism. It is a modification of Darwinian evolution, which originally emphasized gradualism. It's got nothing to do with the "properties of the underlying genome" per se.

Comment: Re:Bigger Problem (Score 1) 493

by bigbird (#40238273) Attached to: Classroom Clashes Over Science Education

Fossil records, speciation via continental drift, genome sequencing all match up like a hand in a glove to evolutionary theory.

I'm very used to broad, sweeping statements like this. Are these conclusions you have come to yourself or are you merely repeating the broad, sweeping statements of others? As I said above, punctuated equilibrium was proposed precisely because the fossil record largely shows stasis, not change. Have you got any specifics you want to discuss?

Are you arguing there's a less well understood method for the specifics of speciation taking place, or that species never evolve? What's your hypothesis as to how we've had such a great diversity of species over these millions of years?

I am not saying that species don't change over time. My scepticism is about whether evolutionary processes are capable of producing the origin and diversity of species, and whether they are capable of producing the immense complexity we see in life. I don't need an alternative hypothesis per se, just like you don't need a explanation for biogenesis - I am pointing out the flaws I see in an existing hypothesis.

Comment: Re:Bigger Problem (Score 1) 493

by bigbird (#40231497) Attached to: Classroom Clashes Over Science Education

Once life's out there, it necessarily evolves, and given enough time "incredibly complex" features are in no way unexpected ... established evolution is essentially an unavoidable outcome given: time; the chemical reality that mutation occurs; that mutations may affect fitness; and that they're cumulative.

That is merely a statement of faith. You have no way of demonstrating this to be true. It certainly can't be demonstrated in a lab.

The fossil record overall is incredibly, impressively, clear in demonstrating the diversification of life, the development of complex forms, and the progression of life in new environments.

The diversification of life in the fossil record has nothing to do with evolution. And I take it you've never read Darwin's chapter on the incompleteness of the fossil record. Punctuated equilibrium was proposed by Eldredge and Gould to explain why the fossil record was so poor at demonstrating change - to explain why it is *not* impressively clear. Species appear suddenly in the fossil record, and they disappear suddenly without exhibiting much change.

"Phenotypic plasticity," implying that the environment (not differences in genes) are responsible for natural diversity today and through the fossil record, rather than observed differences in genomes, is totally silly. It's absurd. It's irrelevant. It's wishful thinking in the context of our understanding of genes, biology, the fossil record, and the geologic record.

I see 1) you didn't read what I wrote and 2) you aren't familiar with the research out there. Most instances that people (such as Dawkins) cite as contemporary examples of evolution (e.g. Darwin's finches, Croatian lizards) are most likely not that at all.

For example, from *Climate change and evolution: disentangling environmental and genetic responses*, Gienapp et al, Molecular Ecology (2008) Blackwell Publishing Ltd:

"The available evidence points to the overall conclusion that many responses perceived as adaptations to changing environmental conditions could be environmentally induced plastic responses rather than microevolutionary adaptations."

In *Recent and Widespread Rapid Morphological Change in Rodents*, Pergams ORW, Lawler JJ, 2009, PLoS ONE 4(7): e6452: "Given the absence of genetic analyses, it is impossible for us to attribute the morphological changes we measured to evolution."

The overwhelming majority of papers trumpeting observed evolutionary changes (95%+) actually have no idea if this is actually the case.

Here's a final quote on experimental evolution, from M. R. Rose, H. B. Passananti, A. K. Chippindale, J. P. Phelan, M. Matos, H. Teotonio, and L. D. Mueller. The Effects of Evolution are Local: Evidence from Experimental Evolution in Drosophila. Integr. Comp. Biol. (2005) 45(3): 486-49:

"One of the enduring temptations of evolutionary theory is the extrapolation from short-term to long-term, from a few species to all species. Unfortunately, the study of experimental evolution reveals that extrapolation from local to general patterns of evolution is not usually successful ... the effects of evolution apparently don't generalize, even though evolution is a global process"

"Some might conclude that we have shown that experimental evolution is of little value for evolutionary research. On the contrary, we propose that experimental evolution is one of the most powerful techniques in evolutionary biology, powerful enough to reveal the unreliability of most conclusions that have been adduced concerning evolution."

Comment: Re:Bigger Problem (Score 2) 493

by bigbird (#40228075) Attached to: Classroom Clashes Over Science Education

it so obvious that darwinian evolution *must* happen that there would be no point discussing it anyway

This is your fundamental error - you think Darwinian evolution is obvious therefore it must happen. Not everyone has your level of faith in the ability of natural processes.

No-one doubts that natural selection occurs, and that organisms change. We can observe change in the lab. But it is a tremendous step of faith to extrapolate that to how organisms *originated*, and how they obtained their incredibly complex features. That can't be observed, and it is dependent on the presence of an initial self replicating organism. Fossil evidence is poor and often contradictory. And almost all commonly cited contemporary examples of evolutionary change haven't compared genomes to see if change really did occur, rather than changes due to phenotypic plasticity.

Comment: Re:More, less, anything is caused by AGW (Score 1) 572

by bigbird (#39528529) Attached to: Climate Change To Drive Weather Disasters, Say UN Experts

I hope that comment was a joke, and that you really aren't that ignorant of this topic...

I don't understand why his comment was "ignorant". You failed to explain it adequately. Actually, you didn't explain it at all.

I suspect it had something to do with the poster's use of "Advance Global Warming" :)

Comment: Re:We didn't really know how things worked before (Score 2) 375

by bigbird (#38952289) Attached to: Little Ice Age: It Was Not the Sun

Actually the surge of interest in witchcraft and the accompanying witch trials was towards the end of the Middle Ages. The peak of the European witch trials was between 1580 and 1630. The infamous Salem witch trials were in 1692-93. A long, long time after the so-called Dark Ages (which aren't generally referred to as Dark Ages any more).

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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