Fossils and Finches (by John Mackay)

Dan we’ve been waiting nearly 2 weeks for that promised evidence and to date your blog entries read as just so many insinuations and patronizing replies. So let’s move the debate up a notch.

FOSSIL RECORD: We have established, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that organisms appear suddenly in the fossil record, have no ancestors and have been stable in form from their first appearance on earth. This fact alone speaks against evolution and supports the Biblical Kind account. The argument that the fossil record doesn’t support evolution because organisms have evolved to reach astable ‘equilibrium’ with selection pressure is not persuasive and is frankly a bit of a cop-out.

The fossil record doesn’t support the change from one kind of organism to another at all which you have to establish in order to convince any of us that the evolution of kinds has occurred! I am surprised you haven’t brought up evolution’s favourite whale of a tale story but perhaps you are beginning to see the flaws in that one.

The time is way past for you to argue that the fossil record is inadequate and spotty and only catches some change. It has been 150 yrs since Darwin and we have found billions of fossils. Billions. It’s hard to sweep that amount of evidence under the rug when we all know that not one example of an invertebrate ­ fish evolution sequence exists. That IS damning evidence. The experts in the field admit that the fossil record does not support evolution as I have repeatedly stated and you have repeatedly ignored.

GALAPAGOS FINCHES: You also ask; ‘Was the common design in finches achieved thru God targeting genetic changes?’ Are you deliberating baiting me with this? The genetic information for all finches was already present in its ancestor. As they proliferated, the different types of finches occupied different environments and it was these changes that Darwin used to support his theory of evolution. We now know that these finch changes are not caused by mutations. The genetic information for all finch beak shapes is built in and they can flip flop beak shape almost at will. This is adaptation and natural selection but it is not evolution. More information can be found here Nature, vol. 445, p563, 3 Aug 2006. And don’t forget that creationists were the first to define natural selection and adaptation before Darwin’s book. We emphasize that natural selection is not evolution. All that natural selection produces is the LOSS of genetic material and variability. It can’t evolve anything, just eliminate the unfit in a population. Finches turning into finches is of no use to you Dan and every support to us creationists. Admit it mate – you’ve lost.

3 thoughts on “Fossils and Finches (by John Mackay)

  1. Apparently John thinks the best way to debate is to plug his ears, keep shouting the things he really wants to be true, and hope the other guy will go away. Sorry, I’m not going to go away John, and I would appreciate it if you would do me the favour of actually reading my other posts and comments.

    John shouts, “We have established, beyond a shadow of a doubt” that the fossil record shows only completely novel organisms showing up abruptly and remaining stable. Sigh. I’ve already answered this here. (And yes, I would cite the evolution of whales as one of many nice examples.) And nary a mention of the rock and a hard place this puts him between (the second bullet under (B) at the comment I just linked). (See note 1, below.)

    He shouts that the fossil record is complete, despite my comments here (point A). The only new claim he adds is that “billions” of fossils have been catalogued, whereas the highest number I found was 250 million. (Where do you get that number, John? See note 2, below.) Even if he’s right, that still means only 1 in a trillion organisms gets fossilized, at a high estimate. Complete, my foot. (And what really matters is the number of species.)

    He shouts that it is “damning evidence” that “not one example of an invertebrate fish evolution sequence exists”, despite my having given multiple examples here (sixth bullet) on which he offers no comment whatsoever. (See note 3, below.)

    He shouts out a complaint that I have ignored his earlier quote-mines, where he misrepresents “The experts in the field” as “admitting that the fossil record does not support evolution” as opposed to young earth creationism. OK, here’s a challenge John: Name even one of your expert authors who does not go on to say precisely that the fossil record does support evolution somewhere before or after your juicy quote-mines. (See note 4, below.)

    (He also shouts that he’s won the debate. Hmm… I’m seeing a pattern here. Saying it doesn’t make it so, John.)

    But I do thank him for finally answering my question about the finches. (What about the wallabies, though?) I’m going to promote this topic to a main post, however, because it connects with an important broader issue. (Tentative title: Mackay’s “kind” quandary.) The short answer on the finches is that John has badly misread the paper from Nature that he cited about them. In fact, that paper shows convincingly that finches came from non-finches; and other work demonstrates that the mechanism for generating the variation was indeed mutation (e.g. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B (1999) 266, 321-329). (Of course, evolution = variation plus natural selection. He says creationists “emphasize” that natural selection by itself isn’t evolution, as though biologists would disagree! Strange.)

    Note 1: I’ll add two more points for John to ignore: 1) the most successful forms are the most common (which is all John means by “stable”); so of course they will be found more often in the fossil record. Those forms that John is counting as “intermediate” were outcompeted by the more successful ones, and so will be rarer in the fossil record. 2) Evolution occurs most rapidly in small populations, again meaning that the “intermediate” forms will be rarer in the fossil record.

    Note 2: Of course, they have to be catalogued – if nobody has looked at them carefully, who knows what gaps they might fill. John may have in mind all the plankton (e.g. foraminifera) – those fossils are extremely abundant, since they’ve been falling to the sea floor for millions of years. We do have a remarkably complete record for this – and guess what? They’ve yielded a fully gradual and complete tree of descent just based on similarities and differences in fossil shape (see here for example) – this is the same common descent logic discussed in my “language analogy” post, now applied to shape. Foraminifera is a phylum that contains about 275,000 species!! A beautiful example for evolution. And the genetic data independently tell the same story! (See e.g. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 61 (2011) 157–166.)

    Note 3: To repeat, they are: Yunnanozoon, Haikouella, Haikouichthys, and Pikaia. What is demonstrated by these fossils is cousinship on the biological family tree. It’s hard to figure out the exact relationships just with fossils (DNA is much better – see my third paragraph here, but that they are related isn’t in doubt. See the diplodocid skulls, the horses, the cetaceans, the primates, the tetrapods, etc. etc. How do you explain the resemblances, John?? (All he can say is: “That’s just how God decided to do it – exactly as though they’re related by common descent, even though they aren’t really.”)

    Note 4: John is transparently misrepresenting a dispute within evolutionary theory as a dispute with evolutionary theory. These authors are pointing to the frequency of “abrupt” transitions in the fossil record, yes. (Abrupt transitions at the level of species, which John is forced to accept are a product of common descent, I might add!) The only question is to what extent this is to be explained by gradual evolution with a jittery fossil record vs. spates of rapid evolution. (Though much less rapid than John needs it to be – see paragraphs 4 and 5 here.)

    Gould agrees with me. Here he is reiterating what I say in (C) in this comment: “Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups.” Gould, S. J. (1981). “Evolution as Fact and Theory,” Discover 2 (May): 34-37.

  2. ROO REPLY as Dan writes that the biology of kangaroos indicates it must have taken tens of millions of years for Australian Kangarooos to accrue sufficient change to become all present species from big reds to mini Potoroos. From down under to up over, that’s just roo rubbish. A major flaw in this thinking is the a priori assumption that evolution is correct and that all processes (mutation etc) observed are part of evolution. Dan is at a real disadvantage when using roos against an Aussie creationist. Roos live in my backyard and I have personally excavated a giant fossil roo. I have large numbers of fossil marsupial bones in my collection. Dan doesn’t!

    You claim the evidence from biology indicates the process took millions of years? What biology? Measuring their mutation rate? Definitely not! In all the time we have been measuring their mutation rates, we have not observed any evolution of kangaroos. Therefore the more reasonable conclusion is that speciation did not occur by the evolutionist mechanisms of natural selection and mutation over vast periods of time. Dan – you are not arguing from evidence. You are assuming kangaroos evolved in spite of the evidence. Your atheist foundation is blinding your observation skills.

    The fossil evidence actually shows that the first appearance of kangaroos in the fossil record was…as fully formed kangaroos. Present day evidence shows kangaroos are only reproducing kangaroos. Unless you simply define evolution to mean any sort of “change”. But we are using the term evolution to indicate the development of a new type of organism from an ancestral one. Dinosaurs changing to birds change would be evolution. Big Reds roos becoming smaller Wallaroos is not evolution.

    There has been no evolution of kangaroos (either from an ancestor or to a new organism) so why all the talk about tens of millions of years to evolve kangaroo types? Let’s look at dogs, pigeons, cows etc. Experimental evidence shows that starting from a few genetically diverse mating pairs, we can artificially and selectively generate every type of dog, pigeon and cow in a few generations not tens of millions of years. Thus kangaroo variation is more adequately explained by what we can demonstrate. Your evolution seems to be supported by hand-waving and just so explanations, but not by the observed evidence. Furthermore, your argument that it required tens of millions of years for big roos to turn into little roos just supports the creationist viewpoint – after their kind – no matter how long or short a time they have been here..

    -John Mackay

  3. Note that John didn’t answer any of my direct questions or challenges (about how he’s forced to accept family relatedness across the supposedly problematic fossil gaps, where he got the “billions” of catalogued fossils figure, naming one of his quote-mined authors who doesn’t explicitly say the fossil record supports evolution, addressing the invertebrate-to-fish transition examples or foraminifera, or about how he proposes to explain the obvious fossil resemblances other than by common descent.) Hmm… I wonder why not?

    He did talk about roos, however (even though I asked about rock wallabies – never mind, close enough). He seems to accept that the whole roo family (Macropodidae) are related by common descent. (More grist for my mill on this post.) He was particularly concerned to address the issue of how much time would be needed to produce all the variety of roos from the original pair to come off the Ark. As I pointed out, the high mutation rate would have killed them all from cancer.

    His response is to say that the variety wasn’t generated by mutation. So, on your hypothesis, John, what generates the variety then? First possibility: God does it by directly causing the genetic changes. (Speeding things up, like we did with the dogs and cows.) John doesn’t like that one, though, maybe because he sees there’s no reason to limit the common descent to being only within “kinds.” (Thus his (non)-response here.)

    This is his current proposal, as far as I can make it out: God makes the “kinds” so that they’re predisposed to have certain genetic changes, but not others. In particular, the changes won’t cause cancer, and they’ll be blocked from going into the feature space of another “kind”. They’re intelligently designed mutation-tendencies (though he won’t call them mutations.)

    First, notice that he’s only saying this to try to make things fit with Genesis – he hasn’t pointed to any independent evidence for it, because there isn’t any. Second, this new story can’t be right, either – I dispose of it here. (Briefly: John is constantly noting that the offspring we observe are very, very similar to their parents. Maybe he thinks that evolution would require chickens popping out of dinosaur eggs? Of course not. It’s only long term changes that can be large ones. Biology says that evolution is comparatively gradual, John. We’ve directly observed the mechanism for this, and there’s no evidence for any barriers to it. Can you point to any evidence besides Genesis?)

    And this still doesn’t solve the time problem. If his story were right, the generation and natural selection of new varieties of organisms should be happening so often and so fast that we could just watch it. Do the math: from 8,000 “kinds” on the Ark to the 8 million land species today in 4500 years. (That 8,000 is the wildly optimistic estimate given by Answers in Genesis, supposedly including all the different “kinds” of dinosaurs and everyone’s food for a year in the space of 20 basketball courts.) So each Ark breeding pair ultimately gave rise, on average, to 1000 species (100,000 including the extinct ones) – with an exponentially increasing speciation rate (the more species you have, the more will be produced). If biologists ever observed evolution happening that fast, they’d poop their pants, folks. So would you!

    I’m betting that John would say that God did something to solve that problem, too. Notice how God has to be invoked to solve all the problems? That’s why people say young earth creationism is not science. Not because it invokes God, but because God serves as an all-purpose make-the-story-fit-the-evidence exacto knife. Young earth creationists are not “persuaded by the evidence”, as they like to say; they are dogmatically driven by literalism about Genesis. John has made that eminently clear in this debate.

    (Given the rate of change he needs, it’s embarrassing for him that he says “In all the time we have been measuring their mutation rates, we have not observed any evolution of kangaroos” then. Doubly embarrassing, since we’ve been measuring mutation rates only on the order of decades, and they’re too slow to allow for any roo evolution in that short time. That’s [a small piece] of confirmation of evolution, John.)

    I’d love to see your fossils sometime, John – I know I’d be impressed. (I only have fifty or so.) But I would also recommend paying attention to other people’s fossil discoveries too, for example this sort-of-kangaroo and sort-of-not-kangaroo, close relative of the ancestor group to all kangaroos: the scientific paper, and a popular presentation. So the first appearance of roos in the fossil record is not as fully-formed kangaroos. Here’s a question back at you, John: if kangaroos have been around since Creation, how come we only find them in the tiny top portion of the rock layers? I’ve already asked that sort of question, but you’ve studiously avoided answering it. (See my post here.)

    Look, everyone! My atheism shows up again in his comment! To the religious folks reading this: surely you can see this is a transparent attempt to play on what he takes your prejudices to be? (More talk of “atheist blinders” too. My goodness.)

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