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Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Ed. -- aka the "Panda Trial" - Page 6

post #201 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Hassan i Sabbah
Disproving the combined weight of all the evidence collected in the last 150 years in the fields of geology, paleontology, cosmology and genetics, by extension yes, it would disprove evolutionary theory in an instant.

Quite trying to defend evolution on this. Fine you are saying you think it would be unlikely (falsification doesn't have anything to do with the liklihood of actually happening). But if it happened it would disprove evolution.

So 1M years is the marker? Not less? 500,000 years? More? 10M?

Just want to be sure I am clear.
post #202 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
So if a species was discovered that had traits from two different evolutionary linneages?

The "million year-old earth" idea you already brought up is already a pretty powerful example of strong falsification -- the one above could be, but there are, of course, those messy caveats and qualifications you don't like which need to be made...

In simple organisms like bacteria, there's a known phenomena called "horizontal genetic transfer" (see third paragraph here). Horizontal transfer is one of those things which, while it doesn't pose any major challenge to evolutionary theory as a whole, it does shake things up a little when it comes to the finer details of the mechanisms of evolution and their relative significance. It certainly makes cladistics a bit fuzzier.

You'd need to ask someone more versed in biology than myself to define what "significant" would mean more precisely, but any significant (some degree greater than is seen in horizontal transfer) combination of traits from two or more different lineages found within a single higher species (something a bit more complex than bacteria, at least) would certainly be a major find, and that find could be strongly indicative of intelligent intervention. As much as you don't want to hear it, however, a single find such as this wouldn't immediately falsify evolution, as it could simple be taken as an isolated instance of interference in what is still otherwise, on the whole, best described as a naturalistic process.
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post #203 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
it could simple be taken as an isolated instance of interference



It could just be hand-waved away because the data doesn't align with our current conception. How very scientific.
post #204 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla


It could just be hand-waved away because the data doesn't align with our current conception. How very scientific.

So the more reasonable, less "hand waving" explanation would be that God decided to throw in a little anomalous, fine grained genetic mechanism for low level organisms just to keep us on our toes.

Maybe it's sort of like the monolith in "2001"-- once we're smart enough to find it, we're ready for our trip into the unknown.
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post #205 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
Quite trying to defend evolution on this. Fine you are saying you think it would be unlikely (falsification doesn't have anything to do with the liklihood of actually happening). But if it happened it would disprove evolution.

So 1M years is the marker? Not less? 500,000 years? More? 10M?

Just want to be sure I am clear.

Sure, 500,000. Also, 20, 750,000, 453, and 15 minutes. There you go. 5 points of falsification.

I don't know what the lower limit for the age of the earth would be before the evolutionary processes we understand would become impossible.

I suppose now you can claim that unless someone can provide you with an exact cutoff it means evolution isn't really a theory.

I don't think you do want to be clear. I think you want to just kind of wander around, asking open ended, unanswerable or fundamentally dishonest questions so you can find details to equivocate about.

And as far as I can tell, it just goes on forever. It doesn't matter how many people very patiently explain where some of your questions don't make a great deal of sense, or why something like evolutionary theory doesn't yield to simple little binary "gotcha"s or how an anomaly is different from theory busting paradigm shift.

You'll just keep posting the occasional "why" or "how do you figure" or "so much hand waving" to keep us talking, so you can wait to hear something that strikes your reductive ear as unlikely or contradictory, and smirk.
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post #206 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
So, if the earth could (I'm not saying it can) be proven to be 1,000,000 years (or less) old it would disprove the theory of evolution?

You're trying to force the use of black-and-white words like PROVE and DISPROVE. Scientists usually avoid those kinds of absolutes, and for good reason. If you like your truths in crisp black or white, the world of science isn't a place you'll be comfortable.

This is not to say that scientists don't occasionally talk in absolutes. Given something well-established with strong evidence, a scientist might speak in absolute terms simply out of expediency or casual brevity. It can get tiresome, for speakers and listeners both, to tack on endless qualifications to even the simplest declarative statements. Unless a conversation is of a philosophical nature, and unless, say, the fundamentals of basic chemistry are under question in the conversation, why bother to speak tentatively about whether burning hydrogen and oxygen together is going to produce water?

Nevertheless, a good scientist remains aware of the tentative nature of scientific truth, aware that a scientist's job is a matter trying to find the best explanation for available data, that it's not a matter of claiming absolute certainty and authority.

We are currently engaged in a discussion not only of evolution, but of the philosophy of science and its fundamental methodology. This is not the place to simply answer "yes" or "no" to the question you pose. The proper, responsible answer to your question is to say that if strong evidence were found that the Earth was one million years (or less) old, that evidence would severely challenge the theory of evolution and would constitute a strong case for partial or total falsification.
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post #207 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
So we are still a bit fuzzy here.

What would constitute a sufficient level of "separation" in evolutionary linneages to say that A should not have the same trait as B? How is this measured? And is this still reasonable? I mean, why should we assume that two different, widely divergent creatures could/would not develop similar traits? It seems evolution would allow this (differing survival needs, environment, etc.)

I said suddenly and that is something you have failed to grasp. Disproving evolution is all about finding a time domain in which some event could not have occured with evolution. You are not going to find a fossil of a pig 1000 years before a fossil of a pig with wings. You may find a fossil of a pig 1 million years before a fossil of a pig with wings.

The first example violates the inherent logic of change over time, as it occurs within say 500 generations of pigdom, although significant changes can occur in that period of time -- wings, as far as our current thinking would not be anywhere near likely.

This is to say that a duck and a pig are not likely to convergently evolve to a similar creature in 1000 years, or even perhaps 1 million according to evolution.
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post #208 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
I suppose now you can claim that unless someone can provide you with an exact cutoff it means evolution isn't really a theory.

I would say (not according to me) that if it cannot be falsified then it is not a scientific theory.

Quote:
Originally posted by addabox
I think you want to just kind of wander around, asking open ended, unanswerable or fundamentally dishonest questions so you can find details to equivocate about.

I'm not the one equivocating.

If the question is non-answerable, then you have answered it..."No, evolution is not falsifiable."
post #209 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I would say (not according to me) that if it cannot be falsified then it is not a scientific theory.

I would suggest again that we have a term for things that cannot be falsified.
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post #210 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
You're trying to force the use of black-and-white words like PROVE and DISPROVE. Scientists usually avoid those kinds of absolutes

I'll remember that next time someone spouts that "evolution has been proven".

Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
Nevertheless, a good scientist remains aware of the tentative nature of scientific truth, aware that a scientist's job is a matter trying to find the best explanation for available data, that it's not a matter of claiming absolute certainty and authority.

And that too.

Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
We are currently engaged in a discussion not only of evolution, but of the philosophy of science and its fundamental methodology. This is not the place to simply answer "yes" or "no" to the question you pose. The proper, responsible answer to your question is to say that if strong evidence were found that the Earth was one million years (or less) old, that evidence would severely challenge the theory of evolution and would constitute a strong case for partial or total falsification.

Okay.

We can end with...

Quote:
Falsifiability is an important concept in the philosophy of science that amounts to the apparently paradoxical idea that a proposition or theory cannot be scientific if it does not admit the possibility of being shown false.

Quote:
It is nevertheless very useful to know if a statement or theory is falsifiable, if for no other reason than that it provides us with an understanding of the ways in which one might assess the theory. One might at the least be saved from attempting to falsify a non-falsifiable theory, or come to see an unfalsifiable theory as unsupportable.

And last, but certainly not least...

Quote:
"any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory."
post #211 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by midwinter
I would suggest again that we have a term for things that cannot be falsified.

Cannot or haven't been?

Haven't Been = Law.
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post #212 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
Cannot or haven't been?

Haven't Been = Law.

Yes, important clarification. Cannot is something else altogether.
post #213 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
Cannot or haven't been?

Haven't Been = Law.

And Cannot Be = Fact?
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post #214 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by midwinter
I would suggest again that we have a term for things that cannot be falsified.

"Any idea that isn´t a scientific theory"?
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post #215 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Anders
"Any idea that isn´t a scientific theory"?

Heh. I was wondering whether or not we could talk about the Theory of Gravity and how it might be falsified. I have this theory, you see, that when I drop an object from a height, it actually isn't attracted by the other object. I believe that the object is actually pushed by some "intelligent pusher" that determines the trajectory.
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post #216 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla


It could just be hand-waved away because the data doesn't align with our current conception. How very scientific.

You really aren't getting this, because yes, that IS very scientific and it's not just hand waving.

A scientist has to balance one body of evidence against another. The evidence for evolution is very strong. The kind of genetic oddity you propose would be a big mystery, but a much, much bigger mystery would be how all of the data we have so far had managed to look so good for so long if evolution had been completely false all along.

As I said before, science is a matter of finding the best explanation for available data. Do you imagine that a single mixed-lineage life form would suddenly plummet the status of evolution from best to worst, and would immediately raise, oh, perhaps, "God did it!" right to the very top of the list?

If someone had handed Isaac Newton a helium balloon, should he have abandoned F = GMm/r^2 immediately, on the spot, the moment he was confronted with this anomaly? Would Newton have been an unscientific hand waver if he tried to come up with any explanation other than, "Well, I guess I had it all wrong about gravity!"?

Why should your proposed example of a challenge to evolution be considered any more of a challenge to the theory evolution than a helium balloon would be to the theory of gravity?
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post #217 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by midwinter
Heh. I was wondering whether or not we could talk about the Theory of Gravity and how it might be falsified. I have this theory, you see, that when I drop an object from a height, it actually isn't attracted by the other object. I believe that the object is actually pushed by some "intelligent pusher" that determines the trajectory.

Is gravity really a theory? Isn't it more of just an observation? My understanding is that there are different theories of gravity, but no one really knows how it works - are there gravitons, for example? Relativity is a theory that attempts to explain gravity through the bending of space (or something). That theory certainly could be falsified.

I was also wondering what the name is for an unfalsifiable theory.
post #218 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
You really aren't getting this, because yes, that IS very scientific and it's not just hand waving.

A scientist has to balance one body of evidence against another. The evidence for evolution is very strong.

Quote:
"On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory."

Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
but a much, much bigger mystery would be how all of the data we have so far had managed to look so good for so long if evolution had been completely false all along.

Quite true.

Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
Why should your proposed example of a challenge to evolution be considered any more of a challenge to the theory evolution than a helium balloon would be to the theory of gravity?

Wasn't my challenge.
post #219 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
I was also wondering what the name is for an unfalsifiable theory.

A non-scientific theory.
post #220 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by BRussell
I was also wondering what the name is for an unfalsifiable theory.

I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that a theory that proves unfalsifiable is likely either an "observation" (like gravity) or a fact (like death).
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post #221 of 576
Quote:
My understanding is that there are different theories of gravity, but no one really knows how it works - are there gravitons, for example? Relativity is a theory that attempts to explain gravity through the bending of space (or something).

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity states that spacetime is curved by the presence of matter. Any object that moves moves in such a way as to minmize the length of its path in spacetime. Since spacetime is curved, the object will appear to be under the spell of an attractive force, i. e. gravity. Superstring Theory predicts the existence of the graviton, which hasn't yet been found.
post #222 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by midwinter
I assumed, perhaps wrongly, that a theory that proves unfalsifiable is likely either an "observation" (like gravity) or a fact (like death).

Oh, I thought you were going the other direction, like saying an unfalsifiable theory is a bad theory.
post #223 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I'll remember that next time someone spouts that "evolution has been proven".

You quoted me, but then conveniently didn't quote what I wrote about expedient and/or casual conversation.

For all practical intents and purposes, and with the word "proven" taken to mean "proven beyond a reasonable doubt", I would indeed say evolution has been proven. I think the evidence is that good. Such a statement in no way contradicts anything I've said so far. The care and precision one uses in one's language is a matter of context. I doubt you're unaware of this fact, yet it seems you'd happily ignore context if you think you could pretend to make a "gotcha" out of it.
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post #224 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
You quoted me, but then conveniently didn't quote what I wrote about expedient and/or casual conversation.

For all practical intents and purposes, and with the word "proven" taken to mean "proven beyond a reasonable doubt", I would indeed say evolution has been proven. I think the evidence is that good. Such a statement in no way contradicts anything I've said so far. The care and precision one uses in one's language is a matter of context. I doubt you're unaware of this fact, yet it seems you'd happily ignore context if you think you could pretend to make a "gotcha" out of it.

I wasn't necessarily speaking of you...but I get that "evolution has been proven (so why don't you just shut the fuck up and quit your bickering)" quite a lot.

Just because it is beyond someone's "reasonable doubt" doesn't mean it is beyond everyone's or all reasonable doubt.

So, yes, we should be precise when we toss around words like "proven" (even for brevity's sake).
post #225 of 576
Thread Starter 
I'm having a problem with the fact that you're arguing less like a scientist and more like a lawyer trying to get an axe murderer off the hook on a technicality.

Your quote, emphasis mine:
Quote:
"On the other hand, you CAN disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory."

Note that the above does not say any single observation will disprove a theory, and it says nothing about to what degree the theory might be disproven. For the sake of being concise, the statement quoted above is dealing with a notion of "theory" which is more like a simple proposition, something without the complexity and scope that many real-world theories possess.

For example, there's a single observation that one could say falsified Newton's theory of gravity: small anomalies that were discovered in the orbit of Mercury, showing an orbit for Mercury which didn't quite match the orbit expected following Newton's equations.

Newton's gravity was open to falsification. A single falsifying observation was found. Newton's gravity was falsified. End of story?

Of course not. If you quote too blindly from a very dry definition like the one above you might think so, but then you'd never be able to appreciate the fact that, although technically invalidated, Newton's gravity is still more than good enough for most practical uses, even good enough for a lot of work in astronomy, because only speeds approaching the speed of light and strong gravitational fields introduce significant differences in predicted results.

Like Newton's gravity, evolution has served so well for so long with such a large body of collaborative data backing it up, it's quite understandable and thoroughly justifiable to suppose that even if a well-confirmed observation technically falsified the theory, the end result of accounting for that observation would be more like Einstein's gravity supplanting Newton's than it would be like, say, the Copernican solar system replacing Ptolemy's crystalline spheres.

If one were a young earth creationist, one certainly shouldn't be holding one's breath waiting for evolution to be so thoroughly discredited by conflicting observations that somehow something like young earth creationism actually rises to the status of being a better explanation. A battle between a hypothetically broken-down evolution and young earth creationism would simply be a battle to decide which one was bad, and which one was worse. Scientists would be thrown back to having no good theory at all, and would have to go back to square one to figure it all out again.
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post #226 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
I'm having a problem with the fact that you're arguing less like a scientist and more like a lawyer trying to get an axe murderer off the hook on a technicality.

I woulda thought that someone might have noticed a while back that this was an argument about logical gymnastics and not science.
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post #227 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
Quite trying to defend evolution on this. Fine you are saying you think it would be unlikely (falsification doesn't have anything to do with the liklihood of actually happening). But if it happened it would disprove evolution.

So 1M years is the marker? Not less? 500,000 years? More? 10M?

Just want to be sure I am clear.

What you call 'defending' I call 'highlighting the absurdity of your position'.

It's a standard rhetorical technique.

And if you're pulling absurd numbers out of your bottom for the age of the planet, let's say the world was formed whole three years before your birth.

Impossible? Falsify.
post #228 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
I'm having a problem with the fact that you're arguing less like a scientist and more like a lawyer trying to get an axe murderer off the hook on a technicality.

Your quote, emphasis mine:

Note that the above does not say any single observation will disprove a theory, and it says nothing about to what degree the theory might be disproven. For the sake of being concise, the statement quoted above is dealing with a notion of "theory" which is more like a simple proposition, something without the complexity and scope that many real-world theories possess.

For example, there's a single observation that one could say falsified Newton's theory of gravity: small anomalies that were discovered in the orbit of Mercury, showing an orbit for Mercury which didn't quite match the orbit expected following Newton's equations.

Newton's gravity was open to falsification. A single falsifying observation was found. Newton's gravity was falsified. End of story?

Of course not. If you quote too blindly from a very dry definition like the one above you might think so, but then you'd never be able to appreciate the fact that, although technically invalidated, Newton's gravity is still more than good enough for most practical uses, even good enough for a lot of work in astronomy, because only speeds approaching the speed of light and strong gravitational fields introduce significant differences in predicted results.

Like Newton's gravity, evolution has served so well for so long with such a large body of collaborative data backing it up, it's quite understandable and thoroughly justifiable to suppose that even if a well-confirmed observation technically falsified the theory, the end result of accounting for that observation would be more like Einstein's gravity supplanting Newton's than it would be like, say, the Copernican solar system replacing Ptolemy's crystalline spheres.

If one were a young earth creationist, one certainly shouldn't be holding one's breath waiting for evolution to be so thoroughly discredited by conflicting observations that somehow something like young earth creationism actually rises to the status of being a better explanation. A battle between a hypothetically broken-down evolution and young earth creationism would simply be a battle to decide which one was bad, and which one was worse. Scientists would be thrown back to having no good theory at all, and would have to go back to square one to figure it all out again.

Care to guess whose words that quote were?
post #229 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Hassan i Sabbah
What you call 'defending' I call 'highlighting the absurdity of your position'.

It's a standard rhetorical technique.

If that makes you feel better.

Quote:
Originally posted by Hassan i Sabbah
And if you're pulling absurd numbers out of your bottom for the age of the planet, let's say the world was formed whole three years before your birth.

Impossible? Falsify.

What theory are you proposing?
post #230 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by midwinter
I woulda thought that someone might have noticed a while back that this was an argument about logical gymnastics and not science.

If you think discussing the scientific method and determining whether a theory is falsifiable or not "logical gymnastics"...so be it. You only demonstrate the weakness of your own position.

The bottom line is that if the theory cannot be falsified then it should be held to the same measuring stick as the IDers (who have been bitch-slapped because their "theory" is not falsifiable and therefore not "scientific").
post #231 of 576
nm. he answered right after me
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post #232 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
Care to guess whose words that quote were?

Not really. I'm sure you'll tell me. But regardless of how esteemed the source might be, it's not what you quoted, per se, that I'm having any trouble with. It's your attempt to use those words in a very stilted, nuance-free way with which I take issue.
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post #233 of 576
How about this:

CAN = could possibly do so.

Not CAN, as in any one single instance automatically DOES.
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post #234 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
Not really. I'm sure you'll tell me. But regardless of how esteemed the source might be, it's not what you quoted, per se, that I'm having any trouble with. It's your attempt to use those words in a very stilted, nuance-free way with which I take issue.

I'm actually pretty amused at how carefully you want parse a reasonably straighforward statement.
post #235 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by rageous
How about this:

CAN = could possibly do so.

Not CAN, as in any one single instance automatically DOES.

No one ever said such a thing.
post #236 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
No one ever said such a thing.

Of course not. Because saying such a thing directly leaves no room for 5 pages of word games.
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post #237 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Chris Cuilla
I'm actually pretty amused at how carefully you want parse a reasonably straighforward statement.

And I'll be amused right back at how you're apparently angling to use that statement about falsification in a grossly simplistic fashion, as if you're a lawyer digging for a technicality which you can use to get a client off the hook.

Googling your quote, the first match that came up was this Wikipedia entry on the subject of falsification. I suggest you read through it -- and do so like you're really interested in the big picture, not like you're scanning for key words which you might try to play games with.

Reading it over myself, what I'd say it looks like you're trying to do is treat the theory of evolution as if it were a simple universal proposition, then getting your panties in a bunch because others won't go along with such a gross oversimplification and some sort of silly "one strike and you're out!" policy you're trying to tie in with that oversimplification.

Here's something a bit meatier and more properly nuanced for a subject like evolution, from the same Wiki source (bold emphasis mine):
Quote:
...As Popper put it, a decision is required on the part of the scientist to accept or reject the statements that go to make up a theory or that might falsify it. At some point, the weight of the ad hoc hypotheses and disregarded falsifying observations will become so great that it becomes unreasonable to support the base theory any longer, and a decision will be made to reject it.

We aren't just making this stuff up and hand-waving here. It's expected that in real-world science involving complicated issues the total weight of falsifying statements has to be considered.
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post #238 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by shetline
In simple organisms like bacteria, there's a known phenomena called "horizontal genetic transfer" (see third paragraph here). Horizontal transfer is one of those things which, while it doesn't pose any major challenge to evolutionary theory as a whole, it does shake things up a little when it comes to the finer details of the mechanisms of evolution and their relative significance. It certainly makes cladistics a bit fuzzier.

You'd need to ask someone more versed in biology than myself to define what "significant" would mean more precisely, but any significant (some degree greater than is seen in horizontal transfer) combination of traits from two or more different lineages found within a single higher species (something a bit more complex than bacteria, at least) would certainly be a major find, and that find could be strongly indicative of intelligent intervention. As much as you don't want to hear it, however, a single find such as this wouldn't immediately falsify evolution, as it could simple be taken as an isolated instance of interference in what is still otherwise, on the whole, best described as a naturalistic process.

I know you didn't mean to say tat horizontal transfer 'shakes' up the theory of evolution, but i wouldn't even think of it that way. No one said that the transfer of genetic material has to occur in a neat 'two parents combine to make an offspring's genome' sort of way. There are no rules, whatever works, works. You correct that inthe single cell world genes flow in all sorts of directions. Also, viruses and transposons can add to the mix. Many species of plants also can cross pollenize across what are considered major specieis or genus differeneces, that you sould never expect in the animal kingdom.
post #239 of 576
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Carson O'Genic
I know you didn't mean to say tat horizontal transfer 'shakes' up the theory of evolution, but i wouldn't even think of it that way.

That's why I said "finer details" of evolution, because the broad theory of evolution is so well accepted that the only real controversies that remain among evolutionary biologists are in the details -- working out specific genetic lineages, figuring out exactly where to place events and species in the time line, etc.

Sadly, that scientists argue among themselves about these details -- doing exactly what good scientists are supposed to be doing -- is something that creationists/ID-ists naively and/or opportunistically attempt exploit as some sort of evidence that evolution is a (cue circa-1950 movie music: bum bum BAH!) THEORY IN CRISIS! (cue shrill scream).

The scientically illiterate masses eat this stuff up, and you end up with a quite real political crisis for evolution, even with the science still on solid ground, as it has been for over a hundred years.
We were once so close to heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned -- They Might Be Giants          See the stars at skyviewcafe.com
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We were once so close to heaven
Peter came out and gave us medals
Declaring us the nicest of the damned -- They Might Be Giants          See the stars at skyviewcafe.com
Reply
post #240 of 576
Quote:
Originally posted by hardeeharhar
That is to say, you shouldn't find any fossil evidence that shows a pig suddenly growing the wings

I am so dense! I just got that.

Very, very funny actually.
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